NotSoZen YogaJen

Posts Tagged ‘injuries

Me and my yoga mat after restorative yoga class

This is me after class, with my yoga mat over my shoulder.

On Thursday, my physical therapist cleared me for restorative yoga.

This has happened at least three times since the beginning of this year — my hip will start to feel a little better (I’ve had a hip injury for a year and a half and was diagnosed with a labral tear in my right hip last August), my physical therapist will say I can go to restorative yoga that week, and then before I can make it to a class, my hip will flare up again. So I have to take my PT exercise routine down a notch, slowly add back the more challenging exercises once my hip pain has calmed down, and make sure I’m OK doing those exercises consistently. Only then am I cleared again to go to yoga, at which point my hip flares up before I can make it to class.

On Thursday, my physical therapist said, again, that I could go to restorative yoga.

“Go tomorrow!” he said.

I’d been scanning yoga schedules for restorative classes so I’d be ready when this day came, and picked a Saturday evening class at a studio in Manhattan.

Technically, I haven’t been to a yoga class since last spring, when I tried a restorative class after having gotten a cortisone shot. But it feels like it’s been a lot longer because that one doesn’t even really count. It was labeled as a restorative class but it was pretty active, and focused on hip poses — they very thing I can’t do.

When I explained my injury to the teacher before class and said I might need some modifications, she hurriedly brushed me off, saying that I should be taking a private session instead, and she didn’t offer help or alternative poses during class. I could hardly do any of the poses, and was in pain afterwards.

I haven’t been to a yoga class since. And I haven’t been able to practice consistently, and without pain, since I got injured a year and a half ago.

This weekend I had a completely different experience.

Before class, I went up to the teacher and told her I had a labral tear and tendonosis in my right hip. I said that this was my first yoga class in a year, and I may have to modify things.

She told me that she had labral tears in both hips (!), and we talked a bit about this type of injury before class even started.

As opposed to the class I took last year, this restorative class actually was restorative, and involved a lot of props, holding simple poses, and relaxing. Throughout the class the teacher was very attentive, suggesting things I should or shouldn’t do, helping set up props to make my hips more stable, and making sure poses felt OK for me.

Being in a dark, candle-lit yoga studio, doing familiar poses, felt…joyful. And peaceful. Slowing down, taking deep breaths, chanting “Om,” being quiet and meditative and reflective.

But it was also a little sad. Remembering the way I used to practice yoga, the things I used to be able to do, the way I used to be able to move. And thinking about all the poses, like pigeon (which I loved) and headstand (which I hated), that I might never be able to do again. Being in that room was old and familiar, but also different and new.

Afterwards, I spoke to the teacher more and she was really helpful, sharing her experiences with her injuries and recovery process.

It was the perfect first yoga class for me to go back to — slow-paced and gentle, with a knowledgeable teacher who knew firsthand what I was going through.

Walking out onto the street, my yoga mat slung over my shoulder, I felt great. The class hadn’t exacerbated my pain, and it was something I could go back to. To begin my yoga practice again in this new way, that’s very different, but also kind of the same.

And an update since my last post in October

Shortly after I wrote that post, a coworker referred me to a physical therapist who specializes in hip pain whom I’ve been going to ever since, and building up my strengthening PT exercise routine. I was introduced to the foam roller. And I love it! I bought a giant ice pack.

After a few times, I stopped going to the basics Pilates class in the fall because my hip pain was often flared up. At the beginning of this year I was able to go back to Pilates and can make it to my weekly class pretty consistently now.

I’ve tried acupuncture which was recommended but it flared up my pain. I got two massages and one was fine and the other flared up my hip. Last September I tried going to a chiropractor who used Active Release Technique which also flared up my pain. So for the moment I’m staying away from soft tissue work and sticking to PT, Pilates, and now restorative yoga, too.

I read in a comment on this blog post that someone with a labral tear cut out wheat and sugar and felt better, and I was vaguely aware of having heard or read that gluten is inflammatory, so it makes sense that not eating it would help. A week ago I started an experiment of cutting back on gluten and sugar to see if that will make a difference.

At the beginning of last week I had two almost pain-free days where I could go through the day without an awareness of my hip. This felt amazing, and light. It reminded me how draining — physically, mentally, and emotionally — chronic pain is, and what a weight is lifted when it’s not there.

Towards the end of the week, the pain came back. Right now my hips hurt — I am definitely aware of them — and I still have some degree of pain more often than not. But I’m going to foam roll, do my PT routine, and ice while I watch The Big Bang Theory. This morning I went to my regular Pilates class. And last night I went to my first yoga class in a year.

F train

I can’t run to catch you anymore, F train!

After a year of hip pain, and four months of treatment for a misdiagnosed condition, I went to a new doctor and was finally accurately diagnosed with a labral tear in my right hip. I was gearing up to start treatment for my correct condition — scheduling appointments, calling my insurance company — but over the past few weeks my pain has gotten worse, so last week I went in for a check-up with my new doctor.

My right hip pain has been flaring up and my range of motion, which had been improving, has become more limited again. Also, I’ve been experiencing pain in the form of tightness and a burning sensation in my right calf (a side effect of having this injury is that it’s increased my vocabulary for describing pain, having had to repeatedly answer questions about my pain level and sensation — on a scale of 1 to 10, what is your pain level today? Is it dull? Numb? Aching? Burning? Throbbing? Stinging? Sharp and/or shooting?).

My doctor prescribed another MRI to see if something else is going on that’s causing my pain, in addition to the labral tear and tendonosis. So that’s my next step, and once I get those results, they will help determine how I should proceed with treatment.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about what I can and can’t do, having this injury. Not able to go to yoga now, I keep having flashbacks to a yoga class I took in the summer of 2011. I remember thinking during that class, as the sun streamed through the window, how grateful I was to be able to be doing yoga, sweating and happy and moving my body. I remember not taking it for granted, and actually fully appreciating that moment.

There were countless other times I took yoga classes for granted, assuming I’d always be able to go to challenging, vigorous, sweaty, mind-clearing classes. But I’m glad that I consciously appreciated at least one class. And I hope that one day I’ll be able to get back to yoga, and I know that I won’t take it for granted then.

These days, my injury flares up and calms down, is sometimes better and sometimes worse. But I haven’t had a treatment that has made it get better yet (although now that I have the correct diagnosis and will be getting more information from a second MRI, hopefully I will soon). So I’ve had to make adjustments to what I’m able to do, taking into account my current limitations.

Things I Can’t Do With My Injury

  • Practice yoga. Any kind of yoga. Not even restorative.
  • Put on pants without pain — it hits the edge of my range of motion
  • Consistently walk without pain and an awareness of my hip. Some days I don’t notice it much, but other days I feel pain with every step I take.
  • Get into and out of bed without thinking about it. I have to mindfully sit down on my bed, swing my legs up, and then lie down.
  • Sleep on my right side
  • Wear heels. Well, I can, and sometimes do, but the repercussions last for days.
  • Wear flip-flops. I can wear them around my apartment for short periods of time, but if I wear them to walk somewhere outside, my foot starts hurting, and sometimes my calf pain feels worse. This may or may not be related to my hip issue. It could be a totally separate foot issue. But still, flip-flops = pain.
  • Lift heavy things over my head, i.e. putting my suitcase on the overhead rack on the train. I now have to ask for/accept help. Frequently.
  • Plunk down in chairs. That’s what pretty much started this injury in the first place. I have to be careful when I sit down and do it softly and slowly.
  • Sit cross-legged in a meditative position. My right knee points straight up and can’t relax down to the ground like it used to in days of yore.
  • Meditate. OK, technically I could find another position to mediate in besides sitting cross-legged on the floor, but mediating in that position is Pavlovian for me and I’m being stubborn and refusing to mediate any other way.
  • Sit in my favorite writing/talking on the phone position, in my chair with my right leg tucked in
  • Sit on the floor/ground. I went to a concert in the park this summer and was in pain for two days afterwards. I can sit on the floor with my legs tucked under me for about 10 minutes, at which point I have to stand up and search for a chair.
  • Run to catch the subway
  • Walk fast or rush in general

Things I Can Do With My Injury

  • Pilates. A super-basic beginner class where all the students have injuries. Except when my pain is flaring up, I skip this, too.
  • Physical therapy exercises — gentle strengthening and stretching. Although I stopped PT a few months ago when I wasn’t getting better and then discovered that I’d been incorrectly diagnosed so it wasn’t addressing what I actually had. Once I get the results from my second MRI I want to go back to PT, to treat my actual condition this time.
  • Sleep on my left side
  • Slow down. I usually don’t like doing this but it’s probably good for me, on a mental/emotional/spiritual level as well as physical.
  • Get better at asking for/accepting help
  • Connect with other people who are going through/have gone through similar things, and feel better mentally and emotionally as a result
  • Practice taking good care of myself and paying attention to how I feel
  • Ask questions, get information, trust myself, advocate for myself, and make good decisions
  • Feel jealous — so jealous — of people who casually, effortlessly, pain-free-ly swing their legs into a cross-legged position
  • Stay hopeful

Things I’m Not Sure About

  • Given my range of motion limitations, I’m pretty sure that getting a bikini wax would be challenging and even more uncomfortable than it already is
  • Sex is N/A at this point but I’m kind of curious if/how it will work if/when I meet someone I want to have sex with


On a side note, I went away this weekend. I left my busy life in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and traveled upstate to a country-esque setting (and on the train I had to ask multiple people to lift my suitcase onto the overhead rack and take it down). When I got back, I realized that although my hip still hurt, it was a lot better, and I had no pain in my calf.

This crystallized my realization that New York City living is tough when you have an injury. Commuting every day on packed subway, I often have to stand the whole way, tensing my body, surrounded by people squished into me. On top of that, people push and shove getting onto and off of the train, flailing their bags and bodies against my hip.

I have to pound the pavement walking to and from work, often in shoes that, even if they aren’t heels, aren’t properly supportive. I have to rush, dodge, brace, swerve, twist, and turn to navigate my daily route.

Upstate this weekend, I wore sneakers. I didn’t have to walk that far. And when I did, most of the time it was across soft, gentle grassy earth.

While I have no plans to give up city living for my injury anytime soon, I’m noticing just how hard the New York City hustle and bustle is on my body, and that there’s a cost to my joints. But at least for now, I can minimize this by doing a few things off my “Can Do” List — like paying attention and slowing way down.

If you have an injury, what can and can’t YOU do? How do you feel about having limitations? What simple activities do you no longer take for granted that you used to? Share your experiences in the comments!

When I hurt my foot in early December, I was told that I shouldn’t go to yoga for two weeks.  But after two weeks my foot still hurt, and then two weeks turned into over a month without yoga.  Last week I hit the five week mark, and although my foot still hurt a little, I couldn’t take the yoga detox anymore.  Since my foot was feeling better enough, I decided that it was time to venture back to yoga class, and just proceed with caution.

First I went to a couple of Vinyasa classes and tried to modify poses that involved crunching my foot.  But in Vinyasa, there are many poses that do this – plank, chaturanga, upward to downward dog transitions, and jumping back and jumping forward, which all come up a lot during the flow sequence.  Also, my hamstring still likes to seize up in triangle pose, and stay seized for the rest of class.

Regardless, it felt so good to be reunited with my beloved yoga after the long hiatus.  As soon as I stepped in the studio I was soothed, and when I unrolled my mat and sat cross-legged on a blanket in the moments before class began, I already felt that familiar “Ahhhhh” sensation settle into my body and mind.  Yoga is such a huge and integral part of my life, and helps me deal with stress and anxiety and low energy and depression that without it, I didn’t totally feel like myself.  Plus I was stressed, anxious, lethargic, and depressed.

Since I had several muscle injuries in the fall and I’m trying to avoid foot-crunching poses (and since it’s freezing), I thought that Bikram might be better for me to practice right now.  So I went to a Bikram class yesterday.  And I struggled through it, fighting, as I usually do, waves of nausea and the feeling that I might pass out.  But it didn’t hurt my foot, because there are only three poses that require being on tip-toes in Bikram, and I could make adjustments and modifications for all of them.  And my hamstring didn’t seize up or even bother me at all.

After the brutal class is when the bliss always kicks in.  My racing thoughts had been quieted.  I felt peaceful and calm, yet energized and alert.  My face was bright red for hours after class, but my skin looked dewy and glowy.  And I slept really, really well.  Bikram is also great at combating brain fog, and today I feel clear-headed and focused.

Since I started practicing yoga over 12 years ago, I have been a devout Vinyasa yogini.  But as I am having to negotiate some injuries, my practice has to change to accommodate that.  While I don’t see giving up Vinyasa, I want to add more Bikram classes to my yoga mix, and see how it goes.  And hopefully the waves of nausea and verge of passing out-ness will decrease as I get more acclimated to the intense heat.

Whether I go to Bikram or Vinyasa classes, it feels so good to be back at yoga.  When I practice regularly, I am so much more calm and energized.  My body feels active, awake, and that good kind of sore.  My mind is tranquil.  And best of all, I feel like myself again.

For someone as addicted to yoga as I am, who craves it and goes into withdrawal when I don’t get it, I’ve encountered a lot of obstacles to making it to yoga class this fall.

First there was my pain the neck, which felt better only to then feel worse, plus a hamstring thing thrown into the tweaked-out mix.  But then I was starting to get back my regular Vinyasa yoga practice.  And last week I had a welcome dose of Bikram bliss.  With the cold weather and some difficult  issues to grapple with, I was feining for my next Bikram fix and couldn’t wait to hit that heated studio hard.  I envisioned going to several Bikram classes this week, and vaguely entertained a fantasy of working my way up to the Bikram 30 Day Challenge.  I imagined the bliss, balance, and much-needed tranquility that  it would bring to me and my life.

Then last Saturday, what I hit hard was my toe.  I wish I could stub my toe in delicate ways that involved temporary minor discomfort and hopping around for five minutes tops, and did not involve my foot swelling up and turning blue, but unfortunately this was not the case.  I knew that bruising was usually a sign of breakage, but I also knew that there’s really not much you can do for a broken toe.  However, I was still in pain and hobbling around on Monday, so I called my podiatrist just in case.  I described my foot to the receptionist and asked if I should come into the office, thinking that she would say it was no big deal and would heal on its own.  But she put me on hold to ask the doctor, and when she got back on the phone she said, “The doctor said to come in an hour!”  Yikes.

It turns out that my toe isn’t broken, but the soft tissue is injured.  It turns out that I can’t do yoga for at least two weeks.  And it turns out that I need better peripheral vision.

So two weeks without yoga.  (I’m already halfway through, but honestly, the detox isn’t going so well.  And anyway, it’s supposed to take 21 days to break a habit.  Not that I want to break my yoga habit altogether…)  Plus I am dealing with issues, anxiety, and self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Which means that until December 26th when my yoga ban is lifted, I will have to find other ways to cope.  In my forced detox from yoga, I will have to go to yoga addict rehab.  And I don’t think Dr. Drew handles that, so I’m on my own.

Until I get out of yoga rehab, when I feel these uncomfortable or sad or anxious feelings, I can’t run to yoga class to make them go away.  I have to sit with them.  Yikes.  And find other ways to work through them.   Other practices that will bring me some form of bliss, balance, and much-needed tranquility.

I’m working on this.  But I have big dreams of going to a Bikram yoga class on New Year’s Eve and sweating into the new year.  I really hope my toe heals by then.

How do you feel when you can’t get to yoga class for whatever reason?  What are your other ways of coping with stress and cultivating calm?

When we last left off, I was doused in Ben Gay, practicing yoga in my mind because I was injured and couldn’t practice it with my body, and contentedly and peacefully learning the lesson from my forced yoga break.  Now?  Not so much.

It’s been over a month.  And during that time, my aches and pains have felt better, only to then feel worse again.  After my initial back tweak, I took a week off of yoga – four days until I was feeling better and a couple extra days thrown in for good measure.  And then, on the day that I had decided would be my glorious reentry into yoga, I tweaked my arm out doing something as strenuous and physically taxing as…reaching for my shirt that was draped over my chair.  So then I took another couple of days off, and was feeling better and planning for a morning yoga class.  Lying in bed that morning, happily thinking about the class I would soon be taking, I luxuriously stretched out my other arm and…tweaked it.  So then came another break.  And I wasn’t so excited about yoga-in-my-mind or my spiritual lesson anymore.  I just wanted to move!

Eventually, I went back to class.  I started with restorative classes and then inched my way into active Vinyasa classes, when one day, doing something as strenuous and physically taxing as…sitting, I tweaked out my right hamstring.

Finally, I made it back to my old vigorous Vinyasa practice.  But…it was different now.  I had to pay attention.  Because I had to avoid reactivating the pain on the right and left sides of my neck/back/shoulders/arms.  And now my right hamstring felt pulled, so I needed to prop up blocks for stretchy poses on that side.  And my left hamstring has been bothering me for years due to a pole dancing class injury, so I have to be careful in Triangle and Ardha Chandrasana poses on that side.  And, oh, my lower back has been hurting, too.

I have to be so aware in class now, and it’s annoying.  I can’t just fling myself willy-nilly into poses and feel the yummy juiciness of the unobstructed stretch like I could two months ago, when I was young and limber.  I can’t just space out and revel in the yoga bliss.  I have to vigilantly focus and constantly modify.  Was that a hint of tweak here?  A pulling sensation there?  Do I have to back off this pose, grab more props for that pose?  ANNOYING! I just want to move and flow and feel and bliss out!  I don’t want to have to think and worry in yoga!  I do enough of that in my life and off the mat, and yoga is supposed to help me escape from that!

Or actually…maybe…yoga is supposed to help me be present with what is actually going on.  Be mindful.  Be aware.  Slow down.  Pay attention…   And one day in class I realized this, and felt another spiritual lesson coming on.  An annoying lesson, that I don’t necessarily want to learn, that I don’t exactly feel excited about, but a lesson nonetheless.

I usually like my lessons to be quick and dirty, to just get it and move on.  Quickly.  And this lesson is taking way too long for my liking.  But another lesson is, you don’t always like your lessons, and you never really get to choose them or specify their duration.

Last week I finally, finally, built back up to my pre-tweaked practice, and went to five hardcore Vinyasa classes.  And I felt good.  Mentally clear.  Blissfully calm.  And on the fifth day, I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating pain in my neck and arm from doing something as strenuous and physically taxing as…I don’t know, probably shifting an inch on my pillow.  In tears from the pain, I stumbled to my bathroom for an emergency application of Ben Gay, and gulped down an Aleve.  And the next day I bit the bullet and made my first physical therapy appointment.

At my appointment earlier this week, my physical therapist said those dreaded words:  “You should lay off yoga for a couple weeks.”  But I already did that!  And I just went back to it!  And I don’t want to take another break! my inner voice pleaded.  And then, I decided to clarify what she meant by that.

Me:  (hopefully)  Like, one week?

Her:  Like one or two weeks.

Me:  (internally)  Ugh.  So done with this lesson.  Just over it!

So now I’m on another yoga break.  And when I go back to class, I’ll probably have to pay attention to my body for awhile, to when I can push myself (optimistically), and when I have to back off (more likely).  And I have fantasies of a day when I will be tweak and pain-free, and able to enjoy flinging my body around willy-nilly in class and mindlessly blissing out.  And I tell myself that when that happens, I will not take one inch of my neck or shoulders or arms or back or hamstrings for granted.  But truthfully, the lesson I’ve learned is that most of the time, it takes a little something going wrong, to have appreciation for when things are going right.

What lessons are you learning in your life right now, in yoga, or otherwise?  How do you feel about the timing of your lessons, and how long they take?  What do you do when you feel like they are just taking too damn long?  Has anything happened that has forced you to slow down and pay attention?  What challenges does that present, and what do you get from it?


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