On finding a work around and not giving up on my physical practice....
"When I became injured there wasn't a moment that I thought to give practice a rest. Like in Anatomy when we hit the point of hard compression. You don't give up, you find a work around - it was with this application that I found my back bends"
I was around two weeks into my 900hr Yoga Teacher training with The Yoga Institute, Mumbai and I had just finished the third physical practice of the day when I decided to stay behind and extend my practice, as being a personality type that i am at times I want more and to keep going, an during this time I decided to work on a few transitions that we had covered during the class.
My body was warm, open and seemed willing with no signs of fatigue.
I made the transition from Utthita parsvottonasana into a version of Utthita Trikonasa where your hand remains flat on the floor on the inside of the externally rotated, front leg....
And that’s the moment it happened. Something that would remain damaged until this day over nine months later..
I heard and felt an internal rip. Like cloth ripping. It lasted what seemed like a few seconds but in fact would have been less.
I closed my eyes and scrunched my face. I was silent. Looking back the dread I felt in that moment might be connected to the impact that was yet to happen due to the injury.
After the tear I didn’t want to miss class, I didn’t want to skip sessions and I could walk so felt i would be fine to continue. In fact, the days previous I felt a pop in my knee during a progression into a binded variation on Ardha Matsyendrasana and prayed in that moment it was a good rip, a growth tear! Yes of course that makes no sense, but logic was overpowered by hope in this instance and it was in fact a sift in my body and not damaged caused.
But not in the case of my hamstring and this injury was to remain with me throughout the remaining three months of the course and then sometime after, in fact, i am still going through my healing process to this day.
Throughout there were times that I would take rest before the three months training was over but other times I could not resist, and I would take part. The practice when I did get involved didn’t so much make the injury worse, but I am sure that it didn’t make it any better and I knew that it would delay the healing process the more I antagonised it. But I couldn’t, I just couldn’t miss out on at least some of the teachings, I couldn’t miss out of the action of meditation in movement. I couldn’t bring myself to miss out on my physical practice. I am a Hatha yogi after all.
I adapted my practice by adapting my mindset. It wasn’t about what I cannot do, I now needed to find every detail and every action within my practice that I could still do and with comfort and ease. So, throughout the following weeks that’s exactly what I did.
Forward folds were almost a complete no chance, unless I wanted to feel an agonising shooting pain from the back of my right knee all the way up into the area of the tear. But what I could do was work on opening my anterior, my front side, of the body.
Back bending was not my weakest point but it for sure wasn’t my strongest. So, I decided, surrender and skip class or postures that didn’t serve me at this time but take full advantage when it came to back bending sessions.
And that’s exactly what I did, and from this my back bending improved three-fold over the following weeks while I patiently waited for my injury to heal - not at this time knowing that even almost a year down the line it would still not be back to homeostasis.
By the end of the course sure the injury hadn’t worsened but it sure as hell wasn’t any better. Almost nine weeks after the initial tear there was no improvement - this is when I really knew that something wasn’t right.
After leaving the training I headed straight for Mandrem Beach in Goa. Here I would be featuring on the 300Hr advanced Yoga teacher training teaching the styles of Vinyasa and Yin Yoga giving the students a glimpse into the more westernised approach to Yoga.
At first when I accepted this offer to feature I did not feel ready to teach. There is always this time just before i teach when I feel fraudulent as a teacher. Knowing the amount in which and how much I want my students to learn and wondering if I can convey exactly what I have experienced well enough to do explain it without diluting the practice by my lack of language to explain those things of an experiential nature. But, of course I pulled myself together and I was well prepared to take on the 6 days of teaching.
So, I arrived in Goa and my first week was spent in preparation for the next weeks glimpse into Yin and Vinyasa Yoga.
By this point sitting for a long period of time was tough on my sciatic nerve. The pain would start at the base of my right hip and travel sometimes beyond the knee of my right leg. So, at these moments I would stand and stretch to try and elevate the pain.
Over the remaining time within my first, and very short but sweet, trip to Goa I had completed my feature on the 300hr Teacher training, I had continued to give my injury the attention I felt it needed but did not think, at times of weakness and pain only, it deserved by continuing to practice Yin yoga and attend sessions with the Lead teacher trainer Madhav I found myself ready for my flight back to California.
Once I arrived in LAX my journey continued until I arrived at, what would be not for much longer my home, in Irvine, Orange County. It was here that I first, in the space of a few months felt the entire impact of my injury and work schedule over the previous months.
I hadn’t stopped moving in my body or in my mind for the last few months and when I arrived through the door of my home I completely collapsed for the first few days.
My body and mind were so tired they needed to be balanced with complete nothingness. This was not something that I decided, no, it was taken out of my hands and decided for me as i wasn't listening to what I needed.
Over the course of my two weeks stay I began to visit a chiropractor. Yes, I understand the query and question that you may have. why would I see someone in the profession of backs help me with a ripped hamstring...? I shall try to explain why...Since my body had been compensating for the initial injury it seems that my whole right side was out of alignment. In addition, the restriction that the scar tissue had made around the top back of my leg has begun to trap the nerves surrounding this area. Not only this but due to the time between when my injury occurred and the time it took me to attend to the damage when I arrived in the Chiropractors office the pain and restrictions had reached to the mid-section of my right back ribs further impacting the alignment of my body.
After the visits there was daily ice packing the injury and surrounding areas. I would lay in the bed reading and writing while trying to relax both my body and mind during this time.
During the previous six months I found, upon reflection, that I wasn’t giving myself enough care. Not only had a faced physical trauma I was also facing many other traumas. That of Emotional, Spiritual, Moral and the fact I had not yet settled in one country over the previous twelve months prior to all this.
So, after reflecting I could see that my emotional body, my spiritual body and my physical body were trying to highlight to my mind body that things need to slow down and if they didn't I would be, yes of course subtly, warned that they would have to show me more obvious signs until I listened. This manifested in injury physically and physical and mental exhaustion.
So, granted all a little too late but never too late really, I began to listen.
The whole time i spent in California I relaxed, enjoyed casual and gentle yoga sessions and began once again to introduce weight and the gym into my routine to once again work towards strengthening my body.
The sessions I attended with the chiropractor were wonderful, granted not straight away as I did experience sometimes excruciating pain but overall they helped. They realigned my body and the doctor removed blockages, restrictions and stagnation that had built up in my body because of the initial tare.
Of course, as this article is about injury and my process I won’t go into detail on the personal reasons as to why I had to leave my home in Irvine, California but my time there was to come to an end.
With my broken hamstring in tow I left Orange county and began my journey home.
I arrived back into Manchester, UK the following day and unfortunately for me as I only had a five day turn around before I had to fly back to Goa, India to lead a number of Yin teacher training courses throughout the season, I was not able to take my doctors advise or my own advice to slow things down - this, for now would just have to wait... and in my defence, it took a whole lot of practice and momentum to get the ball of my hectic schedule rolling so of course there is a process one must go through to start retracting, retreating and to begin to create a new, more manageable pace.
Before I knew it, I was back in Goa, I spent the next few weeks celebrating Christmas time with minimal practice of Yoga 'on the mat' and ensuring I was well prepared for the upcoming training's as well as spending relaxation time with new friends,old friends and loved ones.
New years was over, and it was now the beginning of January. The first teacher training would start a mere few days after my arrival at the ashram back in North Goa. I quickly arrived and settled and did my final preparations before the training's began.
As the Yin training's took place it was a good time for me to practice what I was preaching when it comes to the practice and intention of the Yin yoga style.
I would hear stories from students thanking this specific style of Yoga for helping them get through physical and emotional injury and even though I knew this, even though I have experienced this in the past, I had somehow forgotten that the practice that was required during this yang time of my life was the practice of Yin yoga.
Not only was I teaching throughout the next three months I also found myself heavily into my Yin yoga practice. That of passive, asking, reflecting, gentle, cooling, feminine, slow paced, stillness.
Through the beginning of 2018 my injury was no better still. Of course, I was trying to be as accepting as I could of the injury I had been given that of course was there only to somehow teach me some sort of lesson, with this understanding it would have been an unconscious move to resist.
It was then it clicked. I was reading about so many different styles and approaches to and complimentary of Yoga that I decided to include within my sessions and with my own self enquiry how all these things are linked.
I discovered something wonderful and with this understanding have not only been able to accommodate my injury but also find complimentary practices to help enhance healing of both my physical and emotional self.
Obviously, these kind of personal discoveries should be kept the same, personal. However, I would like to share with you a little glimpse of my finding that seemed to stand out to me at the time so maybe it could shine a little light on something you may be going through within your practice currently.
I understood that during this particular time in my life I was looking for stability and security in the mitts of travel, exploration and not knowing where one week to the next would be leading me.
I was looking for routine in the mitts of scattered and forever changing ideas and plans.
In addition, I was and had been discovering more about my spectrum of sexuality and intimacy throughout this time. I was at a time where I felt exposed and betrayed, loved and then unloved.
I came into a time in my life where I was thinking of my long-term future at a time when i didn't know where I be each week that was passing.
To sum up and without going into too much further detail personally ,from a Yogic perspective i could feel and understand that my Mulardhara and Swadistana Charka's were all out of wack! Totally out of balance, and to this day almost eight months later they are only just beginning to feel, after months of efforts to balance them once again, somewhat close to some kind of alignment.
They were so out of balance by the time i began to acknowledge that things began to manifest on my physical plane, showing I was ignoring or not understanding the subtle signs my body was trying to give me.
So, after this discovery I began to take charge of my life again, my attitude and approach, but like I said earlier it takes effort and time to get to point B and when you want to reach point A again this is a process in which also takes time and effort.
Various changes and shifts began to happen throughout the months of February and March 2018.
By the time April had come around things were becoming a little bit lighter, things were becoming clearer.
Over the months of my injury I had envisioned me practising Ashtanga Yoga in Mysorebefore I was to leave India. With keeping this potential idea in my mind I decided to continue to approach my body and mind gently until i arrived in Mysore.
My plan was to arrive in Mysore by May 2018 and by this time my injury and all its complimentary effects would be having a rude awakening.
I had been restoring since the injury and I decided that my time in Mysore was to show my body and mind what is expected off them through beginning to strengthen and regain my once strong practice.
When I arrived in Mysore I had already decided enough was enough. My injury and my mind have been accommodated enough. It was time to expose to them how we were going to move forward together.
So, over the next month I would practice Ashtanga Yoga every morning and of course, some days my body felt completely fine, but others my injury and what it felt like it owed me, or maybe it was the last shedding of my injuries "karmas" coming through in excruciating waves throughout the weeks of intense practice.
On days that I felt my body needed rest of course I would rest. By this point I could fully understand when it is either my practice being lazy or my practice telling me to take a break as it will be there for me to pick up where I left off the next day or if it my personality trying to convince me not to go to practice as it found itself in a lazy space.
By the end of the month little progression had been made within my flexibility, little progress has been made in my Ashtanga practice. However, some progress had been made overall and that is all I can ever asked for especially in the middle of an injury healing process.
And now I find myself here, through injury, through injury causing nerve issues, through me working through that nerve condition patiently, willingly and analysing, reflecting and trying to adapt my life to better suit the alignment of my complete self.
I write now to share my experience through my most recent injury and healing process. To say that almost 14 months on my injury is still here but getting better little by little each month.
I am accepting my practice where she is and have high hopes for my practice during 2019 / 2020 for many different and further complimentary reasons.
I am striving to be more grounded, more stable, more secure. My approach to my sexuality and intimacy has shifted closer to the truth of them both and I can already feel the changes impacting and improving my physical body, my mental body, my emotional body and therefor directly impacting my spiritual body.
I am learning more and more about enjoying the process of everything not only my Yoga practice and am discovering more about myself and therefor my students so i can grow as a teacher through these experiences.
The injury has allowed me space to apply my knowledge from many different angles to come to similar and helpful results.
So with that I say to you gently, happy injuries but more importantly, happy healing process! Enjoy the journey, share your experiences with your students. Grow from your injuries on all planes and continue to enjoy the processes of your practices.