This is probably the thousandth article on yoga injuries. A lot has been said on the topic, but I think it's worth adding my two cents.
Because I recently injured myself.
Was I doing something out of the ordinary?
I was in one of the poses I practice almost everyday. Which is a funny thing: I've never injured myself doing poses for the first time, it's always while doing the old ones. (I guess it's the same theory that explains why most car accidents happen in your everyday routes.)
Anyway, there I was in same old hanumanasana (the splits), when my front foot slides a little bit too forward and something in my hip joint cracks very loudly and I knew something had gone very wrong.
The first thing I did was actually hug my hip. I know this probably doesn't sound like the smartest move, but I'd heard from one of my teachers that sometimes the muscles just need to feel supported, they need to know they are being taken care of, so that they send our body the message to relax and feel safe.
So that's what I did, I felt like I was talking to my hip through my hands: "I know I did something wrong, but I am right here and I'm going to support and take care of you."
Hopefully, I'm on the right path. After talking to a friend, fellow yoga teacher and physiotherapist, she told me that probably the problem was where the hamstrings connect to the sitting bone (which makes sense, since the sitting bone is the spot where it hurts the most). So now, no forward bends for me (of any kind - even sitting down is painful), and I have to give my body a lot of rest and attention.
One thing I realized is that the more you practice, the more deep and intense your poses become, and thus the more deep and intense are your injuries.
We get so used to the poses we do regularly that we start practicing them mindlessly. We know the alignment, we know how to place our bodies. Nothing can go wrong, right? Ironically, that's how it can go wrong.
When we're practicing poses for the first time, we go into them very slowly, trying to feel if we're doing it right. We might even stop and re-check everything. When it's something we've practiced so many times that it feels safe, we just go for it, no second thought, no questions asked.
So here are some guidelines that will prevent me from get hurt again on the yoga mat:
1. No pose is safe.
Every pose has its risks if you don't take it seriously. Even the smallest of cobras can pinch your lower back, or compress your neck. Try to be as pain-free in your practice and be aware of everything that's happening in your body at all times. And check in with your body at all times.
2. Don't obsess over your yoga practice.
Sometimes spending an afternoon practicing yoga can be too much. Life is so much bigger and there are lots of things to be done. Don't obsess over your yoga practice. Let it be and enjoy life in its fullest. Your practice will come, take it as it comes.
3. Listen to your body.
The body frequently sends signs when enough is enough. You can let your mind decide for you, or you can tune in to your body and listen if it's had enough. Muscle strain, or soreness are signs that your body needs a rest. Don't ignore that.
4. Stay away from crazy manual adjusters.
Some yoga students can tell you some stories... There are teachers who will force the student into the pose in a way that feels painful. If you go to a class where a teacher physically (or even verbally) forces you into something that doesn't feel right, pull yourself away from that situation. You don't need that, there are thousands of yoga teachers who will actually respect you. Go to them.
5. Support and respect your body.
It seems silly, I know, but actually hugging my hip and giving it physical support with my hands makes a big difference. I feel like the tissues begin to relax and find their way back. Also, spending a day resting was something my hip joint and sitting bone were very thankful for. So if you feel that in some way you overdid it, do be mindful about it and pay attention to your body. It does have an intelligence of its own.
So watch out yogis, it can happen when you least expect it, so act as if you're always expecting it.