In addition to teaching yoga, I have a little side biz. I own a couple of properties that I rent out. Because I'm stubborn and cheap, I often do the cleaning and repainting myself. Last summer, two units came open at the same time and I spent a solid 5 days painting trim and shining toilet bowls. As a result, my left shoulder froze in place and I couldn't move it or my neck. My good friend Leslie, also a body worker extraordinaire, squoze me in for an emergency session and got me functional, but I've struggled with a bit of pain and compromised mobility for close to a year.
Recently, in one of Penni's ass-kicking classes there was an injured student who could use only one arm to practice. Half-moon, one arm. Awkward, one arm. Even Standing Bow, one arm, no arrow. This student had a great attitude. She practiced with a calm, relaxed face, and seemingly without the frustration that many of us have when our practice is hindered by an injury.
For those of you who know Penni, you know she's a hard ass, but she's loving and supportive and kooky in all the best ways. During class Penni called out the student, praising her for working so hard despite her injury, and then she launched into a little speech about how the body heals the body. Many of us grew up with medical doctors telling to "lay low" when we're injured. What Penni was saying was, lay low but don't shut down. Practice anyway, and see how your body heals your body.
My neck/shoulder is almost better. I am physically at my best when I am practicing Yoga regularly. I have a pretty perfect equation for my exercise week going right now-- 3 days running, 3 days Yoga. If I tip my balance--run extra or skip Yoga, I feel it. My neck is tight. My shoulder whines a little bit. But I know what to do. I know that skipping Yoga because my shoulder hurts or because my neck is tight will only exacerbate the problem. I know that moving my body, using my body is the one thing that will heal my body.
Remember when you practice Yoga that perfection is never the goal. "Performing" is not part of practice. Every day you bring your body into the room to practice, and every day, that body is different. Listen to your body-- to the depths, the limits, the different places it can go (or can't go)-- and practice with that body. Whether you have an injury or not, your practice is so important to keeping yourself healthy. Let your body heal your body.