Integrating Yoga into your Injury Recovery

If you live an active lifestyle, chances are that at one time or another, you have experienced an injury. Not only can this be discouraging, it can force us out of regular routines and halt progression to our fitness goals. Depending on the severity of the injury, rest will likely be the first step to recovery, followed by easing back into our regular fitness and workout routines.

Consulting with professionals will be key to taking care of your injury and making sure that it heals properly to avoid re-injury in the future. Seeking the advice of a doctor, physiotherapist, massage therapist, personal trainer and/or other fitness instructors such as your yoga teacher will all contribute to your wellbeing and getting back on track as quickly as is safe. You can find fitness professionals through reputable directories such as www.nccpt.com for personal trainers and yoga instructors.

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If you have an injury, it might be a common culprit. The back is a problem area for many people, even if it’s just some kind of nagging ache or weakness that is prone to re-injury. Joints such as wrists, knees and ankles are also places where many people experience injuries regularly.

The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers notes in their course on Back Injury Prevention that “low-back discomfort is an increasingly common client problem. In fact, in modern industrialized societies like our own, back discomfort has reached epidemic proportions. This modern plague affects approximately eight out of every 10 clients we train”.

As a yoga instructor, I highly recommend participating in restorative, yin and gentle yoga classes during the initial stages of the healing process. You can then move into a more active practice such as vinyasa, as your strength builds. Yoga is beneficial in recovering from an injury by allowing for a full body workout, while providing optional modifications in your fitness practice. This allows you to protect injured muscles and joints, while strengthening supportive muscles around the injury as a preventative measure. For example, blankets and foam props can be used to support knees and other weak joints. Yoga instructors will also cue softening knees and bringing the belly to the thighs to protect your lower back in forward folds. Modifying planks, downward dogs and side planks can be done by shifting weight to the forearms to protect wrists. Various other modifications can be made available during yoga practice, so make sure to communicate with your yoga instructor and ask for options if you experience any discomfort!

The holistic, full body focus of yoga also helps us to reach and strengthen deeper and smaller muscles that may be difficult to target in weight training and cardio exercise. The NCCPT guides personal trainers and fitness professionals to focus on overall core strength. Their training highlights that “to prevent back injuries, clients must develop optimum levels of core stabilization, strength and power.” Adding on the focus of breath work can support this process, slowing down our movement and allowing us to go deeper, pause and evaluate the feeling of our muscles to gain body awareness. Breathing deeply through these controlled movements will bring oxygen to our tissues and promote internal healing, along with relaxation. Finally, the relaxation and stretching of muscles by holding poses for extended periods of time can also be beneficial to train tense muscles to release. Tension is a common lasting effect surrounding injured tissue and in helping to support the injured area. Finding release in these compensating muscles can be both relieving and improve our ability to fully heal.

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For more information on safe exercise and connecting with a personal trainer once you are ready to resume full activity after an injury, consult the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers for more information.