Life is what happens while you’re making other plans, right? So, you planned to go to your regular yoga class tomorrow, but slipped and fell today on the ice today. Should you still go?
I get questions like these often, whether it’s a recent fall or something more serious. Is doing yoga while injured good for us? First, let’s consider the injury:
Doctors orders: Did you see a doctor? If so, do what the doctor, NOT your yoga teacher, recommends first. (If a physician told you to rest, then REST.)
Chronic or acute: Did you experience injury from a particular event and can pinpoint the site (fell and bent wrist back for example), or is it a nagging injury they recurs? (“Oh my old aching back” and so on…)
Many chronic issues can be alleviated by a consistent, mindful yoga practice. BUT, there are many different ‘kinds’ of yoga, so choose wisely. An intense practice with a lot of up and down transitions may not be the best thing for an arthritic knee, and a deep, Yin-style practice might aggravate an area already under strain. Remember, each posture in each class is a choice, and you must always advocate for your own best interest. That may mean going against the tide of sun salutations, or maybe even getting up and leaving the class.
Acute problems- sorry to tell you- will probably heal faster with rest. Last week, a participant asked me how to stretch an obscure muscle that she felt she had pulled, feeling a ‘pop’ while exercising. In this kind of situation, without implying any diagnosis, my advice is that the best activity might be: Leaving that area alone to heal. Inflammation from a sprain or ‘pulled’ muscle might be aggravated by stretching the site of injury, lengthening the recovery. (Of course, there are recovery options that don’t include ‘activity’: Hydration, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, etc.)
That said, a gentle, restorative style yoga practice with an emphasis on healing breathing and avoiding the injury site might be just the ticket to staying loose, mindful, and calm while recovering.
This brief summary is, by no means, all inclusive, but here are two important ‘take away’ points to help you decide whether or not to hobble to your next yoga class:
Listen to your own intuition. Don’t worry about feeling like you’ll let your yoga teacher down if you miss class because of a slip on the ice. Our interest is in having you come to class and feel safe. Protecting an injury and feeling uncertain as to whether you should even BE THERE is counterproductive to yoga.
Yoga instructors are not physicians. Some do have more extensive training, or are also “Yoga Therapists” (or doctors for that matter) who are more equipped to deal with and offer help for an injury. Otherwise, yoga teachers are able to be helpful in discussing your injury or rehabilitation in the context of yoga, but certainly cannot design your recovery plan or make a diagnosis.
What ever you decide, DO keep sharing information with your instructor. They may have modifications to offer or alternative poses that have similar benefits. Hopefully, we are all healthy and injury-free to fully experience the benefits of a yoga practice. But if not, I hope this helps you decide whether to get back on the mat, or stay in bed! Namaste.