Richard Freeman on handling injuries from yoga ‘intelligently’

We’ve got a new “Ask the Experts” from Richard Freeman, this time focused on handling injuries.

Link is right here. And here’s a snippet:

Working carefully and intelligently with injury is an important part of any yoga practice. Yoga should make the body healthier rather than harming it. Though one has to be intelligent rather than fanatical and mechanical. Having a good teacher to give guidance and feedback, and listening carefully to the internal cues that your body is giving you is very important.

Two things jump out at me (and feel free to comment on something else that jumps out at you from that paragraph or from his whole answer). The first is the focus on having a teacher. (I’m practicing at home? Where’d you hear that? Move along, nothing to see here.) We all know that’s key, of course.

The second is the warning about being “fanatical and mechanical.” I’ll go out on a limb and say: That pretty much sums up a lot of Ashtangis. We get up early. We practice hard. We limit our off-the-mat life style choices. Or, as Tim Miller has said, it’s the yoga of no.

Of course, there’s a bit of the “mechanical” inherent in the Ashtanga system. It’s the same set of poses each time, strung together in the same way. My sense, though, is that Richard is reminding us that we shouldn’t be a slave to that system; if something isn’t working, think about why and think about what might work better.

From my experience, the senior (and/or best) Ashtanga teachers understand this and work with the system to make it most beneficial for their students.

Yes, it is the “research” idea that has become a bit of a theme here. Think, reflect, wonder, improve — “Yoga should make the body healthier rather than harming it.”

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Richard Freeman on handling injuries from yoga ‘intelligently’”

  1. Ha. I wrote this question awhile ago and forgot about it. How fun and exciting to get a response. I didn’t mention that since moving from Montreal, I am mainly practicing at home. Unfortunately, this year, I had the tendency to become a little self-involved and obsessed when it came to injury, leading me to spend to much time on the internet and coming up with an exaggerated diagnoses and few solutions beyond anxiety. It wouldn’t come as a surprise that “fanatical,” and somewhat “mechanical” practitioners would seeks a fanatical and mechanical fix. I think that I am not the only ashtangi who has heard and sometimes been directed to return to primary series for its more stable grounding postures, its healing potential. Yoga chikitsa But of course, as Richard says, we can also hurt ourselves practicing primary depending on our bodies and on how we practice. For myself, I have found spending some more time on primary has been beneficial during times of injury, increased stress, or illness. Since beginning and eventually completing second series with Darby over four years ago, I have returned to primary several times, sometimes “starting over” completely and adding second series one posture at a time, sometimes spending just a few days there, or using just part of primary as a warm-up or preparation, or alternating days of primary with days of second series. In any case, there is no single formula for working with injury and it was great to get Richard’s insight. I’ll leave you with my friend’s comment on my facebook page, where I posted the ask the experts link. Not sure where he got this from, but I thought it was an interesting read:

    “injury bad… not liking, very pain…… you taking practice, completely primary series you taking, after intermediate advanced series you taking. This is the method you dont understanding…I looking one student now. That student is taken yoga practice, that student did back bendings – back bendings he did. Back bendings did, after put it his back here, supta uttana salabhasana. Did triang mukha uttanasana he did. That man baddha konasana, upavishta konasana he has not perfected. Knees going up completely. That man one day came here. After, no class. To class is not coming. One day I looking here – after here also is not coming. Where is this student? I do not understand. I looking – ah yes, suffering more. Suffering more diseases after 40 years.”

  2. Hi Steve, really like your blog.

    Just to add to what you’ve already said about not being ‘mechanical’. I’d guess that Richard (who really understand Richard 100%?) is advising us not to move quickly and mindlessly through the series . I’ve heard him use the metaphor about people practicing yoga postures in Astanga like they are on a world-wind trip travelling through Europe: Paris today, Brussels tomorrow, Berlin the next day, go go go! You can’t really get much of a feel for a place travelling this way. I think the more we tune into our bodies and breathe, into all the sensations that are coming up, the more likely we are to notice when something feels off and to make adjustments accordingly. Ironically though, I’ve only gotten less mechanical after injurying myself and being forced to look closely at what is going on. Injuries can be good teachers that way 🙂

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