This blog post is in response to this article which was making the rounds on Tumblr. It’s about avoiding injury in yoga. yada yada yada. Yes. I have a fair amount of dismissiveness toward those who insist that we be careful all the time – what are you my mom!? Sure go easy when you’ve never done something before and so on that’s just common sense (as someone said in response to this article on Tumblr).
But I say that sometimes (when it comes to yoga especially), it’s a good thing…
What follows is the conversation.
me: If you look at the Pema quote …
… you would understand that injury (pain) is sometimes a big part of the whole practice (not just asana but includes it). Sometimes the body needs it. Sometimes the mind needs it… if you’d like to know more, ask me a question! 🙂 Peace! #1barefootgirl
#playitbackward: Injury is not the same as pain, but I would like to know more!
Me: Yes. True the kind of injury I’m talking about is not just pain. What I’ve found in my years of practice of asana that an injury can be one of two things (but is not exclusive to these two):
1. when I say injury is for the mind what I mean by that is it reflects outwardly what we are manifesting psychically. The mind has its own agenda and sometimes the body can’t keep up. We are told to push, to not give up, etc. (not in yoga necessarily – but there are some…) in our lives and unconsciously we bring this to our practice. A lot of people think that they can overcome their “egos” easily by just practicing asana or sitting in meditation but sometimes these are exactly the places where the ego will assert itself. Strongly sometimes. You can not eradicate the ego entirely and it’s very good at playing tricks. Injury is a sign that there is something you’re doing in your body that needs to be listened to (body/mind) that the ego is refusing to acknowledge. For example: I was teaching this woman for the longest time – good student and very flexible (naturally). She complained about lower back problems all the time that were so specific that it could only be coming from the way she did forward bends. I adjusted, I explained, I pleaded with her but to no avail. Every time she would go into the forward bend, she would over extend herself (I can explain how some other time).
What it would take for her to be deeply in her forward bend without creating “injury” are two things:
one – She had to change her mind/ego about what sensation in her body is telling her that it feels good. Her “feel good” sensation in her forward bend was telling her that she was deep in her bend but was neglecting or overriding the feeling of pain in her low back. So every time she came out of it she was reminded of the pain.
Two: If then she changed her approach to the posture and were to pull back and start to work into the posture enhancing protective measures for her back which are basically muscle engagement issues (she had weak abs and so on) and pivoting issues, she would have slowly worked the bend by letting the posture unfold from the very top of the posture. She would have enlisted her body/mind consciousness better and she would work into the bend more along the lines of her body’s reality rather than what her mind was used to which was her “chronic” body and therefore into the injury.
So here I’m talking about the mind latching onto a sensation that is only part of the story. But the ego is satisfied because on the outside it looks like (and feels like) a very deep forward bend. What I always tell my students is to look for the depth of the posture not just the surface sensations and then I try to teach that through meditation and deep asana work. In other words, work on the body/mind connection deeply.
We throw around the phrase body/mind a lot but most do not know what it is because the work is not forthcoming. It takes a great deal of sincerity and surrender. IMHO.
2. When I say the injury is good for the body I mean that the body has chronic holds and old injuries that sometimes can only be dealt with by breaking it apart first. Sometimes the injury is in a place in your body where there was deep scarring, early (sometimes in vitro) injury which needs release which manifests in “injury”. We talk about injury in negative terms always and never really talk in terms of the body actually healing itself by readjusting itself or releasing itself and so we call these “injuries”. Perhaps the word is inaccurate for these types of “body manifestations”.
Let me give you an example: I had been practicing and teaching asana for years. My body is such that it takes a long time to unravel into a posture any of them no matter what. So I work diligently day and night to unlock the mystery of my body. Because of my body’s reluctance to open up without creating a lot of pain for me (at night I would wake with excruciating pain in my hips and legs), I would be very clear (cultivated slowly through my own practice) as to how I was moving and not to move anything that didn’t need to move. One day I was working on Upavistha Konasana – simple right. But I ripped the tendons and leg out of the hip socket. I don’t think I’m strong enough especially in a seated posture to pull anything out so securely in place, but it came out. And the reason, I think, was because the femur head was in the wrong place in the first place. Forever I had pain in that leg and the knee. I didn’t run because of it. My lotus sucked because of it. I had trouble in most postures because of it. After the “injury”, it took 3 years to recover (I lost all the forward bend capability in my body) but as I taught and practiced I was very aware of the injury and moved in a very methodical exacting way. For the three years, I became acutely aware of how I moved my body especially in forward bends but also in other postures. After healing, I got the worst hamstring pulls, still do every once in a while, and my body still took time to move and advance in postures. But, there was a huge change in the sensation in my hip socket and leg. It felt looser and there was actual sensation deep in the tissues so I could finally develop more body/mind. What I learned was that the injury actually readjusted my leg in my hip socket. So my forward bends became deeper, and especially my body/mind deepened. I move my leg from a different place in my body now because of the injury – in a good way.
I am not saying we should all go out and injury ourselves for the sake of self-discovery. But there are times of injury that can’t and shouldn’t be avoided just because that’s the place where the real learning is…
(…and that’s why you can’t separate asana practice from the rest of its counterparts… without the spiritual aspect yes then injury is just about being an idiot…)
Hope this helps… 🙂 Peace! 1barefootgirl.