Dealing with injuries - both in students and in our own bodies - has been a major theme in my conversations with fellow teacher trainees of late. And it seems like everyone I know has been getting hurt lately: one of my classmates hurt her back moving, another friend had some back pain after doing a handstand up a slippery wall, and one of my favorite teachers has a broken finger!
I've recently been noticing some tension and ache in my own low back and have been exploring ways to deal with it positively while striking a balance between rest and practice. In this three-part post, I'll be sharing my experiences practicing with a (minor) injury. If any of you readers are also dealing with injuries right now, I would love you to leave comments sharing what your experiences are, too.
Ah, "be kind to yourself" - possibly the the most difficult instructions an impatient and ambitious yogi such as myself can hear. When I'm into something, I am ALL IN. When I was a runner, I wasn't casually jogging - I was training for distance races. When I studied French in college, I didn't dip my toe in through French movies and spritzes of Chanel - I picked up and moved to Toulouse for a year. And since I started my 200-hour yoga teacher training program, I have been practicing more than ever before.
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
- I've made so much progress; I don't want to start all over.
- This is my routine. I can't take a day off.
- If I skip class, I'm slacking off.
- I can/should/have to power through this.
If so, then we are of one mind, friend. If not, then you are doing awesome at this self-compassion thing. What is your secret? But seriously, tell me.
I suspect that self-kindness - as with pretty much everything else in yoga - is a skill that needs to be nurtured, practiced, and honed over time. If, like so many people, you've spent a lot of your life listening to high-pressure or perfectionistic inner monologues, this is extra hard.
My strategy for combating this internal pressure and teaching kindness to myself, I am testing a formula that's one part mindfulness, one part cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and one part common sense.
- Mindfulness: Identify these thoughts for what they are - thoughts. Observe them neutrally. Observe the body in its current state, and assess areas of sensation or pain without judgment.
- CBT: Challenge and disobey the internal monologue that pushes you to potentially harm yourself. Talk back to the voice in your head that's telling you "only lazy people take a day off."
- Common Sense: If you're hurt, you need to rest. It's pretty simple.
Is your inner voice being realistic? Does it really have your best interests in mind? A great litmus test is this: if your friend were injured and you said out loud what you're saying to yourself, would it be kind?
Do you guys have strategies for dealing with injuries and backing off from demanding practice? I want to hear your war stories, battle wounds and lessons learned. And look for the second installment within the next week or so - for Part 2 I'll be getting down to the nuts and bolts of adapting your practice to your injuries. There will be walls. There will be blocks. There will be humble pie!