Ajay Tokas offers advice on how to avoid unwanted adjustments during asana practice.
Injuries are part of the practice, and if not all, most practitioners experience these as major or minor ones. A practitioner may differentiate it as a spasm, sprain, mild or acute pain. Some injuries occur when we push the body too much, too fast, or ignore initial signs of malaise to stop and re-evaluate our practice. Other instances of such untoward occurrences could be during adjustments given by teachers. Pain is a part of the practice, but it should not deter us. Rather, we could use it as a reminder to be patient with ourselves and learn to be on the mat with more self-awareness to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
A few years ago, I decided to drop in for a Mysore class at one of the ashtanga yoga shalas in Amsterdam, and this is where I was injured during an adjustment by the teacher. I never thought I could encounter an injury in a harmless pose like marichyasana C, where I twist almost effortlessly and grab the middle of the forearm. She (the teacher) twisted my torso a lot deeper in marichyasana C. The twist caused me acute pain in backbends and I had understood that the adjustment had caused major trouble.
I had no doubts in the earnest intentions of the teacher who only wanted to help me during the practice, but it was her error in judgment that cost me the pain. I knew I would have to deal with it over a period of time, so the first step I took towards healing was to let go of the “why?” feeling. “Why did she adjust me?” “Why did I get hurt?” Instead, in the days to come, I became more observant during my practice, trying to understand in which asanas and movements I felt pain and what could I do to avoid it.
The road to recovery starts with acceptance of what has gone wrong and trying to get back to one’s daily practice without feeling frustrated with limitations from the injury. The acceptance and re-connection with your inner being post-injury is the hardest but it’s possible if you’re willing to look beyond the discomfort caused by the injury, which of course is not an easy road to tread in those moments of pain.
I started with manual therapy and was informed that my muscles went into shock because of the sudden adjustment. I slowly started my practice with one thing at a time. Also, with my knowledge of pranayama, I explored how my body reacts to my breath and continued to do a consistent but modified practice for a while, which eventually got me back to my usual practice. This journey to recovery would have prolonged had I stopped my practice and opted for complete rest, or avoided backbends, which were causing pain. Dealing with the pain was part of my therapy and helped me restore my health.
Lessons Learned from My Injury
Be vocal about adjustments. When you do not require an adjustment from teachers, you should tell them as they might not be aware of your body and may solely judge you on your physical practice. If injured, do not completely stop your practice. Injury can slow you down, but it isn’t there to completely stop you, Rather listening to your body and breath more than before, tell your teacher about your injury or the pain and apply modifications to keep moving and hasten the process of healing. Focusing on your breath is most important as without breath, we cannot survive. Pranayama practiced correctly under the right guidance can help heal injuries. Last but not least, work towards making your practice enjoyable and safe and be a better version of yourself.
Ajay Tokas is a Level 2 Authorised Ashtanga Teacher. For his teaching schedules, visit Ashtangajay.