yoga injurySo, I’m working with an injury. Again. I spent much of last year with a tweaked hamstring and now I’ve done something to my shoulder. It happened a couple of weeks ago, and I was sure it would last only a few days, but I still have a fair amount of pain and limited range of motion. Pain is no fun, but the hardest part for me is always having to modify my practice. Chattarangas? I don’t think so. Arm balances? Handstands? Off the daily roster. I’ve never had a shoulder injury before and I am fast realizing the importance of the shoulder.

The stages of injury for me are always the same: 1) denial, 2) frustration, and 3) acceptance. Even with all of the mindfulness practice I’ve done over the years, it can still take me a good solid week to get to stage three. That’s the point where I finally realize that I am stuck with my injury for the foreseeable future, and I stop pouting over it and start looking for what can be learned.

And there’s no doubt: I have learned much from my injuries.For one, I have learned to slow down. I am a quick mover and fast walker who is naturally short on patience. Now, even putting my backpack on takes effort. And if I am practicing yoga, I have to move from one pose to the next slowly to avoid causing myself pain. So, all in all, I am slower when I am injured. Which leads to the fact that injury has taught me to be more mindful. When I move slower, I also deeply consider the moves I am going to make before I make them. Moving more mindfully influences me to be more thoughtful and deliberate in my actions and in my speech. But perhaps the biggest thing that injury has taught me is detachment. It reminds me that, at any time, what I think I have can be taken away from me. My strength, flexibility, and endurance are all temporary, as are my muscles and my bones. It’s a hard pill to swallow but I know that it keeps me humble and real. And though I modify my practice as my shoulder heals, I also find other ways to practice presence beyond merely the physical. (As most yogis know, the body is an amazing thing, but it can also be an unreliable friend.)

Over the years, injury has become my biggest teacher. And while there is a part of me that wishes my shoulder would hurry up and heal, there is another part of me that is grateful for this opportunity to take a pause from my routine, and wake up into a new moment.

How do you deal with injury? What kinds of injuries have you had and how have you dealt with them? What have you learned? Write in and let us know!