Almost every yogi (including me) has had an injury.
In fact, 29,590 yoga-related injuries were seen in hospital emergency departments from 2001 to 2014! Most injuries (46.6%) occurred in the trunk region, more specifically, the back.
Don’t worry, I’m not recommending ditching your yoga class for MMA fighting. However, it’s hard imagine a supposedly calming mind-body exercise, could induce damage.
Why are yoga injuries a thing?? It might have to do with E G O
Here’s my yoga injury story (a.k.a why my left hip is now more open than my right).
When I got back into yoga at 19, I was committed to a very vigorous practice.
Everyday I practiced yoga–a vinyasa, heart-racing interval inspired form of yoga and I loved it.
One afternoon, I was practicing in my backyard –determined, after many failed attempts, to progress into Bird of Paradise.
Bind the leg, lift it up, extend it out and… I actually did it!
Then, my E G O got in the way of my practice.
Incredibly overjoyed that I nailed Bird of Paradise, I ran right off my mat and inside the house to show my boyfriend, Colman. I didn’t even bother to finish my practice. I urgently needed someone to appreciate this physical feat I just accomplished.
Boy, did karma bite back in response to my ego.
“Watch! I just did Bird of Paradise!” I called to him.
Standing in the middle of the kitchen, he watched me perform the pose.
I did just as I had before– bind the leg, lift it up, extend it out and… POP!
I just stood there with my arms still bound around my leg.
If “holy shit” had a facial expression… I would’ve been wearing it.
Of course, Colman, on the other hand, thought it was hilarious.
“Did you just pop your hip?!”
I casually put my leg back on the ground oh-so-tenderly, and tried to laugh along with him. Ha ha ha…funny, I thought, I can’t bear weight on my left leg without immense pain shooting into my hip.
The next couple of days were pure hell.
I limped along thinking I permanently damaged my hip, and my exercise days were over at age 19. I couldn’t jump back into plank. Couldn’t run. Couldn’t squat.
Despite the pain, I kept teaching my yoga and group exercise classes (very slowly and without any burpees). My hip felt better each day, but it still took nearly 5 months for a full recovery. The only upside to this disaster was my left hip felt more open than ever before. Attn: I do NOT recommend you use this method to open your hips
Ego injured my body. I’ve seen many students experience similar situations—going into poses too far, too fast.
Early in my yoga practice, I would attend a studio class with a bias. I wanted to be the star of the room— the pupil with the most flexibility and strength. My ego wanted to be recognized.
Later on, something shifted in my yoga practice. I no longer needed to be the master of splits or invert on command. I just wanted to feel good while I was practicing.
The unfortunate truth: the ego will always be present at some degree in your yoga.
You may try to copy your neighbor’s form during class or get frustrated with your hamstrings that seem extra tight that day. Perhaps, you may even be forcing a pose even though you’re holding your breath to stay there. All of these instances are forms of ego in play during our yoga practice.
What can we do to control the ego?
When you feel ego taking over, encourage process over product.
How do you feel while practicing? What do you feel?
Yoga is an experiential outlet, not just “achieving” pose after pose. Every day is different, thus your poses will look different today than they did last week. While it’s a natural tendency to strive towards a goal, it’s unhealthy to constantly struggle. Your yoga practice is the moment in your day where you can let go of the achievement and merit narrative. Yoga won’t give gold stars for perfect form, but your investment isn’t wasted.
The return on your practice is a simple equation: less ego –> less injury + more peace of mind.