Modifying Your Yoga Practice (& mine)

It figures the day before I was ready to tell you all about my upcoming workshop at Nishkama Yoga

…I had a complete mid-class meltdown because of my own need to modify my asana practice.

UGH. Let’s back up. (I’m shocked I haven’t written about this in the past.)

Last May, while trying to work on getting deeper into one of those crazy backbends that I love so much, I went too far and my shoulder let me know LOUD and clear. Looking back I probably should have found a physical therapist, but ended up at chiropractor instead – an excellent one at the Cleveland Clinic. (Enter disclaimer: I am not a medical professional – take all “medical” knowledge to follow with that knowledge.)

Over the course of last summer, I went a handful of times and started to see improvement. I also learned a lot about my body: the hyper-mobility of my joints, the weaknesses in my cervical spine and discussed what to do and what not to do: no headstands was rule number one. Dolphin pose and forearm balances became my inversions of choice. I embraced that I wasn’t going to be able to do the shoot back to Chaturanga Dandasana anytime soon and learned to modify my Sun As and Sun Bs. This past fall and winter was filled with finding new ways to modify my practice to protect my shoulder. Things were going good: sometimes I modified more often than not, but did not have any major aches or pains.

But then I started to get sassy this Spring. Hey, I’m a strong lady – maybe I can build up to some stuff.  So I would randomly (once a class) try the shoot back. I started binding my arms in some poses that I knew was going to be over-stretching my left shoulder joint (binding in crescent lunge is one of my favorites, but is a serious NO GO on the one side). In the last month, my shoulder became tender after class occasionally, but I figured it was par-for-the-course – I would just modify more next time.

But then the wacky month of May happened. Tension took temporary residence in my shoulders, and I started regularly running around lifting things boxes, rental banquet tables and such that I probably shouldn’t have. And so when I ended back on my mat last night at one of my favorite teacher’s classes, I already knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty class. My teacher, during an assist in chair pose, even said to me, “I can feel your shoulder clicking.”  And as much as she tried to remind me the class that it wasn’t about the pose but your thoughts while you were in it, I lost it and ended up in a puddle of tears in child’s pose.

I get to step back again almost a year exactly after first injuring my shoulder – pretty timely considering I’m teaching a Modifying Your Practice workshop on this exact topic the first week of June.  Today, I’ll call my chiropractor, as well as reach out to a fellow yoga teacher with a similar shoulder issue to get info on her physical therapist. And while I’ll give my shoulder a rest for a bit, it won’t keep me off my mat. Another thing my teacher said last night: when times get tough, don’t run – commit yourself to what you are devoted to. I’m devoted to this practice – all parts of it – even when it challenges me so so much.

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5 comments

  1. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf says:

    I can totally identify with this Alicia. I’ve been stubborn about modifying my practice at times and get a little too far ahead of myself at other times. It’s absolutely not about the pose itself but my thoughts/insecurities/fears that emerge through the process. I wrote a somewhat similar post today – more about how all of those negative feelings have been burrowing themselves deep in my body and reflected in my practice. I love your devotion to the practice and to self-care.

  2. Jen @ Why CLE? says:

    I think we’re all guilty of not modifying when we know we should. I’ll get frustrated or not want to look like I can’t do a pose, which is exactly the opposite of what yoga is about. Kudos to you for figuring out how to take care of yourself and still keep your practice.

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