Tag Archives: injury

yoga after injury: getting back in the saddle

Nearly three weeks after I re-injured my right hamstring attachment, I finally did some real yoga today.  Three weeks!  Week one, I stayed away because everything hurt.  Week two, I tried a couple of times but my whole pelvis felt so ouchy and unstable, it seemed like a bad idea.  Then Lady’s Holiday made deciding whether to practice this week easy: nope.

But I’ll be honest.  Part of  not practicing since September has been the simple fact that I got pissed off at yoga.

/muttering: Goddamn stupid yoga keeps blowing out my hamstring, what the heck am I doing yoga for if I’m just going to get hurt, stupid idiotic me for doing something so stupid and idiotic as yoga /etc

I knew I was being totally unfair BUT I DIDN’T CARE.  Sulking and blaming were all that was getting me through my injury-depression.  Cuddling up to my inferno wrap and fantasizing about Never Doing Yoga Again was my much needed psychological palliative.  Sour grapes FTW!  Fuck yoga!  I hate yoga!

This went on for days.

But today I woke up early and got on the mat.  I didn’t even make myself do it, I just found myself doing it.

Holy crap it felt good!  YOGA: WHAT AN AWESOME INVENTION.  Delicious, wonderful, juicy yoga!  Oh yes, my darling, where have you been!  I’ll have what she’s having!

Seriously, where has my yummy yoga been?  I’d forgotten it could even be like this, you know, where you get into a pose and kind of moan a little because it feels so good.  Positively indecent, really.

Did the three week break do this for me?  Everything was stiff, so stretching out felt good?  Or was I doing something different?

Well, I was definitely practicing differently.  Hamstring injury, hello:  no forward bends.  My body never closed deeper than 80 degrees.  Which meant, in my beloved primary, paying attention to other things, such as bandhas, pelvic placement, breathing, my spine, etc.  Man, there is so much going on in Primary besides the forward bending bit.  Even in “forward bends.”  You can do an awesome primary without stretching the hamstrings!  No, really, you can!

I remember feeling like this in my first year of Ashtanga, that I couldn’t wait for the next day’s practice.  I totally forgot that.  Why has practice been such a slog this year?  How did it come to this?

I started thinking, too, what if I never progress any further than this?  Because part of my blah-yoga feeling this year has been the total plateau I have been on, pretty much across the board.  But suddenly I thought, if I make no further physical progress in my practice, ever, I mean, that would actually be pretty fantastic.  If I can do an hour-ish a day’s work and maintain my current strength and flexibility into my fifties, sixties, or even seventies…wouldn’t that ROCK?  Is that even possible?  Can a 70 (or, dare I say it, 80) year old do lotus or urdhva dhanurasana or headstand?  What if I plateau for the rest of my life??

Well, shit.  I’d be okay with that.

Hmmm.  Maybe I got lost down some track where I wanted to get somewhere.  Maybe my delicious yoga practice today was partly getting off that track. Because I can’t get anywhere right now.  I’m injured.  Maybe this is that nonsense you hear people say about how “getting injured was the best thing that happened to my practice,” bunch of bullshit but maybe its kind of true.

I don’t know, I’m probably just high from practice.

(Why has it been so long since I felt post-practice high??)

trigger point therapy for pain relief in high hamstring injuries

Still bumbling around with this hamstring injury.  It’s mostly on the left, but the right hurts, too—sympathetic pain?  I’m kind of depressed about the whole thing, honestly.  I’ve done a little bit yoga but everything feels so unstable, it isn’t very much fun.  I’m even feeling a bit down on yoga in general, as part of my malaise.  Poor fucking me.

One bright spot in all of this is my rediscovery of trigger point massage, which is really just the most marvelous discovery/invention of all time in the bodywork field, if you ask me.  I used it for relief the last time I injured my hamstring and it’s helping a huge amount once again.

Here, meet my uber-fantastic massage therapist:

This firm, high-bounce, rubber ball is my new best friend.  Actually, at $1 a pop I bought three of them, stashing them strategically about the yurt, so I’m ready for a mini-treatment at a moment’s notice.  Frequency is the best treatment plan for trigger points—mashing them a couple times a day for a few minutes is a lot more effective than once a week for an hour (typical massage therapist’s—very expensive—schedule).  Plus the relief they offer is something I want several times a day.  I’d hate to have to wait days for another appointment when I can self-treat whenever I want.

Maybe if I could have a massage therapist on retainer, living in an attached bungalow, sometone I could summon 24/7 with one of those velvet bell-pulls.  “Jeeves!  Massage me!”

[insert fond fantasy of spectacular wealth here]

Anyway, back in reality, whenever it hurts I lean my gluteus medius (kind of low-back area, more than one’s butt) up against a wall, pressing my trigger points with the pinky ball, feeling the tps light up my sit-bone (and sometimes down the hamstring, too) in the most exquisite pain.  These glut med trigger points are way up on the outer hip, miles  from the sit bone where the pain is.  But lean on it and BAM, pain right on that hammy attachment.

A couple of minutes is all it takes.  For me, post-treatment pain in the hamstring area is reduced by 50-75% or more.  It’s fantastic.  I walk away feeling close to normal and not limping about.  Much better than meds.  Here is a picture.

The circle is about where the trigger point is (for me, the upper and outer most portion of it), and that bright red area down under the butt is where the pain is.  This image is from a good article at saveyourself .com (love that URL) all about trigger points in this area.  Worth a look.

I reckon my yoga malaise will pass at some point.  But I’m taking it easy for now, trying to keep the habit of yoga alive by getting on the mat for just a few minutes every day, even though I find I am quite unwilling to do much of a practice.

About my pinky ball, however, I have zero ambivalence.

ashtanga injuries and a sufferfest roleplay

Bit of whinging backstory, then on with the kick-ass fun stuff….

In my 2nd year of Ashtanga Yoga, I injured my hamstring attachment, giving me a deep ache that took months to heal. No forward bends. I did Surys with bent legs and switched to a heavily modified Intermediate (just the start, with all the backbends). Months later, I returned to Primary, playing it SUPER cautious with the forward bends, with newly tightened hamstrings.

A year later my forward bends were back to where they had been pre-injury. Finally.

When, whammo, the injury resurfaced. I ran a short, sudden sprint to the mailbox before the postman drove away, causing a flare of the old pain, and then at my next practice I felt it go for real in utthita hasta padangusthasana. Damn it! Months again to heal from that one.

[I didn’t blog that one. Too freaking boring.]

[/end backstory]

Now, here we are, another year later, hamstrings are finally, finally returning to pre-injury flexibility. Yay!

…BAM. I ran down the drive to give Luc his hoodie and that old injury started aching. Again.

FUCKGODDAMNPISSSHIT.

This is so…annoying!

Have I destabilized that attachment such that any strain and it gets inflamed/torn/whatever once again? Injury reactivation? Is it going to be another year of half-practices, at least where forward bends are concerned? Is it related to getting to a certain flexibility level, something in there is too loose at that point or something, because it keeps happening just when I return to that comfortable hamstring flexibility level…? I am SO CAUTIOUS in my practice with forward bends, and yet, here it is again…

So [kicks ground] I’m taking this week off yoga. Heat and ice. NOT running. I really thought it was healed, finally. There had been no pain at all for nearly a year!

[/complaining]

Okay.

Time for some ANTI-YOGA.

Maybe it was hubby pedaling to work each day on the new ELF. Or maybe it was a TED talk I watched recently (can’t find it now to save my life! will add link if I do) that spoke of the mood elevation that comes with only 30 min/4x week of elevated heart rate workout. And who couldn’t use a mood elevator? Maybe the Doctor and Rose, they always seem so perky. Definitely it was frustration at this sort-of-limping lame-ass walk I’ve got right now. But anyway, I unburied the coat rack oh, what’s under here? omg, look it’s a stationary bike. I also pulled out the heart rate monitor. Because fucking-A, I decided to do some cycling.

Well, you know, my version of cycling. I’m a total wimp, of course. A wimpy wimp from Wimp Town. I’m terrified of cars and pain and sweating. My cycling is like, oh, look at the butterflies!

Anyway, I had this idea that I would find an app on my ipod to track my biking/heart rate/something motivational.

And then, for some idiotic, unknown reason, I downloaded an app called THE SUFFERFEST.

Maybe my finger slipped.

Sufferfest is this collection of videos, see, with pounding song playlists and footage from big races like the Tour de France, plus the occasional T-rex chasing your ass. The vids take you through a cycling workout of various types, with timers, changing difficulty levels, intervals, and funny coach-like admonishments “Let’s see some spit!” “More cowbell!” “What are you doing back there? Move it!”

I dunno, I felt like kicking some pretend butt or something? Competition, suffering as pleasure (“Sufferlandria is like fun. Only different.”), pushing yourself harder and harder—it really is the anti-yoga. And maybe I’m feeling a little anti-yoga this week.

What the heck, I downloaded one, a 45 minute video called The Revolver. Oddly, stationary biking doesn’t hurt my hamstring at all (maybe because my leg is bent the whole time?) so I climbed on and let this app tell me to suck it up. (“Close that gap, you gap opener!”)

It was…like getting high. The music, changing scenery, footage of these crazy people racing through mud and snow, I mean, when does that get fun, but yeah, it helped me stay with it until I got all sweaty and flushed and hooting (“Mom, what is wrong with you?”), goal accomplished. Nice mountain views when you were supposed to be coasting and resting before the next attack, too. Very pretty.

See how I used “attack” there, cycling jargon FTW! I do need a glossary for some of these biking terms, makes me feel like an old woman. But strangely, I enjoyed the whole kill it philosophy of “I will beat my ass today so I can kick your ass tomorrow.” Who needs ahimsa? Death and mayhem! Burn and Pillage! (In that order!)

Not that I will ever race anyone for real. And honestly, I am doing the Revolver (three times now) at total WIMP LEVELS. But that’s okay, we measure in personal perceived difficulty, right? My scale ain’t your scale, ain’t Lance Armstrong’s scale. I’m fine with that. Wimps Unite! (Besides, I’m injured. I really hope I’m not making things worse with this….)

It’s like I’m doing a role play of being a bad ass cyclist chick. Yeah, I’m kicking it, I’ve got muscles, I’m wearing lycra, sup? I’m not a cyclist but I play one on tv! Or on my ipod….

I may be a four year in Ashtangi, but ashtanga is not a cardiovascular workout, at least not for me. And since I’ve kind of felt ashtanga is enough, as in, I’m not doing anything else, I realize I haven’t had much cardio the last few years. In contrast to this, doing a Sufferfest heart-rate-slamming cycling workout is kind of…awesome. I’d forgotten that feeling of being flushed and pumped.

Anyhoo, no, I’m not really giving up yoga, even if we’re having a little tiff and I’m off playing around with someone else. It’s just a fling, I’m sure. It doesn’t mean anything.

The plan is to start back to yoga next week, the weak-ass, whimpy, back-of-the-class yoga that I do when I’m hurt. Part of me is still fantasizing that a few days off and the hammy will spring back to nearly normal, as in, yay, I’m not looking at months to get to pain-free! But, yeah. We’ll see. In the meantime, I got out my beloved inferno wrap and have been sitting my hamstring on it, heating it up while drinking my morning tea and not doing yoga.

So annoying!

But, hey. It could be worse.

There should totally be a Sufferfest Ashtanga video. Seriously. Someone really needs to make that.

(It probably would kill that hamstring, though. So maybe not.)

inferno wrap for yoga injuries

An InfernoWrap is a heat wrap thingy for injuries that is sort of like a heating pad, only not. I got my hands on an one when I was about six months into practicing Ashtanga yoga and my wrists were killing me. I was desperate because I loved the practice, in spite of all the time spent with weight on my hands, and I really didn’t want to quit, but my little stick-skinny wrists, especially the one that I broke as a teen (it’s always ached) were hating it. I started icing them after practice (sporadically, if it hurt) and then doing this InfernoWrap each evening before bed. Dang if my wrists didn’t get better.

Maybe they would have anyway, maybe I got stronger, maybe my asana alignment improved, I don’t know. I do know that sitting for twenty minutes watching tv, heating first one wrist, then the other, felt DIVINE. I looked forward to it all day. But eventually found I didn’t need it any more.

Fast forward to my recent hamstring injury and you know I pulled out the InfernoWrap again. I just sit on it so the sit-bone is pressed into it and the length of the wrap goes down the hamstring. It feels fantastic and I think it’s helping the hamstring tremendously—if I use it before practice, I have no pain later. The effect, a warmed-up ease in the tissue, lasts for quite a while after a treatment, too, I notice. Plus the kids love to razz me about how “Mommy has to warm her bum,” and Paul likes to say, “Your ass is hot enough already, honey,” so there you go.

I have no idea what this thing is, honestly. It’s kind of like heating pad, but it isn’t, because it barely gets warm to the touch. So it is not an electric burner that heats up. But the sensation after a few minutes is one of extremely lovely heat inside the body (not so much on the skin). How does that work? I hope I’m not cooking myself with weird Y-rays or gamma radiation or something. If I turn into the Hulk, you’ll know why. The wraps come in various shapes—mine is a basic flat that has a velcro loop on one end that I could hook on my thumb to help with wrapping my wrist, but it lies flat, too. They seem pretty pricey at full retail (I got mine 2nd hand), and I notice the website has the kind of over-the-top hyperbole that often drives me away—the kind that makes me think it’s probably a scam. So that’s kind of problematic.

But here’s the thing, I adore mine. I attribute much soft-tissue healing to it’s magic properties, whatever the hell they are. I don’t find I feel that way about my regular heating pad which has a different sensation, a dry hot that stays on the surface of my skin over the injured area. The InfernoWrap feels hot inside where the pain is. I don’t understand why, but it does. Bottom line, the it feels wonderful and seriously reduces pain.

So, I can’t explain it, but I thought I’d pass this on. If you’ve got old or chronic soft-tissue injuries consider getting one.

I’m not getting any kick-back on this. Your mileage may vary. And no, you can’t borrow mine.

hamstring injury update and a lotus

A while back I bemoaned my injured hamstring attachment.  I went off all yoga for a week, then found I still couldn’t do any kind of forward bending anything, so switched to Intermediate (much Swensized).  I added the Bow sequence from Vinyasa Krama Yoga to flesh out the beginning a little, dropped the leg-behind-head poses (for the hamstring), and I did that for a couple of months.  Then, when I had had no daily aching in my hamstring for a week or so, I hesitantly tried a Primary-lite (‘forward bends’ consisted of no more bend than hands on knees) and still, no pain.  Woo hoo!  So I have returned to Primary, slowly lowering the hands in forward bends.  I’m down to shins now.

But sometimes that hamstring aches, still.  Sometimes after practice, yikes.  And it particularly hurts if I move it cold, like getting out of the car at a red light the other day to run over and drop some netflix movies into the mailbox on the side of the road.  When I got back into the car, just as the light turned green, I noticed my hamstring complaining.  Nothing major, but the kind of thing that makes me nervous.  I want it healed, and if it’s still aching, it isn’t healed, not all the way.  The original injury was not from yoga, although I think the attachment was weakened from over-stretching in yoga and primed to get hurt.  I am super careful in my practice, and then I do something crazy in my off-the-mat life and break something. Or re-injure that which isn’t yet at full power.  It must stop.

So I’ve been giving it a heat treatment before I practice.  I have one of those Inferno Wraps from a while ago when I had trouble with my wrists.  I open it out flat and sit that sit-bone right onto it, running the length of it down the hamstring.  Holy cow does it feel good.  I sit there toasting my bum while I drink my coffee and then it’s passively warmed up before I hit the surys.  This has been helping immensely.  No pain after practice.   It makes sense.  Warming up before working it, rather than warming it up by working it.  I’m hopeful.  I think a full recovery is possible.  If I’m careful.

I’m reporting all of this because when I first got hurt and was looking at losing my practice altogether, I was combing the net for clues, and blog reports of what various real folk had actually done to heal themselves were really useful.  I was not alone!  Why is it misery always loves company?

Anyway.  Now we turn to other fast breaking yoga news, namely this: I have, finally, at long last, gotten into a FULL LOTUS.  Not since I was seven and made entirely of rubber has this been possible.

Obviously, this is not a nice tight, pretty padmasana.  It’s a kind of scrunched, barely there, knee-doesn’t-like-it padmasana.  That right foot is just about to be sucked under, haha.  But that’s okay.  Just the fact that that left foot can get up on the thigh at all is so exciting, evidence that change is occurring, even at glacial speed (I’ve been at this a year and a half now).  Woo hoo!

When I started, not even half-lotus was possible.  Lifting either foot off the floor was excruciating in the knees.  Any kind of lotus at all seemed ridiculously unattainable.  But here I am.

Give it another year and lotus might go from possible to even actually enjoyable.   Hey.  It could happen.  And my hamstring will be perfect, and I’ll be able to hold Navasana without sinking like the Titanic, and there could be world peace, and free chocolate at the chocolate store—

yoga dreams

Yoga dreams seem to be going around the Cyber Shala lately.  (Here’s one from Grimmly that made me smile.)  Last night I joined in the fun and dreamed that I was doing Primary, ah, my beloved Primary, with full foreward bends and NO hamstring pain.  Oh, it was so wonderful to be stretched out in Paschimottanasa, resting my forehead on my shins, just as I used to.  No pain, none, just that delicious stretch.  Or the one with palms on the soles of the feet?  I adore that one.  Sob!  In the dream I was just folding my right leg into half lotus for Ardha Baddha Paschi and I suddenly remembered my injury and I freaked out, certain that I had surely reinjured myself, what with all these foreward bends that have been Strictly Forbidden Territory for me for a while now.  Oh no! thought I.  I’ve just added another months to my recovery!  Then I woke up.

Sigh.  I miss Primary.  But it’s okay, I’ve been working on Intermediate instead (with many modifications, natch, and no leg behind the head).  As a result my back seems to actually be loosening up by minute degrees, a freaking miracle.  I’ve also been holding Up Dog in vinyasa (actually, I’ve been doing Cobra instead, a la David Williams) for five breaths, and this gentle, but frequent back bend is making all the difference, I think.

Check it.  Here I was in July:

Here I am today:

There’s some movement there.  It’s not much, but it’s something.  I can see the wall behind me now a bit, where I could just see the ceiling.  My spine is not, apparently, completely rusted into position.  And recall that when I started I could not bend backwards at all.  Not one degree back.  So, I’m feeling pretty good about this.  I’ll do another test shot in six months.

Anyway, I’m clinging to these things and trying to be grateful that I don’t have some horrible disease or a broken bone.  It’s just a tendon tear.  I can deal with this.

I’m terrified of testing little hammy out, though.  Every now and then I get on a cleaning binge and pick up a million toys from the floor and a few hours later my hamstring is just aching.  CRAP, I think to myself.  Now I probably have to start healing all over again.  I swear, picking up toys right now is my NUMBER ONE repetitive use injury.  Forget my full ashtanga practice, it’s picking up toys that is fucking me up.

My bff says I need one of those gripper things, what Luc calls a Robot Hand, a device that will allow me to pick up things without bending over.  Maybe I’ll just get a clapper light-off while I’m at it, and some bifocals.  Sheesh.

The hamstring is definitely better, though, as I no longer have a constant, distracting ache making me, at times, a grumpy bitch.  Instead I have an occasional dim ache that frightens me. How long do I go on like this?  It’s been six weeks since I quit primary.  If picking up toys makes it hurt, then it would seem it isn’t ready for an Uttanasana, right?  Even a half-way uttanasana?  Actually I kind of do half-way Utts now, putting hands on knees when called to do a standing forward bend in the Surys.  That seems to fly okay.  Do I try moving my hands an inch lower every couple of days or weeks until, presumably, I get my palms back down to the floor?  Do I not do anything for three months, preventing re-injury of new, and therefore delicate, tissue?  Have I waited long enough and it’s time to get back in there?

I just want it to be healed.  I want the yoga of my dream back.

hamstring injury update the third

This is probably one of those super boring topics to everyone except to me, right?  Oh mah aches and pains…!  I’ll keep it short, I promise.  Anyway.

So, I took a week off my practice.  Then ladies holiday arrived, so I took a couple more days off.  Ten days in all.  Ten days!!!  The most interesting thing about this time off was realizing I have the kids trained to play amongst themselves for an hour every morning.  Without yoga to do, this hour turned out to be a nice time to play guitar and surf the web.  And after ten days, the web is well surfed, my friends, fear not!

My hamstring was definitely improved by the yoga moratorium.  The rest of me was crap, my knees aching, my neck stiff, my energy low, my brain…more tense than usual.  But my right sit bone, which started the 10 days with a constant, sometimes distracting, ache, well, it only hurt some of the time, and then not so much.  So I guess that means healing was occurring.  Go me!

For the record, in addition to NOT doing yoga, I did ice the first three days, then heat a couple times a day, ultrasound treatments, and Roger Cole’s previously mentioned, incredibly boring, hamstring exercises.  Cycling turned out to hurt me knee so I canned it.

Onward.  So, today, with much trepidation, I rolled out the manduka and proceeded to do a blessed primary—oh, how I missed it!!!!—with no forward bends.  It is possible.  Any time there would normally be a forward bend whether standing, sitting, whatever, I didn’t do it (sitting straight in paschi, say, or hands above or just below the knees in uttanasana, etc) and instead worked on my bandhas/breathing/driste.  It was ashtanga lite.  It actually wasn’t so bad.  Then, every few poses I checked in to see if anything hurt, and no.  Some awareness of some sensation in the hurt area, but never pain.  So far so good.

But here I sit, five hours later, with an aching butt.  Why?  Why?  Impotent howl of frustration!  Stomping of foot!  Pouting!

What do I do?  Give up yoga for a month?  Give up yoga altogether?  Push on with half-assed (har har) yoga for a while?  Keep doing the various treatments, plus yoga sans forward bends and see if it works itself out over time? Not use the leg, a la bending it in forward bends?  Use it while super contracting the quads?  Physical therapy?  Other?

I wish I could see into the future either way, keeping with the yoga or giving it up for a while.  If I keep it up, do I end up healed, or a cripple? If I give it up for a while, do I end up healed?  Or a cripple?  I don’t think I can give it up, honestly.  I’m addicted.  …But if I keep going, am I going to regret it?

My practice had just gotten so GOOD.  It’s hard to explain my feeling of loss at the moment.

healing my hamstring, i hope

First, thanks for the bloggy support on my previous post.  Grimmly says it all with “hamstrings are a bugger.”  Ain’t that the truth.

Anyway, it’s Monday morning and I’m not doing yoga.  Ugh, I hate it.  I feel stiff and cold and I know a rousing round of Primary would make everything better—everything except this persistent ache in my behind, result of a pull? tear? to the right hamstring attachment.  Anyway, after Sat and Sun off, the right sitbone only aches when I bend over, which is normally every 30 seconds to pick up a toy from the floor.  Needless to say the floor is COVERED IN TOYS right now.

I found this excellent article on hamstring injuries by Roger Cole.  I actually took a workshop with him a decade or more ago in my Iyengar phase, on inversions and supported yoga.  He’s a scientist and was doing all this research into the physiology of being upside down, really interesting stuff.  I can’t remember it all now, but I remember he had worked out exactly why a good shoulderstand can change your brainwaves, your blood pressure, your endorphins and hormones, etc.  It had to do with  compression of various nerve ganglia or something…my memory is crap.  Also, after all that science, he put us through two hours of various supported (and often inverted) poses, such that walking out of there I was as high as I have ever been, drugs or no.  Simply an amazing sensation.  One that I have never been able to replicate (probably because I’ve been unwilling to give it two hours, but still).

Maybe I should return to some supported poses this week, as therapy?

In his article on hamstring injuries, he recommends three days of ice, then six weeks of gentle strengthening to try to align the incoming collagen fibers (so as not to get an inflexible scar) with baby-baby versions of Salabhasana, Dhanurasana and a Supported Partial Supta Padangusthasana.  Finally, up to a year (!!!!!) of “…some of the same asanas, practiced at a slightly higher level of difficulty…then proceeding to asanas that demand muscle contraction against greater and greater resistance, in neutral, shortened, and increasingly stretched positions.”  He lists those out.

All sounds good except for that freaking YEAR thing.

A YEAR????

I also found this one from Tim Miller, an old timer ashtangi, who is not in favor of quitting practice altogether.  Typical astangi, nothing stops the practice! He describes lengthening and strengthening at the same time with heavily contracted quads during any forward bend, as well as ‘eccentric’ contractions, where you flex the muscle (the hamstrings in this case) while you are stretching it.  Of course, he says don’t bend the knee to protect the hamstring, while Cole (and others) say bend the knee.  It can all get rather confusing.

Anyway, the treatment thus far:

Ice. Sitting on an ice pack has turned out to be terrific the last two days, seriously.  Ten minutes and the pain is gone.  But I may be moving on to heat now.

Gentle cycling. Yes, that’s right, I’m going to clear off the coat rack stationary bike and get on it today, which is supposed to be a good therapy for gentle hamstring strengthening.  I’ve got to try to get some exercise or I will surely harden into a calcified glob.

It’s 20 degrees outside, so no long dog walks for me, poor Henry.

Asana. I’m going to try Roger Cole’s baby asanas tomorrow (and try not to be bored out of my mind doing them).  Plus I can do twists, backbends, and inversions, plus those supported poses.  I guess I’m off ashtanga for a little bit, anyway, at least until it doesn’t hurt to bend over.  There is just too much forward bending in Primary to even bother.  If I have to skip every Down Dog, two-thirds of the seated poses, half the standing poses…what’s the point?  I’ll do a week of ashtanga-less yoga (sob!) and see how my bum is feeling next Monday.

[FRUSTRATED SHOUTY CAPS!]

I hate how gummy I feel….  Hadn’t realized how addicted to ashtanga I’d become.

injuries suck the big one

A while back, when I first got started in this Ashtanga thing, I pulled my right hamstring attachment, not a bad pull, but enough to scare me into backing off, which was a good thing.  I spent a month doing wimpy half poses, holding onto the shins in any foreward bend, plus trigger point work, and it got better.  Yeah!  Never again have I pushed in a forward bend, for fear of reinjuring, and slowly I have gotten to hands flat on the floor for standing bends, and grasping wrists below my feet in seated bends.  So far so good.

Then, about a month ago, I re-injured it.  GOD DAMN IT.  It wasn’t even a yoga related injury!! (Don’t ask.) Which is so unfair!  I’m sure it was probably weakened from that previous injury, and that was yoga related, but the actual tearing this time was off the mat—SO annoying, as I am SO careful in my practice.  But I think I still had this imaginary divider between ‘yoga’ and ‘life’ so that I wasn’t really groking how injury in one would affect the other.  I remember, now, David Williams talking about why he doesn’t run:  because any injury could affect his practice for months, maybe forever, maybe even bench him.  That yoga can even be destabilizing for a while after a practice—that stretched out feeling—making injury more likely.  He didn’t want to risk it.  Tell me about it!

Anyway, here I am with a pain in my butt.  Again.  I’ve been practicing through it a little, backing off on the forward bends, but it’s just been a low-grade ache.  Honestly, I’ve halfway ignored it, not wanting to admit that this stupid non-yoga injury really is going to impact my yoga practice.  But it really has.  And this morning, it was more than a low-grade ache, alerting me to the fact that it really isn’t getting any better.  And maybe it’s getting worse.

I am so pissed.

Should I take a week off, maybe?  Seems like maybe I had to do that the first time.  I should keep a practice journal or something so I can remember this stuff (like that will ever happen).  I practiced today at half-mast, hands just below the knees for any forward bends, felt like I was doing nothing.  There was a small lift from seeing how far I have come—some of these variations were really hard for me when I started and now they feel like nada.  Mostly it was annoying.  But I also thought, oh, perfect time to work on that whole tristana breakthrough thingy, injury-as-teacher and all that happy horseshit.  But that’s like trying to gather three wild horses who have taken off in opposite directions.  Or trying to push the wrong side of magnets together: absurd enough to seem hopeless.  If I hadn’t accomplished it once on a fluke.  Still, that was me, trying to tame horses this morning so that I wouldn’t keep focusing on how lame it feels to practice without forward bends.

I’m going to take the weekend off at least, and do some more trigger point stuff.  And maybe some heat treatments.  Possibly ice, but it’s freaking 25 degrees out there, the last thing I want to do is ice anything.  If I can make myself practice at half effort, maybe I will keep practicing instead of taking time off, but it’s so hard.  Where’s the endorphins?  Where’s the high?

Sigh.  I’ve got to take care of this, though, or it will never heal.

the trigger point therapy workbook

This book can change your life. I am NOT kidding. If you have any pain, especially chronic, nagging pain, ranging from annoying to disabling, the information in this book, applied by you, can seriously diminish your pain, and probably get rid of it entirely. As a yoga person, trying to avoid injuries, this book is essential. I have spoken.

I sound like I’m selling something, don’t I? I’m not, I promise. Just this: every time I have had aches and pains, I have used information in this book to fix it. Poof. Well, actually, first I suffer for a while before I remember the book. Then I do the V-8 maneuver [palm/forehead] and look up my owie.

What book? This book:

Some quick history: In 1992 Dr. Janet Travel published her opus Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction. In it she showed how a muscular phenomena she called trigger points created referred pain (meaning the pain shows up in places other than the trigger point itself. She also described, in detail, how these trigger points, left to fester in the backwaters of your myofascial tissues, could band together to create complex chronic pain syndromes.

Then she described how to deactivate the trigger points, for, Lo!, once they are deactivated, the referred pain goes away. As in, GONE.

But you don’t have to read 1000 pages of her two volume work to figure this all out. Clair Davies, in The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, has, essentially, taken Dr. Travell’s work and made it totally accessible and easy to do on yourself.

Go Clair! All hail Clair Davies!

Basically, you (1) get a tennis ball or one of those super-bounce balls, (2) with the help of the book you find the magic trigger point (you know you’ve got the right spot because it Hurts So Good and lights up the chronic pain area when you press on it), and (3) apply pressure to the point by leaning again the ball, against a wall, or the floor, for a few seconds, a few times a day. You do this until you forget to do it because your pain is gone.

Here’s an example.

I’ve been doing a lot of touchpad editing/scrolling/cursor work the last few weeks, editing a manuscript. I noticed that my wrist was hurting, then I noticed that the pinky side was seizing up. Then it started screaming at me when I twisted it wrong, like, pain enough to make me drop whatever I was holding and curse.

Oh, no, I’m injured what do I do…duh…drool…oh yeah, what about that book? So I got out my dog-eared copy, looked up ” outer wrist and hand pain.”

Option #1 : stick needles in the trigger points. Yikes! This was Dr. Travell’s preferred method, and, I think, that is unfortunate, because it sounds so…icky. On the other hand, acupuncturist Mark Seem has done some cool stuff combining acupuncture technique with trigger point theory with remarkable results. So needling trigger points is option one. But what if you don’t like needles, or don’t know an acupunturist who is doing Seem’s work?

Option #2: get someone to mash ’em. That’s right, you can put pressure on the trigger points and they scream for a few seconds lighting up the referred pain areas in this exquisite pain/pleasure weirdness, and then the pain goes away. It’s like a freaking miracle. You can pay a massage therapist, trained in trigger points to do this for you, and if you can afford this, I HIGHLY recommend it.

But massage therapy can be expensive. And even if you can go regularly, real benefits come from daily work. Which leads me to…

Option #3: mash ’em yourself. You can totally do this! It’s awesome. About my wrist troubles, five minutes after flipping through the book I found the trigger point and gave it a little mini-treatment and the pain was 50% better. Five minutes! That includes reading! A few more treatments over the next couple of days, problem gone. Same thing for the lower back pain I had after my last pregnancy. Same thing for the shoulder and neck pain I get when I spend too much time at the computer (or doing puzzles with Luc). Etc.

In fact, I posted that post on Asana Envy and avoiding injury the other day—Yoga Hubris! Beware!—and the next day after my practice I realized I had tweaked my right hamstring attachment. Ouch. Yoga-butt. I’ve been feeling something going on there for a while, but it finally broke through to my consciousness that it was an actual hurt. Oops. Did some ice, rested, then got out the book. My understanding is that if the hamstring attachment is hurting, that means the tendon is getting over-stretched, taking the hit instead of the muscle-belly. I flipped through the book looking at the pictures until I found a few that showed refered pain on the sit-bone, noted the associated trigger points, and got out my high-bounce ball. Bingo, I found some exquisitely tender trigger points in my hamstring, right where the book said they would be, rolling the high-bounce ball under my thigh while sitting on my piano bench. Wowie kazowie they hurt. But when I stood up, no pain at the attachment site. And when I folded over in Uttanansa, the Hamstring Tendon Killer, no sharp ouch, instead a…twinge. Obviously still some healing/strengthening to do for the tendon. But the hurt was at least 50% less by deactivating those trigger points in the muscle. Holy cow! It took ten minutes to diminish the pain by 50%!

I say again, All Hail Clair Davies! He’s got a cure for what ails you!

He’s written a book on rotator cuff injuries that I really must read, but haven’t yet.

Trigger Point Therapy Workbook—Highly recommended.

(And if you’ve got yoga butt, look at this great article by Roger Cole, an Iyengar guy and anatomist—I did this fabulous workshop with him on Restorative Yoga a million years ago—and definitely don’t miss this article by Tim Miller, one of the Big Names in ashtanga. Very informative.)