Injury as Opportunity: How Yoga Can Heal Your Body, Mind & Spirit
By Erica Mather
People have been hurting themselves as long as humans have existed.
I am a particularly injury-prone specimen.
In elementary school, every time I went to gym, I sprained an ankle. Literally. This was so ongoing and consistent that eventually my pediatrician wrote me a doctor’s excuse from gym class, so long as I maintained regular exercise through swim team. I never went back to gym, and swam competitively through high school.
My brother joked that I could sprain an ankle tripping over a paint stripe. He made this joke, because it actually happened.
Never once did it occur to me to blame the paint stripe, walking, my shoes, my gym teacher, the Universe, the people around me. These things just happened.
However, there was a quiet voice in my head that suggested these things happened to me because I was somehow…disconnected, inattentive, unaware, checked out. I didn’t really know what to make of this idea, at the time.
Discussion in the yoga community is reaching fever pitch about how yoga can wreck your body.
The debate has raised hackles, frightened students, and elevated the visibility of some writers and teachers.
For years journalism has been tracing this theme, with articles I’ve found in Yoga Journal dating back to 1998. This discussion is not new.
Throughout it all I’ve wondered why so many have felt the need to defend yoga’s position as a physical form.
First, sometimes the best defense is no defense. Second, yoga is a technology for healing the spirit, the soul, and the emotions, by way of the body—its physical manifestation is at once immaterial and essential. Coming to yoga’s defense as a physical technology only more firmly entrenches it alongside forms of exercise, a trend that is happening all the more decisively all the time, and in my opinion is tragic.
Why does yoga potentially wreck your body? For so many reasons—allow me to list some of them:
1. Shit happens
2. You came to the practice without a sense of physical awareness in the first place, and over-did it
3. You came to the practice without some baseline fitness, and over-did it
4. You over-did it even though you possess a sense of awareness and fitness
5. Your teacher asked you to do something beyond your capability, and you didn’t or couldn’t discern this, and over-did it
6. You have a lifetime of injury, and something you did in class pushed past your edge
7. You were comparing yourself to the person next to you
8. You were comparing yourself to the teacher
9. You were thinking about something else while practicing, and hurt yourself
10. You weren’t breathing consciously
11. You were holding your breath
12. You were thinking about how great you look in the pose, and then over-did it
13. Shit happens
This entire list really tells you more about you than anything else. When you hurt yourself using a hammer, you don’t blame the hammer. When you hurt yourself using yoga, don’t blame yoga.