If, like me, you have hypermobile joints, then you’re able to extend them easily and painlessly beyond the normal range of motion. Yep, I can bend my little pinkie all the way back so it turns into a U shape, and back bends are a breeze. Sometimes, my flexibility can be a great trait (read: I can contort myself into a range of Instagram-worthy pretzel poses), but other times, it can be detrimental to my wellbeing. Case in point: I recently fractured my wrist during yoga because I was relying on my flexibility rather than core strength.
During my yoga teacher training, there was a lot of emphasis placed on utilising our core and ‘switching on’ certain muscle groups when in poses. I thought I’d been practising what I preached, switching on my core when needed. However, it turns out, the reason I found many poses ‘easy’ was due to my flexibility, not my strength. And this finally caught up with me. My body hit rock bottom.
I’ve suffered from two major injuries in the past five months. As a result, I’ve had to roll up my mat for the time being. I’ve gained a bit of weight, but hey, I want my body to be 100% before I go back practicing yoga everyday.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen all my yoga images, and noticed that I love backbends. They’re incredibly invigorating, but also dangerous if not done correctly.
After repeating my sun salutes day after day and just being able to bend back into mermaids and backbends, I noticed my back was getting sorer as time went on. Then, I started to feel pins and needles down both legs. Uh oh. I immediately thought I had nerve damage. I went to a sports chiropractor and was told that I’d essentially been ‘hanging’ in backbends rather than using my muscles to hold myself in place. So I had to rest (meaning no yoga) for two weeks.
Then came my wrist! Holy moly! Low planks, chaturangas, crow poses, flying man… basically anything that required forward weight onto my wrist was impossible. If I tried one of these poses I’d collapse in a bundle of agony with excruciating shots of pain stemming from my wrist to my index fingers.
So I went back to the chiro. The result? I’d sprained my wrist from (once again) relying so heavily on my hyper flexible wrists to hold my whole body weight.
But, four weeks later I woke up to find that my wrist had doubled in size – literally! My husband rushed me to the hospital. I was diagnosed with a stress fracture and torn ligament. This was a huge wake-up call, because the doctors told me I might never be able to practise yoga again.
While in rehab, I focused on changing my practise and focusing on what my body could handle. I know it’s hard to imagine yoga without using wrists, but it’s actually doable. There are so many modifications that I’ve implemented into my practise. I’ve just become a little creative. Instead of a downward dog I’ve reverted to a dolphin, and I’m now utilising my shoulder and back strength to stay in these positions. Instead of up dog I’m now doing baby cobra, which again forces me to activate my ‘back muscles’ and so on.
In my instance, spraining and fracturing my wrist has taught me to go back to basics in yoga and internally SWITCH on my core muscles when I move from pose to pose. It is these muscles and proper alignment that PROTECT me from any kind of yoga injury. And it’s all about recognising if it’s happening to me! If you are reading this, learn to know what the difference between a ‘good’ pain (like a deep stretch) and a ‘bad’ pain (click here to read about the different types of workout pain).
In this case, I’m so glad this happened to me because I’m far from perfect and it’s been a valuable experience. Even though all those Instagram snaps are so inspiring and I constantly challenged myself to recreate similar poses, YOU are the only one who knows your body and how far it can go. Not every body is built the same. So only do what is right for you and not what we see on Instagram.