Working with Students Who Have Yoga Injuries, Part 4
Gratitude and Learning
Though it may take your students some time to realize it, an injury can also give them time to cultivate gratitude. That may be the opposite of what they feel like doing, but "cultivating the opposite," Pratipaksha Bhavanam, is precisely the remedy that Patanjali recommends for difficult times. Rather than dwell on what you're missing, think of all you have to be grateful for, including all the parts of your body that are working pretty well. And even though yoga resulted in an injury, it also provides many tools that can very likely help heal it. Consider, too, that by improving balance, flexibility, muscle strength, bodily awareness, and so on, a regular yoga practice is probably preventing many injuries off the mat as well as helping prevent more serious medical problems, from diabetes to heart attacks.
Going further, injuries can inspire practitioners to learn more about anatomy, bringing awareness to areas of the body, postural habits, and physical and emotional patterns (especially patterns of trying too hard) that your students may only be dimly aware of. For students who are themselves teachers or who aspire to teach, an injury can make them much more effective, as they learn about injuries and how to work with and around them. In retrospect, I'm grateful for the yoga injuries I've had because they've taught me so much.
Then there's the niyama of santosha, or contentment—that is, learning to be happy even when you don't have everything you think you want. It's a sure sign that your yoga practice is yielding benefits when your well-being doesn't drop so precipitously during life's inevitable challenging moments. After one of my former teachers underwent a total hip replacement, I spoke with her about the new limitations in her practice. Even though certain poses she loved were now off-limits, she smiled broadly and said, "I can do enough."
Dr. Timothy McCall is a board-certified specialist in internal medicine, Yoga Journal's Medical Editor, and the author of book Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam). He can be found on the Web at www.DrMcCall.com.
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