Updated: Apr 24, 2019
Most of us have had injuries in our lifetime; some more severe than others. When you’re an athlete or dedicated yoga practitioner, how do you deal with injuries that affect your training, yoga practice, or daily life?
There are different schools of thought on healing injuries, when to apply heat, when to apply ice, and when to rest. Can we push through the pain? Is medicine necessary?
These are my tips on managing injuries, and I’ve had my fair share. What you’re about to read is what I’ve experienced personally and what I’ve learned while studying Ayurveda (What’s Ayurveda? Click here to learn more). I’m sure I need to provide some sort of disclaimer here, so please take the information for educational purposes and always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare (however you define healthcare) professional.
My Toolbox For Dealing With Injuries
Tool #1: Change Your Attitude
A good friend, who is a chiropractor and dedicated ashtanga practitioner, told me once “It’s not an injury. You just got too strong too quickly for your body.” Injuries suck and I’m not going to say that this conversation I had made everything better, but it did change my approach to my injury. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I stopped seeing my body as weak and dysfunctional and instead started to see by body as strong and very capable. Injuries, though annoying and frustrating, are just a hurdle on the road to getting stronger and advancing.
Tool #2: Modify When Necessary
Those of us that are competitive, either with others or ourselves, this tool is freaking hard. I can't tell how many times I've thought "If I lifted 100 pounds before, going lighter is going to make me weaker! I'm going to lose all of my gains; all of my muscles will atrophy!" Or "My knee hurts, but I did lotus yesterday so I need to do it today because if I don't I'm regressing....I've got to keep up with my friend next to me." Can anyone relate...? Bueller? Bueller?
Modifying our workouts or yoga practice can be a hit to our ego, but seriously, it's temporary. Modify to allow your body to start to heal and overcome the injury. Believe me you can still get a kick ass workout with movement modifications and you can still quiet your mind during your yoga practice if you're not doing lotus.
Tool #3: Nutrition
Really this should be tool #1 because it's sooooo important. Think about it, our muscles and bones (everything in our bodies) are nourished by the foods we eat. If I am eating processed junk food with little to no actual nutritional value how in the world is my injury supposed to heal?
If I put a candy bar in the gas tank of my car, what's going to happen? It's going to shut down, things will break and I'll have to spend a bunch of money to get it repaired. The same scenario applies when thinking about the food we eat and how our bodies respond.
Think about it, how many times to we overlook the fact that eating a dish of ice cream will make us bloated? Or how about eating a bag of skittles (or whatever your favorite processed food is) and having to deal with serious joint inflammation? Pay attention to how your bodies respond to the food you eat.
Ayurveda tells us that it takes 40 days from the moment we swallow food, for our bodies to fully processes the nutrition. I'm not talking about 40 days to digest food here, I'm talking about how it takes 40 days our bodily tissues and cells to see the benefit, or detriment, of the quality of food we put in our mouths.
If we want to heal, or prevent injury, we need to clean up our diets and eat nourishing wholesome foods. Foods that are not processed, foods that are whole and natural. These are the foods you can get at the perimeter of a grocery store.
Tool #4: Topical Creams
It wasn't until I started studying Ayurveda that I came across this gem...mahanarayan oil. This oil is used to soothe sore muscles and tendons, and prevents over-use damage with active lifestyles. Speaking from personal experience, this stuff is nothing short of magic. Used in combination with other tools in my toolbox, it's really effective in helping minor aches, pains and injuries. Check it out at https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/mahanarayan-oil/.
Tool #5: Mobilize
There are many tools for mobilization-foam rollers, lacrosse balls, yin yoga, for example. Even yogis need mobilization. We need movement outside of our "typical" practice or workouts. Athletes need to stretch and mobilize on a daily basis. You're not going to see the benefits of spending 15 minutes a week on stretching and mobilizing. Working to improve range of motion will improve your performance.
Also, think about your work. What do you do for 8-10 hours per day at work? Sit at a desk or in a car? We should consider our careers to counteract the effects on our bodies and the predisposition to injury we might have as a result. For example, if we sit for the majority of the day, we're going to want to incorporate stretches and movements to counterbalance rounded shoulders or tight hips.
Typically, when we stretch or do yoga and we hate a movement (for me it's pigeon; pigeon is the DEVIL), it really means we should be doing that movement a lot, our bodies need it. A lot of us tend to shy away from movements that we aren't good at and focus on the ones that are easy for us; at least I know I do this. So think about what movements you don't like, and go do them RIGHT NOW!
This post was originally published December 2017.