June 8, 2011

When To Back Off

We hear it in yoga class often - your back is going to hurt like hell, don't be scared. I have heard many yoga instructors explain this more clearly, in that we need to know the difference between a pain that is uncomfortable and that we can breathe normally through and a pain that is excruciating and affects our breathing pattern. If your legs hurt in Awkward pose because they are shaking and sore and they have never held up your body weight before, well, suck it up Princess. Breathe through it, hold the asana as long as you can and challenge your body and your mind by pushing past your comfort zone. If you try to sit between your feet in Fixed Firm pose and your knees, ankles or hips start screaming at you, your breathing becomes laboured and you're seeing stars - back off! Put your hands beside your hips and slowly lower your bum down until you feel a little pain and hold yourself there. Day by day and week by week you will improve and notice a difference.

I am struggling with backing off today. Somehow, on Monday evening, I injured my deltoid in my left arm. I lifted weights when I got home from work and did a BodyRock. I was a little more tired than usual while doing my shoulder presses and bench presses but I didn't think much of it. I woke up Monday to a very uncomfortable pain my shoulder. I popped a couple Advil to get back to sleep. Tuesday morning, I worked out with my sore shoulder and just ignored it. Yesterday evening my shoulder was feeling OK so I decided that I could go to a boot camp workout today after work. But as soon as I started my yoga class this morning, my shoulder hurt - quite a bit actually.

I've heard many teachers explain that yoga can be used as a diagnostic tool. That through yoga you can learn from your body what is strong, injured, sore or weak. This morning my shoulder yelled at me, very loudly, to back off a little bit. I realized through my practice this morning that if I couldn't pull on my heels in Hands to Feet pose that my shoulder probably needed a break.

It's hard to allow yourself those breaks - to not push through the pain - to give yourself permission to have a slow week. I have spent the morning thinking about my shoulder, tossing all my different options around in my head, discussing it with Kristy, thinking about it again, talking about it again. And have FINALLY come to the conclusion that I should not work out tonight. That I probably should only practice yoga for the rest of the week and allow my body to heal itself.

It's so hard. I don't want to do it! But I've seen many people close to me re injure themselves again and again because they push too hard and don't listen to their body. Tonight I will listen very carefully to my body, respect it and give it what it needs.


Kristy said...

Good for you, it's very hard to listen to our bodies sometimes. I'm walking proof of overuse-abuse and now, 6 months later the chest is finally feeling back to normal. Rest it early and ice!

Lacey said...

Seriously. Sometimes giving our bodies what they need over what we want, is the more important thing. :) Just think of it as a stepping stone in your strength! You're healing that shoulder so you can make it stronger and avoid injury in the future! :)

thedancingj said...

This is a great insight.

Here's something I've realized - for 90 minutes, you are working outside of your comfort zone, right? But for some of us (like you, like me), we are very comfortable with pushing ourselves beyond our limits. It's the "backing off" that can be very weird and uncomfortable. So learning to back off is a HUGE part of the practice, because it's so far outside of the normal comfort zone. And that's where the change and the healing happen. Awesome. Good for you.