Yoga: Chiropractor says yes. Doctor says no. What do I do?

First, your professionals have training and tools for diagnosis and treatment. You sought their expertise. If you do not feel comfortable with their advice, don’t ignore it. Explore it. Question:

  • Do you fear their diagnosis?
  • Are you fighting the frustration and sadness of loss, inconvenience or change?
  • Does the diagnosis or treatment recommendation just…not…sound…quite…right.
  • Do you need a second opinion?

Let the injury be your yoga teacher.

Ask yourself: Does the advice “resonate” with me mentally and physically even if it does not feel comfortable or it is not what I wanted to hear?

Ann (name changed to protect privacy), a long-time two-yoga-classes-a-week yoga practitioner, university professor and mom sustained a head and neck injury. She received treatments from two professionals–a physician and a chiropractor. One advised her to go to yoga. The other advised her to stay home.

Ann was understandably stressed with the conflict.

She stayed home from yoga classes for a few weeks. Feeling compelled, she returned to the mat and listened to her mind-body messages carefully. Ann told me the extent of her injuries. I modified the format of the class so she and everyone could receive a complete experience. I guided healing meditations to improve confidence in listening to the body’s messages.

Today, she is recovered.  Her practice is more mindful. I give her a “heads-up” (no pun intended) when the class embarks on postures that she should refrain from or choose to modify, visualize or proceed with mindful caution within a safe range of motion.

Ann said that the biggest gift during recovery was learning to listen to her inner wisdom and trust herself. She examined the injury in context with her life. Ann was injured when she lost her balance and fell. She realized that her lifestyle was out of balance and had been out of balance for a long time.  She increased scheduled rest, exercise and centering to support her dynamic professional, play and family life. With renewed energy and reflection, Ann has now expanded her horizon and put herself on track to become a university president.

A flat yes or no to yoga practice is a general instruction. Should a diagnosis for a knee injury keep you from upper back, shoulder, core and hip openers? Should a wrist strain keep you from standing postures for strength and balance? Is it OK to do chair yoga? Breathing exercises? Meditation?

Ask your medical professional for detail and clarity. Many healing professionals have never taken a modern yoga class with props or modifications.

  • What motions or positions should I limit, add or increase?
  • Will medications affect my ability to balance or drive safely?
  • What special care should I give to the weakened areas—gentle movement? Restorative postures? Complete rest and restriction of movement? RICE: Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation?
  • Show me.

For example, if you have a wrist injury, your yoga teacher can give you options that limit wrist pressure. She can offer a standing, wall, prone or sitting posture with the same benefit as a posture on the hands. If there is a hip issue, you may still be able to do many sitting, wall or prone postures to keep your vertebral column strong and supple.

Attending yoga class during recovery offers a positive healing environment option versus laying around the house binge-watching the soap operas and ice cream, getting depressed or totally out of shape.

Did you know that even visualizing postures offers a healing benefit on the physical level?

Did you know that long-held trauma (PTSD), or negative self-talk literally makes grooves in the myelin sheathe of nerve cells? What does your injury want to tell you, today?

Decision-making criteria:

  • Is it non-harming? Ahimsa.
  • What does my healing team recommend?
  • Do I need to watch my competitive tendencies so I do not over-do and set-back my recovery?
  • What CAN I do to stay in the best overall health during recovery?
  • What do I need to do/think to embrace the journey and my body-mind complex in this moment?
  • What am I learning about myself through the injury and healing process?
  • Observe your self-talk. Don’t call any body part “bad.” Call them all “good.”  Limiting labels are not helpful for healing.

You are whole, always.

Thanks for asking Leena!