Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Practicing Through the Pain
I haven't done a downward dog in my yoga practice since July.
The pain from my shoulder impingement has gotten so bad, I can't even do cobra any more.
Needless to say, I am really looking forward to my surgery in March to correct the problem. Yes, I know it will be painful, and I'll have a couple of months of physical therapy, but after that I can hopefully start to do downward dog, and maybe I'll even be able to fly in bakasana again.
For those of you who aren't familiar with my shoulder saga, over two years ago, I started experiencing quite a bit of pain in my left shoulder.
Now, this pain pretty much lasts throughout the day, and isn't just associated with my yoga practice. Carrying in groceries has become an issue, as has doing something as simple as opening a car door.
I'm at a point now where I can't even laterally raise my arm up over my head. It's just too damn painful.
But, even with the pain, I still practice yoga at least 4 times a week.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not gritting my teeth and forcing myself to do handstands or anything like that. I do not do anything in my yoga practice that increases the pain (because the pain is constant), and I don't even do many asanas at this point even if they don't cause pain just because I'm worried they will make the problem worse. I gave up on doing shoulder stand a month ago for this reason.
When I practice yoga, I can not do my standard Ashtanga vinyasas because I can't do chatturanga, down ward dog, cobra or any other pose that would put pressure on my shoulder. Instead I've worked out modified vinyasas that still generate heat, but put no pressure on my shoulder.
People ask me why I still practice. "Why not just give up until after your surgery?" they ask.
I guess I would just "give up" if I only focused on what I couldn't do right now.
But I don't. Instead I focus on what I can do.
And, by focusing on what I can do, I've made some really significant improvements in strength and flexibility.
It's true that I can't lift my left arm into the proper position for Virabhadrasana B (warrior 2), but by getting into that deep lunge position I'm still getting all the benefits to the muscles in my legs.
I also can no longer push all the way up into a full back-bend and had to revert back to half-bridge. Even in half-bridge, however, I'm still stretching out the entire front of my body and increasing the flexibility of my back.
Despite my pain, I've managed to make improvements in my yoga practice. Yes, I've probably lost some strength and flexibility in my upper body as a consequence of not being able to put any weight on my shoulder, but I've still increased strength and flexibility in my lower body.
So, in the end, practicing through the pain has been beneficial.
Still, I can't wait until I can do a headstand again.
And, I won't miss this constant throbbing pain all day either.