For consideration: On Shoulder Injuries

July 1, 2013


This spring at the Yoga Journal Conference in New York City, I had the pleasure to attend a special class for teachers, taught by one of my favorites, Elena Brower.  She asked the room if you were currently treating an injury and 80% of the class raised their hands.

Then, she asked of those injuries, how many were in the shoulder and again, a vast number of hands were raised.  Having been one of the people included in the group of shoulder injuries, I began to wonder what was behind this with so many people having a similar experience?  The yoga community has been discussing this injury and others for a while now from an asana perspective, but was there some deeper at the core that needed to be addressed?

Most of the discussions I was having with other teachers about this were around Chatarunga Dandasana and that proper form had not been practiced over a period of time and thus, slowing over taxed the shoulder ultimately creating an injury.

When I decided to really take a look at my own body and practice to take the steps necessary to remedy my own injury, I discovered a lot more that I needed to adjust in order to fix the issue.

I started with the obvious – form.  When I looked at my Chatarunga, yes, I was indeed practicing it incorrectly.  So, then I looked at plank and again, within the shoulder blades and chest, incorrect form.  Then, I looked at my posture while standing.  Not in Tadasana, where I adjusted my body to form, but just standing like I was most of the day and once again, the shoulders curled in, collapsing the heart, rounding the upper back in a slouch.

Was this from sitting at a computer all day, was this simply from not practicing good posture for my entire life, or was there something else?  Was I guarding something, protecting something?  Was there an energetic reason behind the poor form?  Is there a deeper energetic issue behind the broader based shoulder injuries within our community than just simply bad form? 

Yes, the physical nature of us putting ourselves in that position was creating the physical injury.  But, why were we continuing to put ourselves in poorly formed poses again and again when we know it is hurting our body?

Is it a coincidence that the shoulder, the area of impact, is part of the heart and throat chakras?  Could the reason for the rounded shoulders and collapsed heart be a result of us holding back energetically in our true heart’s desire or in speaking our truth?  In addition to how we are physically moving our bodies, do we also need to take a look at the way we operate our lives off the mat?

In order to heal my own shoulder, I had to indeed step away from the Vinyasa practice, discontinue Chatarunga temporarily, as well as, many other poses.  This decision was sad, but I knew I could go back after healing and after properly adjusting and practicing correct form.

But, I never want the issue to persist, so I decided to look deeper and also adjust the emotions underlying the energetic channels of the effected area.  Was I speaking my truth?  Was I creating my heart’s desire?  Or was I saying what I thought people wanted to hear and creating what I felt like was acceptable by society’s standards? 

My own healing process became more about being authentic which required much more work than altering my daily physical body practice.  I thought of Louise Hay and how she connects physical ailments with unproductive thought patterns.  Under ‘Shoulders’ in her Heal Your Body A-Z book, it says, “Shoulders: Represent our ability to carry out experiences in life joyously.  We make life a burden by our attitude.”  And that is where I started my own road to recovery.

This task requires much more effort that finding a new mat practice.  The reward though is much greater as I return to my mat, not only with a healthy body and proper asana.  In addition, I return with an open heart and an authentic voice and I trust that will support me and my journey no matter what work comes on the mat.

For consideration, on shoulder injuries – is the physical impact not only the result of poor form and over-usage, but is there a deeper injury that needs to be addressed and therefore healed as well?  Only you know what is truly in your heart to be revealed.




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