People often come to yoga (or rather yoga comes to them) when they are also experiencing other life changes or when they are subconsciously in need of something different out of life. And did you know that our bodies’ reaction to major change is often in the form of muscular discomfort, tension or an injury? This concept is hard to grasp if you haven’t experienced it yourself. I can recall times when I have been facing major life events and can now see the correlation with the “dis-ease” in my physical and mental body. For instance, around the time that my husband and I were engaged I was battling plantar fasciitis. During this time I was also being faced with the decision to relocate, potentially sell my house and change jobs, and prepare for a wedding. My body was reacting by “digging my heels in” to try to stay grounded to avoid any of these scary changes. And if you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis, you know that it causes intense foot and heel pain. But it wasn’t long after I moved and got settled into another regular routine that my plantar fasciitis disappeared…without me really realizing it.
It’s funny how people can go through life completely unaware of issues they are holding within the tissues of their bodies. What do I mean by this? Well, I have found that when someone starts practicing yoga, it can be common that not long after they do, they begin to become aware of some “injury” they have. I say injury lightly, because would you believe that most of the time it’s not a true injury that they’ve developed, but rather something they have uncovered in the body because of the work they are doing to open their fascia and muscles? The fascia, which is the fibrous connective tissue that holds your muscles together, being the primary location in which tension is held in the body.
Unfortunately, the “injury” that someone thinks they are experiencing because of beginning a yoga practice often leads a person to give up on their new-found journey with yoga…or any form of movement too quickly since that may be the activity that brought the problem to light. Sometimes people begin to realize after encountering these injuries that it indeed has been an underlying issue they have had which has shown itself vaguely over the course of their life. Perhaps it has simply been regarded as something they have to live with…not that it is actually the body’s way of responding to a stressor and trying to release tension or build strength in a joint. It could be a shoulder, a hamstring, or a foot that you are experiencing problems with; think back over the course of your life, is there a time in your life that you have felt discomfort in that area before? Maybe so, but maybe it is a new irritation. Either way, your body is trying to reveal something and get rid of past problems.
As long as it is not a true injury, rather than eliminating movement that may have brought a discomfort out, consider thinking of it as your body’s way of uncovering layers and years’ worth of stress or trauma that has settled into your body. A way to bring about healing as you finally address and resolve this internal suffering. If it is an injury that has been aggravated, then in conjunction with appropriate medical treatment, and the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher, modify your practice so that you can continue to work on opening your body (& mind). Because the work you are doing in your yoga practice is not going to injure you if you are not moving beyond your edge and taking appropriate precautions to strengthen as you lengthen.
You didn’t become stiff and sore overnight, so what makes you think you can work through all of that tension within just a few weeks of beginning to reverse the cycle? The body is simply responding to your efforts to let go of those layers of built up stress.
And yes, you could just go on throughout life being completely unaware, but think how much more you can experience & appreciate when you heighten your awareness of the world around you. Yes, it may take some effort and patience as you face set-backs, but ultimately, you are working through things that once released, will make you a more joyful and loving person. It’s not easy work. It takes discipline, consistency, and time, and if you choose to make the journey, the rewards you will experience will far surpass the struggles you faced to move beyond the discomforts.