Working Yoga After a Hamstring Injury

Thank you Yoga Journal!  Link to article source:  http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/2650

Upper-Hamstring Tendons

The Road to Injury: Say that you’re a flexible yoga teacher. Each day you wake up and practice hamstring stretches, then demonstrate deep forward bends in your classes. When you notice a pain just below one of your sitting bones, you stretch it more, thinking that will promote healing. But when the pain increases, you decide to rest it. After the pain diminishes, you stretch again and reinjure the area. The pain comes back, and the cycle repeats. This process can go on for years.

The hamstrings are three long muscles that cover the back of the thighs. At the top of them, tendons attach all three to the sitting bones. A nagging sensation just below the sitting bone is caused by a tear in the upper-hamstring tendon, near where it connects to the bone (called theattachment). To stretch hamstrings in forward-bending poses like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), you straighten your knees while lifting your sitting bones. Any time you stretch a muscle, it pulls on its tendons, creating microscopic tears in them. If you wait 24 to 48 hours between practice sessions, these tiny tears heal. But the upper-hamstring tendons can take longer to heal because they are poorly supplied with blood. When you don’t give your hamstrings time to rest, you set up a scenario for injury. Alignment can also be an issue. Teachers often tell beginners to lift their sitting bones in forward bends because beginners tend to round their backs in such poses, which can lead to disk compression and lower-back injuries. But people with loose hamstrings can lift their sitting bones so high that the tendon starts to wrap around the bone. This can weaken the tendon.

To recap: If you produce new tears in your upper-hamstring tendons faster than your body can repair the old ones, you’ll end up with an injury. If you rest and start to heal, the partially healed tissue may still be too weak to withstand the pose and you’ll tear it again, ending up with more pain than before. If you repeat this cycle often enough, scar tissue will eventually develop in the torn area—and rehabilitating scar tissue is typically a slow, difficult process. Often hamstring injuries that seem to occur suddenly are set up by a gradual weakening of the tendon over time, caused by overstretching and insufficient rest. The weakening can culminate in one powerful stretch that leads to injury.

Prevent and Prepare: To prevent an upper-hamstring injury, you need to approach straight-leg forward bends gradually and with awareness, taking any pain near the sitting bone seriously. Never force a forward bend (or any pose), and if you feel discomfort at or near the sitting bone while bending forward, stop stretching that hamstring immediately. If the discomfort recurs in a future practice, avoid any action that causes it for at least several days. This usually means you should avoid practicing forward bends over that leg or you can bend the injured-side knee in all forward bends. Bending the knee protects the hamstring tendons by taking some of the stretch off of them and giving them time to repair themselves before a significant injury develops. Reintroduce straight-leg forward bends on the affected side only when the discomfort is completely gone for at least a few days, and then do so gradually.

Another important preventive measure is to include plenty of hamstring-strengthening poses, such as Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose), andVirabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III), in your asana practice. Building muscle strength also strengthens the tendons of these muscles. However, if you have an existing hamstring injury, be sure to introduce these poses gradually.

The Path to Healing: If your injury is new, especially if you experience a dramatic injury such as a sudden tearing sensation during a hamstring stretch, rest and ice the area immediately. Be sure to avoid stressing it in any way for several days before introducing any recovery exercises at all.

Recovering from an upper-hamstring tendon injury typically takes at least a year. There are different schools of thought on how to recuperate. Some people suggest that you avoid all stretching for about six weeks while slowly reintroducing very mild strengthening exercises such as tiny preparatory movements for Salabhasana and Dhanurasana (Bow Pose). You systematically build up strength over the next several months, eventually adding powerful strengtheners like Purvottanasana and exercises that combine strengthening and stretching, such as Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), against resistance. The key is to avoid any stretching that causes pain to the injured tendon while systematically introducing stronger hamstring-strengthening exercises, including those that strengthen the muscle in the stretched position, for several months. You shouldn’t reintroduce any maximum-power hamstring stretches, such as Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), for at least a year after your injury.

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), modification

If bending forward with straight legs causes pain below one sitting bone, you may have injured your hamstring tendon. To protect an injured hamstring, fold forward into Uttanasana while bending the knee on the injured side enough to eliminate any discomfort. This will give the tendon a chance to heal. Continue to stretch the hamstrings of the other leg normally.

Supta Padangusthasan (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), against resistance

During the later stages of recovery from a hamstring injury, you can build strength while stretching the hamstring muscles mildly in Supta Padangusthasana. Lie back on the floor through a doorway or in the corner of a room. Lift one leg at about a 60-degree angle from the floor and firmly press the heel against the door frame, holding for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

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Forrest Yoga…One Year Later

Forrest Yoga Teacher Training…a Year Later

On a dark Texas morning one year ago today, I walked in the door of Yoga One to begin my Forrest Yoga Foundation Teacher Training.  In complete trepidation, I had no idea what to expect.  I rolled my mat out in the furthest corner away, with my back to the wall.  Ana Forrest entered the room, and I could feel the collective group senses perk up in anticipation and excitement. I however, was scared…scared that I lacked the physical, mental and emotional strength to make it through a full month of training with this powerful woman. 

 I had spent the month prior to this training practicing kicking up into handstand.  I had the idea in my head that I would completely embarrass myself if I showed up at this training unable to kick up into handstand.  That skill would somehow define me as something “less than”.     Feeling physically “less than” dominated my thoughts leading up to this training. I had attended a yoga class with Forrest Yoga Guardian Tayla Ring a month prior, and found it so difficult that I nearly quit the teacher training before I even started.  To combat this fear, I prepared by going to many intense yoga classes.  I joked during training that I was going to yoga six days a week and therapy once a week, when I really should have switched those around…I would have been better prepared.

I surprised myself my making it through that first morning practice feeling strong. All that fear about the physical aspects of the training dissipated somewhat.  Then, I came back to the afternoon practice and learned what I really should have feared all along. “Get up in front of this group,” Ana says. “Teach a pose.”   My mind went blank.  Thousands of asanas exist in the yoga arsenal, and I couldn’t think of a single pose. I wasn’t even planning on being a teacher when I entered training.   Now, after having taught hundreds of classes, I look back on that first day with amusement.  Teaching a simple forward fold seemed so out of reach, so damn near impossible. I cried that first day and felt like a failure.

It has been exactly one year since that day.

Where am I today?

  • I teach regularly – four to eight classes a week.  I have regular students who look to me for guidance and wisdom, and I’ve ironically learned that it is my willingness to openly share my  questioning journey of life, my raw truth of the moment,  that defines me as a teacher.  Learning to share my faults and my stumbles along with my beauty and joys is what has softened me as a teacher.  My beautiful mentor guardian Kelley Rush told me on my first mentorship weekend, “You teach like someone who’s been fucked over in life.”   And although I’ve had a lot to be angry about this year, it has been my journey to rely less on anger to give me strength, but to find my Warrior Woman in softness.

 

  • I’ve gotten divorced.  Of all the internal life changes that I expected to arise during training, I never expected to question so deeply my relationship with my husband and come to the conclusion that I needed to go forward in my life without him at my side.  During Ana’s infamous Death Meditation, I was unable to even picture my husband’s face in my mind. Through each subsequent process meditation Ana took us through, I asked the same question over and over: “Should I stay with him?” The answer was always no.  I fought this answer for eight months after training, but the answers you discover during Forrest Yoga teacher training come from a very deep place within, and cannot be ignored, or swept under the rug. Trust me, I tried.

 

  • The day my husband walked out the door, I stopped practicing yoga for two months. For a while, I felt hypocritical and shameful and downtrodden on myself for not practicing, even as I taught others and encouraged their yoga practice.  But then I realized that this is yet another opportunity to teach from a place of raw truth.  I am currently gently bringing myself back to the practice, one compassionate step at a time. My first personal practice was Ana’s morning workshop during the Wind Horse Forrest Yoga Conference last month.

 

  • I finished the certification homework in a year’s time.  Through that homework, I learned I was holding myself up to an unrealistic goal, pressuring myself and finding failure in not meeting those goals. I learned compassion for my own process through the homework, knowing that it would unfold in its own time. I learned not to judge my fellow mentees when they were not proceeding through the homework as I thought they should. I learned the homework isn’t about learning more about Forrest Yoga…it’s about learning more about me.

 

  • I’ve delved deep into the recesses of my soul, and I’m not afraid of that self introspection any more.  Even when my husband gathered up all my dark demons and threw them in my face as to the reasons for our divorce, I was able to bravely examine my faults, stalking my fear. I was able to confidently realize that even though I am all of those dark things, I am also so much more beautiful things, and all the things are ok.

 

Ana once told me I had a victim mentality.  I’ll be a good teacher, she said, once I get over feeling sorry for myself. Maybe she was right.  I tell you these struggles I’ve had this year not for pity, not to encourage the victim mentality, but rather to celebrate the beauty that can be found in the messy, unpredictable chaos of life. “Evolve or die,” Ana says, but we can never really be sure how that evolution will reveal itself when you choose to enter a door in life.  When I walked into that door of Yoga One on Day One of training, I opened myself up to the possibility of unimagined change in my life. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Oh yeah…I mastered that kick up into handstand.

 

Chakra Balancing Series

Chakra Balancing Series copy

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Chakra Balancing Series – Root

Chakra Balancing Series - Root

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Mahila’s Pura Vida Costa Rica Retreat “I Am Mahila”

I am Mahila

The day before I left for the Mahila Partnership’s first annual  Costa Rica Retreat and Fundraiser, I was called into my boss’ office and informed that the company was having financial problems, and everyone would be forced in taking three weeks of unpaid furlough by the end of the year.    Defeated, I walked out of her office, but as I left, the most insane thought came to my mind: “Perhaps now I can take that month off to do that yoga teacher training I had been dreaming about!”

It was such a crazy thought, so insane, the idea of taking a full month of work in this rat race of a society, in economic times where people were getting laid off left and right.  But to me, it seemed as if the universe were testing me.  Just the week prior, I had been discussing this amazing, life changing teacher training with a friend, and I told her, “That’s a nice dream, but there’s no way I’d ever get three weeks off my life to make that happen.”  Almost immediately, the universe handed me three weeks of furlough…almost like it was daring me to see what I would do.

I spent my entire week in Costa Rica last year mulling over the idea.  I fretted and worried and dreamed and hoped and wept over the combined frustration and possibility.   Here was this amazing group of women dedicated to supporting the cause of women’s health and personal development worldwide, and each of them each of them supported me as I tentatively explained my idea.   This was an opportunity for me to take charge of my health, my future, my personal development…with the eventual goal of helping other women on their same path.

The central idea and worry that arose in my mind over and over was wondering if I had a right to ask this for myself.  Was I being selfish, in wanting this opportunity? What would I be taking away from my husband, my daughter, my work? I was, at the core, afraid. I brought my concerns about whether I should go to this training to Mahila’s founder Angela Devlin.  Angela asked a single question: “If your daughter came to you and asked whether she should do this, what would you tell her?”  Without hesitation, I answered, “Of course she should do this!” She kindly looked me in the eye and said “I think that’s your answer.  How can you tell your daughter what kind of woman you want her to be, if you can’t SHOW her what kind of woman you want her to be?”

That conversation, the inspiring relationships I developed and the entire Costa Rica trip were to catalyst for me fully committing and deciding to go forth with the training.   And while there were many more obstacles I had to overcome before I walked into the first day of my training, Mahila helped me overcome the first and biggest obstacle of all – myself.

Today, nearly one year later, I am a certified yoga teacher.  I reach many students each week, teaching them to find physical, emotional and mental healing through the practice of yoga and meditation and the qualities of self awareness, self responsibility, self-care.  I volunteer with young pregnant girls in crisis at an organization called The Alpha House, and I strive to help these girls gain self confidence, strength in their bodies and minds, personal responsibility for their health and life situation and the knowledge that they are cared for deeply.  I have learned this year that caring for yourself, feeding yourself daily what you need to heal and grow MUST be a central focus of your life, if you want to have the energy and life force to dedicate yourself to the care of others.

I return to Mahila’s Costa Rica retreat this year to not only refill my spirit with the powerful energy of the Pura Vida resort, but to inspire other women on the retreat. I hope to share my story, and teach that this retreat can be a life-changing experience, if you let it.  Decisions made and ideas generated in this time have an intense push behind them.  When faced with these powerful opportunities in your life, these chances to take hold of the reins of your life and shift the course you are taking, how will you respond? With fear? Or with a growing hope and excitement over the limitless possibilities that lay before you?

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To learn more about the Mahila Partnership and its worldwide mission to address the most pressing health and hygiene needs of women and girls following disasters, visit www.mahilapartnership.org.

To learn more about the Mahila Partnership Annual Yoga and Meditation Retreat at Pura Vida Resort in Costa Rica, visit http://mahilapartnership.org/retreat/ .

To learn more about the R&R Pura Vida Spa & Resort in Costa Rica, visit http://www.rrresorts.com/f.html#/pura_vida_spa/.

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Ana Forrest’s Better TV Appearance

Video of Ana Forrest’s TV appearance on Better TV, describing Forrest Yoga, its benefits, and Ana’s work with our military and the Exalted Warrior Foundation.

http://better.tv/view/fitness-fitness-forrest-yoga&h=1

Inspiring Video About the Healing Power of Yoga: Gulf War Veteran Arthur Boorman

Gulf War Veteran Arthur Boorman was told by doctors he would never walk unassisted or run again. Through the healing power of yoga, he managed to regain the strength of his legs to run…and more.  Watch his inspiring story and ask yourself, “What do I want to heal in MY life?”

 

 

Yoga is the martial art of the spirit

Not sure where the original of this came from for credit.  But this inspired my practice today.

Pirate Yoga. Zombie Yoga. Alien Yoga.

Because sometimes it can’t be all serious. Sometimes it needs to be fun.  Thanks to YogaDawg the pictures!

 

Stalking Your Fear: Ana Forrest’s Multi-Part Series on Huffington Post

My teacher Ana Forrest has been publishing a multi-part series on Huffington Post called “Stalking Your Fear”.  This excellent series gives you not only insight into Ana’s fascinating past, but also some concrete steps towards addressing fear.  I used the following section as a theme for a class I was teaching, and it seemed to resonate.

We have this old technology for dealing with fear that helped us survive — freeze, fight and flee. But stalking your fear is a quantum leap that helps change your relationship to fear. Choose instead the brave-hearted path of stalking, tracking, studying and allying with your fear. How that would feel, how would it free you and change your life for the better?

Start now by deepening your breath. Right now. You are about to gain a whole new skill set for dealing with fear. That is really exciting!

Stalking your fear teaches you how to respond quite differently. By re-patterning your behaviors, you re-pattern the way your brain and nervous system work. You change your neural connections and neurochemistry. It is really fun to be able to turn your response to fear around and come into a position of power with it.

So many particular emotions I feel like I am dealing with right now, but when I look at at base core of those emotions, the core emotion is fear-based.  Fear of not performing well, fear of confrontation, fear of not living up to expectations, fear of not being a better parent, fear of letting the past dictate my reactions in the present.

I recently read an article on Psychology Today that proposed that there are only five basic fears in the human emotional realm. They described the basic feeling of fear as:

An anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience.

That part I fully agree with – realizing that the majority of the things we fear never come to pass.  The article proposed that the only base fears are extinction (fear of ceasing to exist), mutilation (fear of having our body injured or broken), loss of autonomy (fear of being entrapped, paralyzed or controlled by circumstances, both physical and social), separation (fear of abandonment, rejection and loss of connection) and ego-death (fear of  humiliation, shame, or the shattering of one’s constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness.)      I’m not sure how all of the personal fears, angers and pain I’ve experienced recently fit into these neat five categories, or if they even do.  But me beginning the process of examining my fears from the outside observer position, the “mind watcher” is the beginning of stalking my fear.  By identifying the fear, recognizing it, becoming curious about it instead of old patterns of running away, I start down the process of facing the fear and overcoming the fear.

Take the time to read this insightful multi-part series on fear from Ana Forrest:

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Email: jenniferyarter@gmail.com
Phone: 813-310-0738