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Yoga Insights

Practicing Asanas with a Healed Injury

Think back to any injuries you might have sustained—maybe a broken bone, a torn ligament, sprained ankle, or a back or shoulder injury. Most of us have hurt ourselves in one way or another over the years. If we were able to take care of these injuries properly and they healed well, they may not bother us anymore. But sometimes, though seemingly healed, they can come back to haunt us.

When we practice yoga asanas, we gently extend our range of motion. Sometimes, while doing this, we might notice a little twinge or an ache in an area we thought was healed. So what should we do? Stop? Keep stretching to try to work through it?

It depends. Any time you experience sharp, acute pain during asana practice (or any activity, for that matter), you should stop that movement immediately. It’s a signal that you’ve gone too far. On the other hand, if you experience a dull, mildly uncomfortable ache at a spot where you’ve been injured in the past, it’s generally safe to stay there, gently stretching. But don’t work through the pain to try to stretch further. This tends to exacerbate the injury and then it may hurt even when you’re not exercising. It’s never a good idea to make things worse. So if you are in doubt about whether that stretch or movement is safe for you, be sure to consult your doctor or physical therapist before doing it again.

Sometimes when we begin practicing asanas or when we learn a new pose, if we’re paying attention, we may discover weaknesses in our body. This awareness is very helpful because it lets us know what areas we need to work on. But we need to do this carefully. If you find that certain asanas or movements aggravate old injuries that bother you after your practice, either avoid those movements altogether or take care not to overstretch when doing them. Awareness is key—listening to your body as you practice and then responding with patience and caution. Practicing like this will help you get the most out of your asanas without risking further injury.

Three Qualities for a Stress-Free Asana Practice

The ancient science of yoga offers profound benefits that go far beyond the physical. But in order to enjoy all of yoga’s benefits—physical, mental, and spiritual—we need to cultivate a certain mindset.

Asanas were designed to enable the practitioner to sit for long periods of time in meditation, so as to achieve the ultimate goal of self-realization. Even if our goals are less lofty, our asana practice can help us develop qualities that contribute to inner peace and a higher consciousness.

De-Stress Your Asana Practice

Why do we practice yoga asanas? I would guess that most of us do it for our health and well-being, to reduce stress, or to experience inner peace. Those are good reasons. But to achieve those results, it’s important to practice in a way that leads to those goals.

Remember that the word “asana” can be translated as “comfortable seat.” The word “comfortable” is the key to your practice. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t gently extend your boundaries—on the contrary, without doing so, the poses won’t get any easier. But it should be a gradual process, approached with patience.

Gaining Insights Through Meditation

Approaching life with the principles of yoga as our foundation will bring us keen insights—whether about our relationships, our personal situation, or our work. These insights will enable us to find a solution to any situation or problem in life.

When we’re faced with a difficult decision, if we’re unable to come up with a solution after analyzing the pros and cons, all too often we just sit there focusing our attention on the problem.

Extra Care for Yoga Flow

A lot of times I like to practice asanas one at a time, holding the poses for a while and taking short rests in between, when appropriate. But I also like to practice Salute to the Sun, flowing from one pose to another. Because there are so many different types of flow yoga classes available now, I just wanted to give you a few words of caution, especially if you’re new to the practice of asanas.

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