How to maintain daily practice with injury?
I have been practicing Ashtanga now for 3 years and my goal is to adopt a daily practice, six days a week.
About two years ago I developed a strain in the tendon that joins my ischial tuberosity (sit bone) and upper left hamstring as well as hip bursitis.
The pain has forced me to scale back my practice quite a bit. I want to practice everyday but find that I get reinjured when I do, even when I try to remain mindful and gentle.
Do you have any advice on how to work through an injury like this while maintaining a daily practice?
I feel stalled in my development and this has caused me to doubt whether Ashtanga is really for me.
Thanks so much for your question.
As you might expect to hear, with any injury it is always important to seek the professional opinion of your physician or health care provider. Assuming you have done that, please understand I will not give you advice about your specific practice or situation, rather I will give you my opinion about these kinds of injuries.
Maintaining our practice while "injured" is obviously difficult physically, but often a greater strain mentally and emotionally.
Patañjali says in verse 1:14 of the Yoga Sutras that in order to reach the goal of Yoga we must practice consistently with reverence for a long time, and finally, continuously. "Injuries" make this difficult.
One thought that immediately comes to my mind, in regard to your specific situation, is something that I can share from observing the attitudes of many fellow senior students I’ve encountered while practicing in Mysore, India. Practitioners in Mysore, rarely consider themselves "injured", most often when they have a strong physical manifestation they call it an "opening".
I mention this point, not to invalidate your pain, but rather because I believe that full and complete healing always involves the mind. I believe that the way we frame our mental and physical struggles when practicing yoga – both on and off the mat – will aid or inhibit the speed of healing.
When I read your email the first time some questions immediately came to my mind.
First, have you seen a physician for your hamstring and hip pain?
Seeing a physician or health care provider can really help to ease mental and intellectual concerns about long-term chronic conditions. It helps us develop the conviction that we can indeed heal.
What remedies were recommended? What have you tried to heal your hamstring?
Are you attached to a 6-day a week practice?
Are you practicing Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga or Led classes?
Practicing Mysore Style is always more conducive to recovering the body from a physical injury. In led classes, many of us find it difficult to check our egos or competitive instincts at the door, and can often get caught up in the spirit and rhythm of the class.
Do you have an established relationship with a teacher?
Establishing a relationship with a teacher can help you to pinpoint problems and correct technical difficulties that can arise at different stages of your practice.
In general, I think keeping the body mobile with a highly modified practice is very important, the practice must NOT EVER irritate the presenting complaint, this is important. So often we try to push through the pain, aggravating and re-aggravating the injury. Letting the prana flow seems to improve healing in general, and movement always seems to help our attitude.
Another aspect we can consider is the non-physical influences and contributing factors that may correlate with a specific physical ailment.
Louise Hay, author of the book You Can Heal your Life, has given us a helpful reference, which explores mental patterns that over time, may contribute to a physical manifestation in the body.
According to Louise Hay, the legs and hips help carry us forward in perfect balance. Hip problems can sometimes indicate “a fear in moving forward in major decisions or having nothing to move forward to.” Upper legs sometime hold childhood traumas, and sciatica points to fear of the future or of money concerns and perhaps being hypocritical. Consider some of her thoughts, try to assess if any of them apply to your specific life situation.
As a general comment regarding all injuries I think it is very important to seek the expertise of your teacher, and/or health care professional, ease off in your āsana practice, but maintain a consistent decreased practice. Finally take a longer savasana, so often we are in a rush and fail to allow the body time daily to heal.
Be mindful of the presence of impatience in your practice. Our teacher once said it is a subtle form of hostility against yourself. This obviously needs to be avoided.