Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Sad Break From Yoga

I am humbled and heartbroken.

Thursday night yoga class, I was trying to do a complicated twist/stretch/balance... Almost there, almost there, one more inch and my left hand would have reached my right foot as I straightened my leg with the back of my knee balanced on my right arm, shoulder snuggled securely. My yoga teacher was cheering me on as I was rocking the pose… and then, POP! A yelp of pain came out from my throat.

The pain was so bad, it took effort to even breathe. Everyone in the room looked shocked, anxious, and confused. I knew exactly what happened, my shoulder popped out of its socket for the fifth time since 2008. It came out in a weird way I have never experienced before. How in the world would it ever get back in place? My arm was so tense as I flexed as hard as I could to keep the pain at bay. Pretty soon, my ears started ringing and the voices around me asking me if I was ok seemed distant. My teacher asked if I needed to go to the emergency room and I said no thank you. DFJ came to class with me that night (thank heavens), he held my arm and helped me relax... As soon as I willed my arm to loosen up and I reminded myself to breathe, I felt two pops as my shoulder socket placed itself back where it is supposed to be. I felt like I was going to pass out but I did not... Water, thank you!

My shoulder popping out is nothing new. It all started in 2008 when I had my first shoulder subluxation. I was hoisting myself into a truck and was holding on to the roof when my foot slipped and my shoulder came out. The second time it happened was at a tennis class when I was practicing my serves. To this day, I can’t give a decent serve for fear of over rotating my shoulder. The third time was during a weight lifting class. My shoulder popped out as I was moving a bar from the back of my shoulders over my head. After that, I never again placed a bar on the back of my shoulders. The fourth time it happened was while I was rolling out of bed, it happened too fast and was over too fast, but it shook me up and invalidated my shoulder for a week. Now it happened while I was doing yoga… the only physical activity that I feel really connected to, the practice that my body loves and craves. This time it is really affecting me not only physically, but also emotionally, as my right shoulder will have to be out of commission for a while (yet again). The doctor I saw yesterday told me that the next time this popping out thing happens, I could permanently damage a nerve and that would be no bueno.   

I was never an athlete nor was I even interested in anything that involved any physical activity until I met Jordyn, my closest girlfriend at Central Washington University. We worked out together during our last quarter at Central. Even after graduation and saying goodbye, the habit stuck. That’s when I discovered the joys of intense work out classes, cardio, weights, and Body Flow (a combo of yoga/tai chi/pilates). Soon I developed some muscles and my cardiovascular endurance built up. Body Flow seemed too easy and at some point I rarely went to those classes anymore. However, all that cardio blast and feet pounding came with a price, resulting in months of on and off physical therapy for shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and back aches that cost hundreds of dollars… $15 copays sure add up!

Slowly, I went back to Body Flow and my partner teacher introduced me to Jenn’s yoga studio. After my first real yoga class, I was hooked. By then I had also started listening to what my body wants to do… tons of walking, 3-5 miles of running per week, biking outside when the weather is nice, a 3-mile hike once a week, weight lifting twice a week, an intense ab workout once a week, and doing yoga at least 3 times a week. Doing these activities have made me feel stronger than ever, made me more flexible, and for the first time ever, I can actually see some muscle tone in my arms and legs. Yes, I can be vain like that. But for someone who was always labeled as skinny and weak, I feel proud of looking strong and healthy!

However, Thursday night brought me back to the ground. This time it is painful, like a heartbreak. When I had to stop running for a while due to shin splints and take a break from cardio classes, I was fine with that. When some Body Pump moves caused my back to hurt, I was ok with not going back to another class. But after hurting my shoulder during yoga, I felt devastated.

Over the past year, my practice taught me so much about myself and my capabilities. Yoga taught me how to listen to my body, to be patient, and to breathe and let go. Little by little I brushed off my fears and experimented with advanced variations for basic poses, learned to do headstands without a wall, and just recently conquered the crow pose (finally, after months of endless falls!). Last weekend, I went to an inversion workshop to take my practice to a new level and had tons of fun. Tomorrow, I planned to go to the first Acro Yoga class that my teacher is starting, but that won’t be happening anymore. *sad*

After injuring my shoulder last Thursday, I painfully realized that I won’t be able to move forward in my yoga practice for a while. In fact, I should not even be doing anything before I have to start from the beginning. Down dogs and chaturangas are not even options for me when I go back, which probably won’t happen until I get the go signal from my physical therapist, whom I won’t see until a week from now. Tissue healing and then strengthening muscles around my shoulder are my priorities. Especially if I want to continue my yoga practice until the day I die.

Physical healing is a long process but ego healing is not… I feel so humbled and vulnerable right now. But I promised myself one thing and that is to not give up. This shoulder will never be back to what it was before my very first injury, but it’s still there and it will be strong again in time. All I need to do is take care of it, be mindful, and learn to listen. 

It’s not the end of the world… perhaps this is a sign that I should explore new avenues in my yoga practice. My teacher, Jenn, is very encouraging and supportive and offered to help me start over and guide me through this healing process. It may be slow and my practice might not be the same again, but I won’t give up!

This post is for those of us who are all too familiar with sports related injuries or any injuries for that matter. Yes, it is frustrating to have to take an abrupt break from something we love to do and interruptions in our routines are always a nuisance. Throwing the towel or throwing all caution to the wind are not options for us though. Instead, let us remind ourselves to take it easy, give our bodies time to heal, and use this time to discover something new (the possibilities are endless). Life is too short to waste time being depressed over something that can be fixed or modified. Keep flowing, keep seeking, and keep listening… LIVE!   


  1. As I was reading your post, my jaw just kept dropping and dropping. I hope you're ok!! I have (luckily) never experienced any sports related injury, but I have just started working out, so I guess I have not got to that stage yet.
    Your shoulder thing sounds so scary! I don't know if I could have kept calm enough, I'm sure I would have fainted. Stay strong!

    1. Thank you Cathleen! You are so sweet... :) My shoulder will be rid of soreness in a week but it's just scary to know that one false move or weird tweak and it can come off again and cause further damage.


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