Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Yoga and injuries April 6, 2011

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:24 pm
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Some folks have sent me interesting yoga links lately, so I thought I’d share. Today we’ll talk about injuries!

Bend, don’t break: How to stay injury-free in yoga: This article looks like it was originally published a year ago, but it’s still interesting. I like the idea of differentiating between “impact injuries” (those that happen quickly and dramatically) and “cumulative injuries” (the ones that happen gradually over time). I’ve had some of both, and there are two that I’m currently struggling with.

  • My latest “impact injury” happened during a yoga class back in December, the day before New Year’s Eve. I liked the teacher who usually taught the class, but that day there was a sub I’d never met before. He had us do “fire hydrant pose”, where you’re on all fours and, yes, lift a leg out to the side. I’d never encountered this pose before and was having a little trouble getting the hang of it, and the teacher adjusted my right leg, pulling it up and into the pose and then holding it there. My right hip hasn’t been the same since. I had a lot of pain and soreness and lack of flexibility in the hip in the weeks right after the injury, and even today, going into triangle pose on my right side makes me gasp. At this point, stretching the hip feels like a good thing, so I keep doing it, and hopefully it’ll continue to improve, but it’s still troublesome for me.
  • I did something to my neck that seems part impact injury and part cumulative. When I write in a journal, I like to lie on the bed on my right side, ideally with a pillow under my right arm, and write with my left hand. On my honeymoon last fall, I was journaling a lot to capture all the special moments of the trip, and this positioning seems to have put a strain on the left side of my neck – maybe I was tensing my neck or something? Then we also had wimpy pillows at the jungle lodge where we were staying, and I slept on it funny, which made the injury worse. There were times during the trip when I couldn’t turn my head to the left at all; since then, the pain’s come and gone, but a sudden motion (like having to look quickly over my left shoulder to change lanes on the highway) can still be problematic. I’ve been trying all kinds of things to solve the problem: one pillow, two pillows, starting with two pillows and getting rid of one midway through the night (it was great fun the time I flung a pillow and knocked over my water glass), plus any variety of yoga stretches. What’s helped the most are a series of neck warm-ups I learned in African dance class, so I like to do those as part of my daily yoga practice. The dance class ran for the month of February, and by the time it ended, I had almost eliminated the neck pain. Now, though, I’m doing much of my practice at the studio, so I haven’t been doing the exercises every day. I need to get back to this.

Of course, I’ve also had problems with my wrists and knees. I would guess that anybody seriously pursuing yoga (or working all day in an office, or both) has also had some sort of problem in these areas. My wrists were bad enough at one point that I went to the doctor, who didn’t have much to say other than to keep wearing the wrist brace I got at Walgreens. It’s just a generic carpal tunnel brace, but it did help. I now have one for each wrist that I keep around just in case, plus a pair of more flexible wrist supports that I’ll use from time to time. Now that I’m stepping up my practice with teacher training, I’ve been considering getting these wrist support gloves, but they’re a little pricey and I haven’t experienced any actual pain from my new yoga schedule. I know, that’s a cop-out answer, if I’ve had pain before I should be trying to prevent pain in the future. But I haven’t been practicing a lot of wrist-intensive poses lately, either (handstand or handstand prep, crow, wheel: the sorts of poses where a high percentage of your body weight is resting on your hands). If I start practicing these sorts of poses more often, then I will look into getting the gloves, but for now I think I’m okay. I do wish that, in the Swenson article linked above, they’d given more detail on how to avoid and/or deal with wrist injuries.

I had some worries about my left knee recently too, but mostly that was in the winter: when I wasn’t walking or running or dancing. Once my dance class started up in February, and then it got warm enough for me to go jogging occasionally, it started feeling better, and I haven’t had any pain now for quite a while. This seems to me to agree with the article, that some cross-training can be good for strengthening the muscles around problematic joints. (I’ve also had issues in the past with twisting this knee, so I’ve been careful of that lately and I think that helps too.)

What yoga injuries have you experienced, and what insights can you share into resolving them?

(And keep the links coming when you see ’em!)


2 Responses to “Yoga and injuries”

  1. Dale Johnson Says:

    I have had 2 microdiscectomies, the first in 2006 and a second in February 2007. While practicing a forward bend leaning up against a wall on March 9th, 2008 I felt a little pop. Didn’t really hurt at the time. Finished my practice. Later I went to the movies with my 2 sons, and started feeling discomfort sitting. After the movie we went to a computer store and while I was standing, I felt a wave of electricity run down my sciatic nerve in my left leg (all my back issues are left side) and my foot went numb. I knew I had a problem. It was quite a set back. I couldn’t practice like I had for months. I even considered disk replacement surgery. But I worked and practiced and concentrated on my core and eventually returned to my level prior to the incident. I think being injured and working within that body state is important for a yoga teacher. Many students will be there. It allows you to be able to understand their abilities and show them how to modify an asana and make it available to them. I’m thankful that I have had the injuries that have happened to me. I wouldn’t have taken the journey I’m on without them.

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      My dad has had two discectomies and is scheduling his third now, so I can understand a little where you’re coming from. The pain leading up to a surgery like that is terrible, and the recovery is hard too. You make a good point that, having been injured yourself, you can better understand your students. All mine have been really minor injuries; I’m thankful that I’ve been lucky so far and I hope that someday when I do get injured (it’ll have to happen sometime) that I can handle it with as much calm and patience as you did!

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