‘You’re Not The Ride’- My Return To Yoga

A new beginning?
A new beginning?

Standing on one leg is always going to be a challenge for someone recovering from a broken foot – and sure enough, my mending metatarsal reminded me of its presence.

Yesterday I did my first yoga class since the fracture.

I freely admit that, after a period of feeling I was medically forbidden to do any exercises that put any weight on said foot, I am still finding it difficult to get back into the routine of keeping fit.chill homie

A Chakra Balance class marked my comeback at Yogi Smith‘s.

Admittedly I do find what could be defined as the “spiritual” side of yoga more difficult than the physical.

An instructor tells me what to do with my body and I’ll have a go – and what happens after that is not for want of trying.

The class featured a meditation session on what roles the mind and body play – to me, an interesting concept in the whole idea of control – after all, isn’t that the reason you go to any class in the first place? That sense of wanting to control at least one aspect of your life?

Tree pose was always going to be a challenge!
Tree pose was always going to be a challenge!

Do you control your body? Or does it control you?

I found one parallel particularly useful – that life’s fluxuations are like a theme park ride – but you’re not the ride.

My recovering metatarsal made its presence felt during Vrksasana, or “Tree” pose – standing on my left foot.

It didn’t hurt, but I could still feel it was there.

(While the visual truth of the fracture was confirmed by an X-ray a few months back, I could still see the bone’s cylindrical presence there in my mind’s eye).

After the class I told my instructor Espi – she told me that was the bone’s way of protecting me.

You can read more of Espi’s advice on yoga and recovering from injury here.

And here’s a link to her website.

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Yoga With An Injury – The Practicalities

At the moment I’m only really able to do restorative/yin yoga, and – as my instructor Espi Smith has pointed out in a previous post, I can not do anything at all which puts too much pressure on the foot.

Don't strain that foot!
Don’t strain that foot!

What I want to do here, briefly (not least because it’s Sunday and outside the sun might even be shining even here in England LOL), is to show how determined people have compromised their practice despite injury.

Despite the benefits of a class, I’ve always enjoyed my YouTube Yoga sessions too – the laptop balanced precariously on the sofa, the living room becomes my Ashram.

And so, once again, I’m looking to YouTube for coping strategies!

Here’s Jordan, who broke her fifth metatarsal (and from the X-ray it looks quite close to her joint), showing her adapted Sun Salutation.

The YouTube description mentions that the injury – sustained four weeks prior to the video – is “notoriously difficult to heal” (tell me about it!).

Needless to say it makes feel just great to see someone practicing despite being in plaster.

Here’s US instructor Lara Falberg showing a seated sequence intended for those who already have a yoga practice and don’t intend to give up because of a fracture.

Judging by a guy calling to her in the background, she’s in her living room too!

She started the routine 10 days after undergoing surgery.

From a personal point of view, the question that begs the asking is: Are both sides of the body getting an equal workout?

After all, if say, it’s your left foot that’s hurt, there’ll be no weight put on that, as opposed to when you do the same on the opposite side. And if you’re in plaster, then there’ll be the extra weight involved in lifting it – again on one side.

In my own restorative sessions just after the injury, I noticed I was a lot stiffer on my left side (all that hobbling LOL).

Not that any of these factors should put anyone off practicing in a modified, sensible and professionally-guided session!

The most determined will always find a way, but yes, it’s all about compromise too.

Does Yoga Heal?

Can I still do yoga? Here’s a Q & A session with my instructor Espi Smith.

Espi says painful moves should be avoided
Espi says painful moves should be avoided

Me: What adaptations should I make to my practice?

Espi: I guess that depends on how you define the word “yoga”. If you are looking at only the asana (postures), they you will need to modify your physical practice to account for your injury. In your case, you should avoid standing and kneeling postures as well as some seated asanas that involve the outside of your foot putting pressure on the floor. If it hurts, it’s a definite no-go!

She uses a greater understanding of internal energetics and anatomy since being injured herself
She uses a greater understanding of internal energetics and anatomy since being injured herself

However yoga is much more than a physical practice, its a way of looking at life. Pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, proper diet and positive thought will all help keep you happy and healthy throughout your recovery.

Me: Anything I should definitely avoid?

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

Espi: Anything that puts unnecessary pressure on the foot. Remember to listen to your body and not your ego, if there is pain it’s a sure fire way of knowing that you’re upsetting a part that should be healing.

Me: Do you know anyone who’s survived injury to continue their practice?

Espi: Yes, me! A few years ago, before I’d let go of my ego and gotten over my competitive side I decided that I couldtry and jump from Down-dog to Crow (an arm balance that requires a lot of strength).

Good communication is the key to maintaining the fitness lifestyle
Good communication is the key to maintaining the fitness lifestyle

Turns out I had a lot more momentum than strength. I face-planted on the floor with all my might and wound up in hospital with a neck-brace on and some very worried-looking doctors. Luckily I hadn’t broken anything I just had soft tissue damage.

A positive attitude is important
A positive attitude is important
The injury left me with a huge fear of inversions and arm balances. It took a couple of years of very grounding practice to give me the confidence to practice my arm balances and inversions again. Under the careful instruction of my teacher during my teacher-training, I got back into it.
Me: Can injury make people who enjoy exercise feel cut-off and even make them drop out altogether?
Espi: I think this is very much to do with each individual’s attitude towards being injured. If you see it as being betrayed by your body and allow yourself to feel that you have been kicked to the side-lines then yes, your are likely to become isolated.
It's all about mind, body and spirit (artwork by Molly Pepper)
It’s all about mind, body and spirit (artwork by Molly Pepper)
However, if you adopt a positive attitude, respect the road to recovery and speak to your teacher/instructor about the things that you can still do, then you’ll still be able to enjoy the fitness lifestyle.

Me: How can meditation help?

Easier said than done!
Easier said than done!
Espi: Meditation allows you the time to get out of your conditioned mind. The one that tells you that injury means “being out of the game”.
When you do it, not only will you get the chance to clear all the negative emotions that surround being injured, you also bring a deep sense of relaxation to the physical body.
The muscles and the nervous system will get a well-earned break and this will help to relieve any built-up tension and waste products that come up as a result of injury.
Finally, thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak about this on your blog, Emma. Rest, relax and remember to breathe. You’ll be healed in no time.
For more information on Espi, check out her website here.