After running a turkey trot race on Thanksgiving morning, I injured my leg a bit (stress fracture with painful edema). It’s an injury I’ve had in the past from pushing myself too hard by running on pavement on the roads. I love the mental benefits of running outdoors, but sadly it seems that I need to stick to walking or treadmills and soft tracks. So what have I turned to as my leg rests and heals? You guessed it: restorative yoga.
Spending over a week with my leg propped up or hobbling about on my crutches led me to feel cabin-feverish. I missed my yoga practice. An anti-inflammatory (prescribed by my doctor) helped with the pain and swelling in the hip joint. But I needed the physical and mental outlet of exercise back again.
When my leg began feeling better, I slowly incorporated gentle stretching and restorative yoga poses into my day. A few books helped me focus on helpful asanas, along with my own knowledge from YTT (yoga teacher training) in the past. I’d recommend Yoga Anatomy for great visuals and instructive aids on anatomical alignment, and Yoga Sequencing for planning your practice.
Restorative poses such as supta baddha konasana (with props: bolster, strap, blanket, blocks) and legs-up-the-wall helped ease the tension in my hip. After many days of dedicated rest, I started adding a gentle yoga flow every couple of days. Learning the hard way, I discovered the importance of listening to my body when it needs rest, and restraint from pushing myself to much.
The moral of the story is: practice where you are, as you are! Yoga is not a competitive sport. It is an inward practice and self-reflection. One day, you may feel strong in certain poses; the next day, you may find that you must back-off of certain asanas. There is no judging right or wrong in yoga — there is proper alignment, however, which you can benefit from going to a class and practicing with a certified instructor. Listen to your body and be gentle with what it tells you. I certainly will be more mindful of my own.
Keep in mind, your own personal yoga practice is not a substitute for physical therapy or doctor’s orders — unless directly recommended or prescribed (or taught by a certified, specialized yoga teacher!). But it certainly can help when attention and care are paid to the injury and poses are done with proper alignments.