You are not supposed to get a yoga injury if you are present to your current state of being... are you? Body awareness in each and every moment is paramount to preventing the injury I got... a trapezius strain.
"These days, my practice is teaching me to embrace imperfection: to have compassion for all the ways things haven't turned out as I planned, in my body and in my life - for the ways things keep falling apart, and failing, and breaking down. It's less about fixing things, and more about learning to be present for exactly what is." ~ Anne Cushman
We all know the benefits of yoga. I have always been proud of the fact that I never sustained a yoga injury. Just a little elbow tendinitis here and there, but nothing with any lasting consequence. Until now….
I had just finished teaching a class in my large apartment complex in Denver. Usually the group is very small, consisting of my close friends and a few apartment neighbors. I like it this way. It is more intimate, without the pressures of a high-profile yoga studio.
On this particular day, my close friends told me they were bringing their niece and nephew to class, who were just returning from Nicaragua after serving as peace workers for two years. These young adults were in the same area as my own niece and nephew, serving for the same organization.
I remember feeling excited about their coming, albeit a bit anxious. I am an older gal, and I wanted to impress the fitter and younger ones. This was true, even though I personally knew nothing about them! However, they knew of me and were eager to meet me.
I had already done some e-mail coaching with my niece in Nicaragua, because she had some body-mind issues of her own. I was helping her prevent further injury to tight and sore calves. Never did I believe that I would soon be the one with an injury - a yoga injury at that.
In retrospect, I suppose this was an example of my reputation preceding me! Oh the vanity that results from high personal expectations!
As it turned out, in the class that inspired my yoga injury, I had given a higher energy routine than I usually do. I did this intentionally, since it was winter at the time, and I needed to bring my own spirits up with a high energy-producing practice. While it is not considered best practice for the teacher to do the routine with the class, I always do. At least for most of it. It makes me feel more connected, and I only teach two classes/week.
While no one probably noticed, during the class I was a bit forgetful with my instructions, and I thought my voice shook a little here and there. I was aware that my nervousness was being triggered by the new ones in the class, but I didn't think much else about it.
All in all, though, I thought the class went very well. We did lots of standing poses and standing poses with twists, and strenuous planks and side planks. The class seemed to love it, and my friend's niece and nephew thanked me afterwards for a wonderful class. I was a success!
Knee to Chest warm-up stretch by the fire
The next morning, I woke up with stabbing pain in my left shoulder and mid-back when I moved my left arm or neck a certain way. I laughed as I noticed it, and thought, I must have slept wrong. As the day progressed and the pain did not go away, I grew more concerned. Could this truly be a yoga injury? I couldn't remember pulling anything during the class. The poses were strenuous, but hardly injury inducing.
I nursed the pain and the possible shoulder strain by resting, icing, foam rolling and taking enteric-coated aspirin. I isolated the pain to my trapezius, on the left side, in my upper back and shoulder. I had to admit to myself that this was most likely a yoga injury, manifested as a shoulder muscle strain.
By the fourth day, the trapezius strain was all but gone. My shoulder no longer ached at rest, but only felt a little sore with certain arm and neck movements.
Yes, I am getting older. Yes, like the quote above, my body and my life don't always respond as I wish. I slowly began to realize that my yoga injury was an injury of pride. Because of the added tension in my shoulders, during a yoga class where I was trying to impress, rather than guide, the trapezius strain occurred. Very interesting and very humiliating. A slap to the face it was!
The yoga injury was my lesson for admitting my pride, and learning to release it. Over and over again, in my yoga practice, my practice uncovers who I really am, in body, mind and soul. It is humbling. I was not present to what I currently am. I was more focused on impressing those in a different place than I currently am.
Fortunately, my yoga injury was mild, and the trapezius strain quickly dissipated. I dodged a bullet this time. But the lesson remains. Staying present to myself and the thoughts that manifest in my physical being, is difficult to do 100 percent of the time.
I believe that people hurt themselves in yoga classes all the time. Pushing too hard. Doing poses their body is not ready to do. Allowing pride to replace the process of self-discovery (ouch!) They just don't own up to it.
With our fast paced and competitive lifestyles, most people bring the same attitude to the mat. It is nearly impossible to keep totally quiet in the mind and body for an inward journey, at all times we practice. If fact, a few yoga organizations are finally admitting this and taking extra precautions to prevent yoga injuries. I have read of very serious and permanent injuries as a result of mindlessness in the practice.
I am lucky that my pride only manifested in a mild trapezius strain. I truly was sticking my neck out to be something I am not (see the discussion in my foam roller exercises for the trapezius, regarding the metaphysical significance of the trapezius muscle).
May both you and I go forth with the understanding that despite our best efforts, we fall short of being perfect. Things don't turn out always as we planned, neither in our bodies, nor our lives. We accept it all as it comes, to absorb the meaning, absorb our humanness, and what currently is. A yoga injury was my lesson. What is yours?