Days 26-29 of 365 Days to Get Back to Myself
There has recently been a lot of press about Yoga related injuries. As with any physical activity, injuries can be sustained whenever the body is pushed beyond its natural limit. Especially when we are not listening to what our body is telling us or we are not properly aware and distracted or try to do things our bodies are not primed to do.
I came to Yoga after sustaining a back injury. I was very depressed at the time having been a very active person doing ballet, contemporary dance, gymnastics, swimming, trampoline, martial arts and a variety of very physical jobs throughout my late teens and early twenties. I thought that my life was over! Everybody said to me “Oh, once you’ve done your back in that’s it”. I was afraid of doing exercise because I was afraid of hurting myself and making my injury worse again.
Basically I had beaten my body to the point where it gave out through being way too driven, unaware and really tough on myself. I also had some very bad technique in my physical activities. Pushing and forcing myself into stretches, over extending joints, not breathing properly.
I approached the director of a dance company I had performed in and asked if he would help me get back in shape. Pretty soon we were joined by other dancers and within a few months we were rehearsing aerial work on ropes, this helped me overcome my fear of hurting myself and developed my core strength helping my injury to repair. this practice taught me the importance of being properly warmed up before doing any strenuous exercise (3-4 hours of warm up before using the ropes). We also had a dancer in the group who had just qualified as a Yoga teacher and she started to teach us Yoga. It was a revelation to me and introduced me to the concept of breath and relaxation.
After this I went to many different Yoga classes of various styles of Yoga. One class I went to I tore my big toenail off during a salute to the sun sequence. At this school I noticed that many of the teachers had quite serious injuries so I kept searching as I knew that Yoga had helped me heal and I wanted to find a teacher and a style of Yoga that would teach me how to heal with Yoga, not continue to be hard on my body and wreck it. Eventually I found a teacher who was trained in the style of Satyananda Yoga. She taught me about taking care with the placement of the body, gentleness, awareness and non-competition. She taught me that it’s ok to rest if you need to, to listen to the body and the importance of the energy of the body.
Eventually I trained to teach this style of Yoga here in New Zealand at Ashram Yoga. Along the way and over the years I have had various injuries, always when I am pushing myself too hard or not aware of what I am doing. In fact I could say that any injury I have sustained from any exercise was always from dong something too hard, pushing too far, not being aware, not taking care, not listening to myself.
Any good Yoga teacher will instill into their students to take full responsibility for their own well being in a class. As teachers we may well be giving instructions and can spot if students are doing a posture incorrectly, but we have no idea how our students actually feel. Only our students have this knowledge at their disposal.
It is not Yoga that causes injuries, Yoga when done properly and with awareness is a healing art. It is when the teacher is careless, the student does not take responsibility for themselves and a balanced practice is not being taught that injury usually occurs.
Tips for avoiding injuries:
- Make sure your teacher is properly qualified to teach (there is no legal requirement to be qualified) Most qualified teachers will have certificates stating where and for how many hours they have trained and may have RYT200 or RYT500 accreditation with the Yoga Alliance which is an international organisation.
- Good teachers will get you to complete a beginner’s course before you enter general classes and a registration form asking you to disclose your medical history so that they are aware of any health problems before you begin.
- Use a good, non slip mat that is made specifically for Yoga and is high density foam giving enough support but not spongy enough that you will lose balance in standing postures.
- Wear clothing that is loose or stretchy so that movement is not restricted
- Attend classes appropriate for your fitness and strength level and NEVER compete with anyone else in the class, only compete with yourself
- Remain aware throughout your practice and ease off if the body is in pain- this is a warning signal that either you are pushing too far or doing the posture incorrectly. With practice your strength and flexibility will increase naturally.
- Balance strong Yoga with rest, relaxation and breathing practices to allow the body to regenerate itself properly
- Never over strain or force yourself into a posture, use the breath to allow the body to relax into it instead
- Don’t let anyone force you into a posture, even the teacher.
- Always remember that you know your body better than anyone else, if you feel fatigued and need to rest, do this. Some days you will feel energetic, others you may feel tired. Be sensitive to your needs in the moment.
Remember that any injury you sustain doing anything is entirely a lesson for you to be more aware, a teacher or personal trainer can only be remiss if you allow them to be by surrendering your power and expecting them to know more about you than you do.