Ouch - that hurts. Practicing yoga when you have an injury

Earlier this week, YOGADOO founder and teacher, Lucy Aston found she had injured her shoulder, but what should she do? Practice yoga to help recovery? Or rest up?

On Monday morning this week I woke up not able to twist my back or lift my left arm above my head and I was in a lot of  pain. I had somehow injured my shoulder, possibly packing my car or maybe I had slept in a funny position. It was painful and I wondered how I would be able to make it through a day of four yoga classes (three for adults and one after school club).

As I worked my way through my first class, I realised the pain was getting worse and worse. To the point where I was commentating rather than demonstrating. Of course all my lovely yogis were very supportive and one even gave me a massage after the class to try and relieve the pain, which helped. I spoke to a doctor who said he thought I had pulled some of the muscles around my ribs.

But what should I do? Try and practice and stretch through the discomfort or rest up?

I always advise people to seek medical advice before practising yoga through illness or injury and many of the yogis who come to YOGADOO classes are recovering from or carrying an injury of some kind and they find yoga a crucial part of their rehabilitation, recovery, both physically and mentally. I specifically set up the YOGADOO Runner's Yoga classes to help runners prevent and recover from minor injuries incurred by running and training.

Yoga can be used as both a preventative tool as well as a catalyst to assist the body into healing itself in the midst of illness and/or pain. and even just a few minutes a day of yoga can literally transform your body and your life.

Life, for me, is better with yoga in it… so when I am hurting the most is when I need my yoga practice the most!
— Lucy Aston - YOGADOO Founder and Yoga Teacher

Here are our tips for practicing yoga when recovering from an illness or injury:

•    Practiced gently, yoga can help you maintain your strength, flexibility, and balance while you are healing.
•    Yoga can help 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.

•    Tell your yoga teacher 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.
•    Our beginners Vinyasa Flow 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. 

Above all, be patient.  
We know you are dying to get back to the mat, 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 favourite class sooner.