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.