yoga teacher injury

Photo of Philadelphia yogi Kilkenny Tremblay, by Joe Longo

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As teachers, we want our students to grow physically and spiritually, to reduce stress, and to use yoga as a tool for living a better life. But our highest priority in class is keeping our students safe and injury-free.

But what happens when the teacher gets injured?

A couple of years ago, I started having pain in my hip during practice. As a good yogi, I tried every holistic treatment out there: bodywork, acupuncture, oils, and herbs—you name it—nothing worked. The release of hip-opening poses used to make me sigh with relief—but now they made me wince in pain. Finally, I went to a doctor and was given a long list of joint injuries that were not going to heal without surgery.

What? How did I get hurt? I am a yoga teacher for crying out loud! I know good alignment—I’m supposed to be doing handstands when I’m 90.

I was worried I might not be able to teach, or maybe even practice. But most importantly, I was afraid my students would lose faith in my ability to keep them safe in class.

Whether you have a major injury, or a strain or sprain that will heal in time, getting hurt can shake your teaching confidence. But I’m here to tell you that pain can bring some gain. Injuries are like the friend who is brutally honest with you, whether you want to hear it or not.

Here are three ways my injury made me a better yoga teacher and a better student:

1. You are now an expert in [insert body part here]. Getting hurt is not how you want to gain in-depth knowledge of a particular area, but here you are. Everything you go through when you are recovering from an injury—from the physical to the emotional—can help your students. Learn everything you can about your specific issue: the anatomy, the mechanics, how to use yoga to rehab, and what to do in the future to prevent the injury from happening again. Don’t let fear of being judged keep you from passing this knowledge to your students.

2. Yoga is about way more than the physical body. Intellectually, we know this. But with teaching, practicing, and, well, life, the non-asana limbs can start to gather some dust. When I was rehabbing, I wanted to go to class, but my body needed pranayama and meditation, yoga nidra, restorative poses with a lot of props, and then—very slowly—a gentle class before resuming my normal practice.   Injuries force you to take a step back from the physical practice and focus on the mental and emotional body, which then supports healing in the physical body. See how everything is connected here?

3. Practice what you teach. We tell our students to listen to their bodies, and modify poses to fit their needs. Not all bodies are the structurally the same. Now is your time to shine as an example to your students. Go to classes, teaching or practicing, and do your own thing! Use props, modify poses, and take care of yourself as you heal and get stronger. Let your students see you working with the framework of the pose, and then molding it to fit your healing body, rather than doing what the person next to you is doing. Plant the seeds of compassion and change within your own practice, and it will spread to your students.

 

If Adele can come back after vocal chord surgery to sing at London’s Royal Albert Hall, you can come back from an injury, too. Use the authentic lessons of your healing to help others, and your relationship with your students will only grow stronger.

 

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