Over many years I have been dealing with a slow healing knee injury. Injuries can not only affect your physical life, if you are an active person or one where you use your body for your profession, like me. But they can take over your mind and emotions.Here I share some thoughts based on my own experience but also from working with many private students who have come to me to help with their recovery from an injury.
Take Care of your injury but don't let your injury take over your life.
When dealing with an injury, obviously take good care of your body. Of course avoid activities that make the injury worse and seek medical attention if you need. If the healing process is going to take a long time, its important not to get your identity wrapped up with your injury You will of course experience an injury and all that comes with it, but you are not your injury. Remember there is more to you and your life than this particular experience.
In recent times I had back pain on my recent travels abroad, for a few days I was in pain which affected my ability to sit and walk it affected my daily activities. I refused to let this experience take over my holiday. I started to practice yoga to support the healing process and I didn't give the experience in my back all of my attention, or that of my husband who was travelling with me at the time.
Constantly talking and thinking about your injury, or any negative situation and setback gives it more power. Focus on the positive aspects of your life while taking steps to get well.
Prioritise self care. Feel the feelings but don't get stuck in.
Injuries not only take a tool on your body, as well as on your mental and emotional state, all of which can leave you feeling vulnerable. When you have an injury you start to question how would I..., How long will I be in this limiting state. This is how anxiety manifests. To discover the best way to handle this period of instability was to work with poses to help me feel supported and whole. To de-stress.
Figure out what makes you feel at ease and supported and do it.
Rewire your thinking and focus on what you can do.
Post-injury it is easy to dwell on not having the same range of motion you once had or not having the capability to safety get into your favourite yoga postures. These limitations may last for weeks, years or even a lifetime. My knee injury took a year and I had to relearn how to do Lotus pose all over again.
Again, continuing to focus on what 'used to be' is not going to serve you or anyone else. Its important not to get your identity or value wrapped up with your physical range of motion or capability. Your 'do' is not your 'who'. You are not your yoga practice. The asana practice is only a tool to help you connect you to something deeper than the physical body. That also works with the misconception that doing an complex asana equates to being an advance yoga practitioner.
The same way holding onto your past doesn't serve you, putting unrealistic expectations on what your practice should look like. Ours and mother nature timelines don't always line up. Its important to respect your body instead of pushing yourself too hard, which can lead to further setback. Focus on what you can do NOW both on and off the mat You may be shocked or excited about all the things you can do, even while being in a limited state.
Focus on what you CAN do and not on what you can't.
Don't let go of your practice, work with what you got.
It can be easy to dwell on what your practice used to look and feel like pre-injury. Though your practice my temporarily or permanently be altered. Figure out what you can safely do now, even its one pose. Talk to your medical adviser and find out if there are any exercises that may reduce your pain or help heal your injury. When my back seized Rag Doll pose and supine twists helped me release my back and helped me gain more movement.
Before doing any asana, ask yourself, 'Is this pose going to help my injury, make it worse, or neither?' Don't feel any pressure to do any pose that is not going to support you getting better. Let your body be your guide. Start with the most conservative variation of a pose and see how it feels before gradually going deeper. You may find the conservative version is the best variation for your body now and maybe even ten years from now and you know what - that's okay! Better to be safe than cause further harm.
Of course if in a class do let your yoga teacher know you are injured. I am so aware in the gyms I teach though you ask people to advise you before the start of the class they don't. Its only when I see them struggle in certain postures that I am alerted to go and adjust them and then it comes to light they have an injury. Please do inform your teacher.
Let go of the ego. Its important for you to let go of what you think a pose 'should' look like. Don't compare what your current practice looks like with what it used to look like and don't compare your practice with others.
Stay Positive about the future.
In addition to what you can do now, keep your eyes on what you want to see manifest. Sometimes an injury can force you to slow down the hamster wheel. You can then see if the hamster wheel is rolling down the correct path. It can give you the opportunity to rethink what you really want from life both big and small.
Don't waste time being bitter, don't let the injury limit you now or your future. Where the mind goes the person will follow, Let any set backs become your divine set ups.