Injuries Reshape our Practice

Rotator Cuff TearAs we get older, our metabolism slows down. It’s easier to gain weight. Current U.S. Guidelines suggest that healthy adults exercise five or more days a week. I’m trying to stay on top of things by exercising six days a week– a mix of flow yoga, biking and swimming. I’ve been practicing yoga for over 14 years and have grown my physical practice to include all kinds of challenging postures.

This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten hurt. Once, I received an aggressive hands-on assist in an ashtanga yoga class causing sharp pain in my left knee. I wasn’t able to sit in easy-seated pose for weeks! Luckily, I recovered, but it continues to be a source of weakness. Lotus, Tree, Butterfly and Pigeon poses can all reactivate the pain. Luckily, I’ve come to love yoga props to support me in postures and prevent pain.

I was feeling good lately and had more free time, so I stepped up my game. I practiced or taught flow yoga and biked almost every day. One day after yoga, I felt a twinge in my right shoulder, but nothing serious. The next day after yoga, I developed stiffness, pain and limited range of motion. It hurt so much, I couldn’t sleep well. I was nervous that I’d hurt myself seriously. I halted all exercise. My healing therapy includes resting, reiki, aspirin, ice, heat and hot salt baths. After a few days, the pain is tapering off and my range of motion is coming back. I’m confident I’ll be okay within a few more days, but this is a wake up call. There’s something going on with my shoulder.

I came across this wonderful article in the Yoga Journal, “Wear and Care: Decrease Shoulder Pain and Build Strength.” by Catherine Guthrie, Oct. 2, 2007. She interviews Dr. Roger Cole, an Iyengar teacher I’d met a few years ago while taking his workshop, “The Anatomy of Stretching.” He says, “The best way to stay out of a sling? Be diligent in your quest for proper alignment and build balanced strength around the joint to create stability.

I believe it! So where does this leave me once I heal? I will be modifying my practice. It may be time to eliminate chatturanga jump-backs and reconsider other repetitive or risky movements. And if I’m going to come to the mat every day, I need to mix it up between hard and soft practices.