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My Left Leg – Yoga and Injuries

Some time ago Shayna mused to me (and to newsletter readers) how swimming was bad for her yoga. While not entirely dismissive I pondered how much 25 minutes (at most) of swimming, crammed in while children were having lessons, could possibly affect your yoga. Now into my second season of soccer with the local seniors I can say that Shayna’s musing returns to mind frequently.

This piece wasn’t supposed to be about sports injuries (how dull would that be?), especially given the many yoga related topics available, but I’ve got a feeling it could trend in that direction. In pre-season training last year, in the most innocuous of circumstances, I injured my left quadriceps – a humbling injury on many fronts. The ego says ‘this is not possible; I’m fit enough, do a bit of yoga and lots of physical exercise’. The humbler me says ‘I’m 49 years old (at the time), I do one yoga class per week, no home practice and perhaps the physical activity is very limited in the bits that it exercises’.

At another training session I rolled my ankle (it gets very spirited at training) badly enough for me to hear a loud crack. Expecting the worst, after a few minutes of hobbling I was able to continue. I have no doubt that yoga (padmasana comes to mind) prevented a far more serious injury. Can I say the same about a quadriceps injury? Perhaps not, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I still have problems with both.

Injuries are humbling and bitterly disappointing. Part of the disappointment is obviously for a reduction or lack of capacity and mobility but it’s difficult not to acknowledge that ego is wrapped up in that disappointment. Is it so important that instead of two blankets for a pose and I now need four or five and an assemblage of other props? If we take doing yoga as a given, then all activities can be viewed through that prism. Yoga is hard on the ego, its objective to transcend it. Yoga shows you your limitations and where your work lies, but a new confrontation awaits when you’re presented with the knowledge that doing something you really enjoy is doing damage.

Back to the quadriceps (Shayna will love that – the third person body part) and the injury highlighting other issues materialising from playing football. At the very least it is instructive. I must ask more from my standing poses, my supta virasana and ask why my left leg and not the right; and then be thankful that if I don’t have the fitness to avoid injury then I fortunately have access to tools to mitigate them and prevent reoccurrence.

Can yoga be likened to a casuarina, dropping its leaves to form a blanket in which nothing else can grow? That’s a very dark view and not one that I subscribe to. I think I’ve come to the same conclusion Shayna did albeit via a different path. Yoga can help me continue to do the things I love, but it’s unlikely they’ll return the favour. My yoga teacher tells me I need to do more yoga and she’s invariably correct, as my partner can testify.