What to know about practicing yoga when you're hurt.
Many people who are healing from injury or illness, or who suffer from chronic pain, especially back pain, have heard from their doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists that yoga may help. But they wonder… “Can I take up yoga when I am hurting, and not make it worse?”
When experienced yoga practitioners are hurt, they ask… “Can I get back to my yoga practice before I am 100% better?” The answer is “Yes!” and here is why you should!
- Practiced gently, yoga can help you maintain your strength, flexibility, and balance while you are healing.
- Yoga is proven to reduce chronic pain, especially back pain
- Healing from injury or illness can be emotionally difficult and sticking with a modified yoga practice can help you deal with any impatience, frustration, or sadness you may be feeling.
- Starting something new can be a wonderful distraction from your ailment and can help you feel like you are moving forward, even if your healing process seems slow at times.
- Experienced yoga practitioners generally agree that life is better with yoga in it… when they are hurting is when they need their practice and their yoga community most!
BUT, it is important to remember that not all kinds of yoga are good for you when you are healing.
The wrong kind of class, or an under-qualified instructor, can definitely do more harm than good. Here are some tips for how to start, or re-start, a yoga practice at Escape to Yoga that will support your healing process, both physically and mentally, and keep you moving towards your healthier future…
- If your doctor has not yet cleared you for physical activity, it’s a great time to try a Meditation or Nidra class. Feeling good mentally is a huge part of feeling better physically. When you are discussing whether you are ready to hit the mat with your health practitioner, let her know that you have access to safe, gentle yoga classes taught by certified, experienced instructors.
- Start with a Restorative class. These classes will help to loosen up joints stiffened with inactivity slowly, gently, and with plenty of supportive props. You’ll spend most of the class lying on the floor and the preparations for each pose are geared towards creating total comfort with plenty of time to adjust around your injury.
- Tell your yoga instructor you are hurt or not feeling well. They can give you some tips for appropriate modifications or alternative poses and, while keeping an eye on you to make sure you are staying safe, will not interfere when you are skipping poses, doing different poses, or doing the poses differently than usual.
- Don’t do anything that hurts. Yoga is not supposed to hurt and there is no healing benefit to pushing through pain. Skip poses that threaten to cause pain in the area of your injury, or only go as far into the pose as you can without triggering pain, or modify by doing the parts of the pose that do not include the injured part of the body. When you are opting out of a pose in class, you can use the time to rest, to repeat the last pose you did that felt great, or to practice a pose that your instructor suggested as an alternative.
- Add in Hatha classes when you are ready to do some standing work. Our Gentle Hatha classes are ideal for people who are healing. They are slow moving and geared towards protecting people from injury. While you will work on strength and balance in these classes, there is plenty of time for rest and deep stretching, too. Gentle Hatha classes are where you can learn the modifications and props to use when you are ready to move on to more challenging Basic Hatha classes.
- Stay away from fast-moving Vinyasa classes. When moving from pose to pose quickly, it is very difficult to feel your way around an injury before committing to each pose. Slow-moving Hatha classes allow time to test out a pose or position, and modify or opt out if it doesn’t feel right. Hatha classes provide a great opportunity for Vinyasa yogis to step back and work on more precise alignment and longer holds, which will improve their Vinyasa practice when they are ready to go back.
Above all, be patient.
We know you are dying to get back to working on your handstands, or you’re wondering if that lingering pain will ever go away, but pushing too far too fast could set you back, and possibly keep you from your mat entirely. Some yoga is always better than no yoga and maintaining a gentle, safe, modified practice will get you back to your favorite classes sooner.