Few weeks ago I had a small accident when I tripped over a wooden box and cut myself over the sharp corner of the box, creating a 10cm cut on my mid chest just below the collarbone. While most part of the cut was just a superficial cut (like a graze), the 2cm that pierced into the corner of the box was rather deep. I don’t want to get into the nasty details, but it was not good.
The accident happened during a weekend holiday and I was treated in the hospital. Unfortunately the wound was not treated properly. They refused to stitch me up even though later I realized it was probably needed, and the wound was infected. It was too late to stitch up after I returned home from holidays. And two weeks later I was told by the doctor that the infected part was “blocking” the wound so it was unable to heal and she ended up reopening the wound and cleaned it up again. Then she put some surgical tape over and now it’s finally healing. But the whole process is a one month of “bandaging” up and probably six months to a year of scar removal tape.
Having a big cut on the chest is not pretty, considering that area is always exposed (even in winter I wear yoga tops and I can’t really hide it), it also means backbends are prohibited, as I cannot “stretch” the wound. I joke about not being able to do any “heart opening” because it’s already opened. The doctor actually advised me to take full rest, which unfortunately I do not have the luxury and the ability to do so. But I have to back off from any deep backbends and be very gentle with my practice.
It has been 3 weeks already, and probably another week or two to perform any form of deep backbends. I also cannot “sweat”, so any strong practice should be avoided. I love strong asana practice, so this three weeks has been extremely difficult for me. However, learning to listen to the body and learning to back off is part of the yoga practice isn’t it?
We all get injured sometimes, even sometimes in yoga practice. I don’t think we need to “back off” completely, but there are a few things that we can do to keep ourselves “sane” and “balanced” during these slightly difficult times.
1.Practice Restorative and Yin Yoga
After a week of not being able to do any backbends I start to have shoulder and back pain by “intentionally” rounding my back for a week as any small “stretching” action hurts my chest. To ease the shoulder stiffness and back pain I have been practicing restorative yoga every day (compare to once a week). Lying down with bolster along my back, legs against the wall, and gentle spinal twists. I don’t think we should stop yoga completely when we have injuries, as other parts of the bodies will get stiff if you completely stop practicing. Just listen to your body and modify the practice accordingly.
2. Self Practice
I never appreciate self practice more than ever than these times when I am healing with injuries. While I can still go to yoga class and “modify” my practice, it’s really hard to “not do it” or “do it fully”, at least for personal experience. After trying to “back off” in a Vinyasa classes, I decided I should take charge on my own practice instead. I still maintain strong practice that includes a lot of forward folds and long inversions, including salamba sirsasana and salamba sarvangasana.
3. Yoga is more than asana practice
Maybe it’s ok to actually back off from strong asana practice for a few weeks. Treat it as an opportunity to give your body more rest. Without the strong asana practice, I am spending at home. It means more time in meditation, pranayama and reading and studying my yoga materials.
If you are a dedicated yoga practitioner you probably practice 360 days in a year. I know how it feels to not practice for a day, but maybe it’s ok to rest. I think in general we all push ourselves too hard. We don’t always have to “go, go, go”. In these few weeks without the yoga classes I have a lot more spare time and space to slow down and do other things. I went off for a week vacation in the tropical islands, and I indulge myself in long massages, warm baths and I spend a lot of time cooking healthy food for the family, and of course, having time to get back on my blog.
In our asana practice we face physical challenges. Being stiff, being achy, being sore. But we know all these experience make us stronger as we flow through our practice. Same in our real life we have obstacles. Like flowing through a challenging yoga class challenges can only make us stronger. Being able to recognize and “breathe through” challenging times is a real practice of yoga off the mat.
And being about to accept and deal with the chaos in life has brought new opportunities and insights. I no longer focus on the trouble and allow that to pass. I treat this as an opportunity to rest, to find space for my own yoga practice, physically and mentally.
My backbends may take a while to come back, but my forward folds practice is reaching a new level (just kidding). I have to keep a “tape” across my chest for many months going forward but at least winter is coming. And it also means I can shop for more halter tops! And if I really have to show it, hey I may just look more”bad-assed”.
My heart might be “broken” and it may leave a scar. But I am learning to accept it with my truly “open heart”.