“If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.” ― J. Krishnamurti
We often bring injuries with us onto our yoga mat – both from pushing ourselves too hard in yoga and from overworking our bodies in other exercises or daily activities. Yoga is a therapeutic tool for healing and recovery, but it can also be an impediment to healing or even worsen the injury if not aware of how to move with injuries.
By adhering to some simple guidelines we can safely practice yoga with an impairment and utilize yoga to support the healing process by activating the body’s lymphatic system and by improving local circulation.
Acute Phase of injury: rest the injured area for 4-6 days. Do not perform any movements that require strength, aggravate the injury, or produce any pain. Inflammation/swelling may be present, and elevating the affected area will help to control any swelling to help reduce any throbbing or discomfort. Inversion poses will be very helpful to reduce inflammation by activating the lymphatic system, and will also provide elevation if the injury is located in the lower body. Using ice and compression (wrapping with an ace bandage) on the injured area during the first 2-3 days after the injury is also recommended to help relieve inflammation and pain, and to expedite the recovery process.
Subacute phase: During this time, injured tissue is very fragile and susceptible to re-injury. Very gentle stretching is the first step of rehabilitation. Stay focused on the breath and the sensations of the stretch, but do not stretch to the point of pain. Proceed with slow, gentle non-weight bearing movements and gradually increase the amount of motion and number of repetitions. As symptoms resolve, gradually resume using weight-bearing movements. An adequate warm-up before and correct alignment during yoga is essential in this healing stage. Transitioning into poses slowly and gently; use long hold times and practice slow deep breathing in the poses. Any movements that increase your symptoms should be avoided. If a yoga pose causes any pain, tingling, or numbness, stop immediately.
Chronic phase: During this time the injured site may feel healed but it is still susceptible to a re-injury and/or chronic inflammation if excessive force is used on the area. It is important to know that care must be taken during this stage and that the injury will not be 100% healed until after this stage has passed.
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