In the final part of the series I’ll talk about my experiences with injury. My story is similar to that of my friends, but I came from a different background and my body is different. I’ve been practicing yoga for four years and in that time I’ve had to deal with a strained quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle twice, a fatigued right shoulder, and most recently a high ankle sprain. Through my experience I have learned that these injuries were a sign that I need to adjust my practice to achieve better balance in my body. The point of yoga is to “connect”. Connect the body to the mind and the mind to the soul. You have to connect all three in this order, so if you are not comfortable physically, it will be impossible to sit still and meditate to connect the mind to the soul. My journey is one that is more physical because that is where most of my issues lie.
Most practitioners are not my size for a reason. It is easier to bend and manipulate your body when you carry less bulk. I like to explain the difference to my students by illustrating the difference between bamboo and a tree trunk. If you have ever had the chance to hold a bamboo stick you know how tough it is. The bamboo stick is firm, yet flexible, it does not fight against the wind, it flows with it while still maintains its integrity. The tree trunk is firm, yet stiff, the tree trunk will fight against the wind until its integrity breaks. When practicing yoga you want to be the bamboo stick. After years of heavy weight lifting with limited flexibility training, I had become a tree. In order to become more like a bamboo stick I have to make changes to not only my exercise routine, but my lifestyle habits as well.
Notice I switched to present tense in the last sentence. I’m still working on these changes. The hardest part of my journey has been surrendering to my ego. I am used to being a mighty oak tree in the forest that has been revered by others, so the transformation into a bamboo stick that is stronger, but less noticeable has been difficult. I still find myself engaging in activities that promote the tree trunk, but the bamboo lifestyle is becoming more dominant. Whenever I feel myself slipping away from my path I am reminded to stay on track through my injuries.
First, when my shoulder was giving me issues when I started, I strengthened the posterior sides of my soldiers and focused more on my shoulder mobility in my practice. Second, when my QL started giving me problems I refocused my practice and realized that the right side of my body was activated more than my left side. From there I adjusted to spending more time on the left side of my body. Lastly, I sprained my ankle during a football game back in June and throughout the recovery process I realized that I need to spend more time on ankle and hip mobility.
Injuries are indicators that something is not right with me physically, and I need to take time and correct the physical ailment so I can move forward with the connection with the rest of my body. My fellow yogis have all expressed similar feeling throughout their stories as well. I hope throughout this series you have learned that injuries are not obstacles meant to derail your journey, but they are challenges that are put in your path to help you grow.