Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wisdom from Other Yoginis

Life has a way of getting in the way of things - blogging intentions included.  Alas.

Lately I've been trying to focus on my healing while simultaneously practicing in a way that supports the process.  At first this was tremendously difficult as I apparently have some deep attachment issues to what I'm usually able to do.  But the more I've practiced with modifications (bent knees in all forward folds, limited Kurmasana, Supta Kurmasana, Halasana, Baddha Konasana, etc.), the more I find it's really not so bad to practice in this way.  I've discovered that the joy I get from being on the mat, being present, and breathing far outweighs any frustration that comes up due to limitation.

As I mentioned before, so much of the help I have received in dealing with this injury has come from the yoga world - both directly and indirectly in the form of blogs.  For example, Lauren from Western Mind Eastern Thinking wrote an excellent post that spoke to me on several levels.  She writes:  "...the mental aspect is possibly the most difficult challenge of all. You literally need to just let go. Let go of fear, let go of limitation, let go of no. Let go of attachment to those feel good poses that may not feel so good anymore. Let go of what was and welcome what is. Let go of excess and welcome balance."

Lauren also speaks of revisiting Primary series with renewed focus for its strength-building components.  Of particular interest to me is a sentence in which she states:  "Instead of trying to go deeper in my forward folds from my bendy spine, I’m consciously creating resistance in my legs to feel the articulation of the fold from the hip and femur sockets."  Hmmm...  I have a bendy spine.  And not only that, but I suspect my lumbar strain and hamstring tendon strains have a lot to do with this.

Almost as if on cue then, Micqui from Ashtangi Angel posted an equally thought-provoking entry on her blog about just this problem.  She writes that she's spent the last five years engaging her quadriceps in forward folds by lifting her kneecaps.  That's a directive I've heard over and over again.  I'm sure you've probably heard it, too.  But why?  Why in the world would I want to contract the FRONT of my leg if I'm trying to stretch the back?  That makes no sense to me.  It seems like it would be the equivalent of putting the breaks on.

Sure enough, Micqui states, "All lifting the kneecaps has resulted in is pain in the insertion of my hamstrings from over-stretching without using reciprocal inhibition and complete frustration with my practice."  Um, hello.  That is PRECISELY my problem!  Instead Micqui advises that we engage all of the muscles of the quadriceps right up to the groin so that uddiyana bandha is engaged.  I'm certainly willing to give this a try.  I'm still not sure I completely grasp all of the nuances of reciprocal inhibition, but that must be what takes the pressure of of the hamstring connectors since Micqui's pain in the glute/hamstring area has disappeared!

Another sage warning from Micqui is that we should "Be aware of your body, when pain arises, you're doing something wrong, search it out and rectify it!! :)"  I believe there's a lot of truth to that statement.  If my injuries have taught me anything, let it be this.  I'm still very much in the process of trying to work through them but I feel like valuable contributions from other yogis and yoginis have, at the very least, given me a decent jumping-off point.

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