After choosing well-being as my yogic focus for 2014, it’s ironic that my practice has been interrupted since May by health issues. Well-being symbolized my intent to build core strength, endurance and flexibility before an intense, weeklong yoga retreat in April.
Thanks to an unlimited yoga pass, 2014 got off to a great start.
I attended lots of classes, practiced at home when not in class, and began to meditate. Each week my body got stronger and more flexible; my overall conditioning improved. I could enjoy a 75-minute flow practice without sweating like a pig or collapsing on the mat — a huge improvement from where I started 5 years ago!
Thanks to this preparation the yoga retreat was a peak life experience, one I was delighted to share with a dear friend from California.
Since then I’ve confronted some painful lessons about soft tissue health, the body’s deep structures, and what’s required to keep shoulders and foundational elements in good health. Who knows what triggered it, but my left shoulder became frozen in May.
Perhaps it was too many long flights, unwieldy luggage, overloaded briefcases, or inattention when lifting heavy items overhead. Or too many vinyasas with repetitive plank, downward dog and chaturanga sequences.
Whatever the cause, rotator cuff issues have kept me off the mat since May.
Inflamed or damaged tendons can take a long time to heal — 6–9 months or more. It’s hard to remain patient in the face of such a slow recovery period, especially when most of the yoga asanas are beyond my reach.
Four months of PT and rehab exercises have helped me regain some mobility and reduce the pain, but they weren’t enough for full recovery. I hit a plateau and then began a slow decline. No matter how much I worked on strength building, my shoulder remained weak. Nerve signaling is compromised in my left arm.
I’ve had to invest in X-rays, MRI and ultrasound imaging procedures. I now have a deep understanding of why my shoulder has been suffering and unable to function normally. Over-use, the insults of aging, perhaps some arthritis. Common challenges for older athletes (and yoga practitioners!)
I’ve switched to a doctor who specializes in tendinopathy and the soft tissue challenges facing athletes and sports enthusiasts. His precise cortisone injection last week has stopped the pain, and hopefully triggered a more effective healing process.
A Deeper Kind of Practice
Now it’s time to resume the careful, methodical work of shoulder mobilization, core strengthening, and shoulder+arm strengthening, especially for “overhead activities.”
These conditioning and rehab exercises are not the yoga asanas I’m eager to do, but they’re a practice in their own right. (I have to remind myself of that.)
Before it’s safe to resume a daily yoga practice, my shoulder must be ready for the physical challenges of many foundational poses. Think: plank, downward facing dog, the warrior poses…
It’s not just a question of rebuilding strength or mobility. It also takes a more careful approach to the process of “recruiting” the right muscles at the right time, to stay safe and healthy.
And that means I need to attend to the inner foundations of well-being — learning to be more mindful of every breath and every move my shoulders make.
Sting’s lyrics should be my inspiration for 2015:
Every breath you take
And every move you make…
Mindfulness in motion. A daily discipline, what it takes to restore and then sustain well-being and balance in life.