Returning to the Mat after Injury

Posted by Hom Yoga on

By Danyah Preston

There is nothing like an injury to reconnect you to your body and teach you the real meaning of surrender. We’re so often stuck in our heads, with the constant chitta vritti (monkey mind), that sometimes we forget to pay attention to the subtle and not-so-subtle sensations we are experiencing in every moment.

There are several ways we can injure ourselves on the mat. We may push ourselves beyond our edge, be misaligned in a pose, mindlessly transition between poses and even occasionally – as in my case – sustain an injury as a result of an uninvited adjustment from a well-intentioned teacher (I should clarify that this was not at Hom Yoga).

The result was a torn meniscus in my left knee and a healing process that forced me to take a sabbatical from yoga and confront my insecurities head on. After months of pre-surgery physio, surgery, and then months of post-surgery physio, I finally made my way back to the mat where the real ‘work’ began.

A perfectionist by nature, I was absolutely terrified of hurting myself again and of being judged by others because of my limitations. Feeling inadequate, I would build myself up mentally for days before a class and once there spend most of it in my head resenting every modification, comparing myself to others and fighting off tears of exasperation, willing myself to keep up.

The simple things tested me most. For one, sukhasana (easy cross-legged pose) was not at all easy – it required the aid of a block wedged under my knee and very mindful and deliberate positioning of my legs. In addition, not being able to sit back on my heels, I would dread hearing the teacher call out balasana (child’s pose) because it felt awkward and uncomfortable and nothing like a rest pose! In my first few months back on the mat, I had to modify with my butt sky high in extended puppy pose.

Thankfully, all of that didn’t bring me down. Over time, with the help of a strong support network and perseverance, I was able to see the gift in my situation.

The major turning point came during the New Year, when I finally felt ready to stop my post-op physio and go at it alone. I had laid the groundwork and now knew what I had to do. I continued to practise yoga and self-acceptance, which even today eludes me often. I built up muscle strength in my legs through barre conditioning, and I gradually began to shift my perspective through meditation and by reading about the experiences of others who had overcome injury and re-established their practice.

One of the greatest gifts this healing process has taught me is that your practice evolves after an injury – more often than not, you will practise with a beginner’s mindset – which can be a nice change especially for seasoned practitioners. Rather than obsessing about how a pose looks from the outside, you build a relationship with your anatomy and are more attentive to correct alignment from within. You are connected more deeply to your physical body and its sensations, and easily find joy in breathing and simple movement.

Though challenging and in many ways a work in progress, I believe with self-compassion, surrender and perseverance, it is possible to return to a fulfilling yoga practice after injury. What’s more – the insights you gain have the potential to enrich your practice in ways you might never have imagined.

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