So you’ve had a bad injury. You've made it through the worst of it; you’re out of your cast or off your crutches, but now your physiotherapist says you need to start doing some form of exercise. Here lies the problem.
Sometimes when you have been injured for a long time, it can be really difficult to get your body back into shape for exercise. It's not just a case of going for a run, sometimes you can’t even move a step without pain or discomfort, so what do you do?
Well here is where yoga comes in.
When I injured my left knee I was unable to walk properly and I was banned from doing all forms of impact exercise, which left me extremely bored and a little bit depressed. My physio suggested that I should try yoga and here we are 4 years later, I have a flourishing daily practice, I am a newly qualified yoga teacher and my knee is strong and flexible again even if it will never truly get better. So this post is my advice to you from one injury prone person to another!
1. Start Small
Honestly, it's the only way. You have to start somewhere, even if that is just a five-minute practice a few times a week. The goal at this stage is to start moving your body very gently and establishing a range of movement. If you aren't well versed with yoga, try asking your physiotherapist for recommended poses or find an easy beginners yoga flow on YouTube.
I recommend doing shorter flows or classes because you don't want to overload your body, the goal is to establish range of movement and very slowly build strength the muscles surrounding the injured area. If you are doing five to ten minutes of practice, try to do it everyday if that is possible. Building a regular yoga time into your day will help your body and your mind because it will give you structure, something that it is easy to lose when you're laid up with an injury.
2. Build Yourself a Sequence and Do It
After a couple of weeks, you will notice you are getting a little stronger and you will notice that certain poses feel really good and stretch you in the right ways. Every time you do a flow, make a note of the postures you enjoyed that helped your injury.
When you have five or six that you are confident with, start doing them on your own. If you are worried, take your list to your next physiotherapy or doctor's appointment to check if any of them are contraindicated. Then, build yourself a sequence of five or six postures that make you feel good. Not only will your body start to heal, but you will also start to feel a lot more positive as you improve!
3. Set Yourself a Challenge
Pick a pose that looks attainable but also a little bit challenging, and set yourself the goal of achieving it in your practice. My goal was a tripod headstand because I wanted to learn to invert and it wouldn't put too much pressure on my knees.
It doesn't have to be as hard as this, it could be something as simple as Triangle or even a proper Down Dog, but pick something you do want to achieve. It's really easy to give up on your practice when you're injured because you feel like you're not getting anywhere, so by focusing in this way, you are motivating yourself to keep practicing to get to that posture.
4. Take Loads of Pictures
They don't have to be like the stunning yoga photos on Instagram. You don't even have to show them to anyone, but take photos so you can see how far you've come. I still find it motivating to look at my first ever Crow pose and how it compares to how I currently practice the pose.
Rather than comparing yourself to some of the yoga queens on Instagram, just try to get a little further than you did yesterday. Even if you don't feel like it, take a picture of you in your favourite pose so that everytime you have a bad day with your injury, look at your photos and see how much you have improved.
5. Don't Give Up
Finally, this is my most important piece of advice I can possibly give, please don't give up. You WILL get there.
So what if it takes you a week or a month to see improvement? You are still improving and that's what matters. I know that sometimes you are going to have tough days—days where you can't walk properly or can't lift a plate, days when it seems like you've gone back to the start, but I promise you, you haven't.
Injury rehabilitation, just like yoga, is all about practice and perseverance. Keep at it and you will get back to the strong, healthy and happy human you once were and you might even learn something along the way!