THE BLOG

Pain and Prana: The Yoga-Related Injury

11/18/2013 11:04 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

I used to run. A lot. After watching my mom go through a knee replacement, I started doing less high-impact exercise and more yoga. Strengthening while stretching seemed like the perfect, injury-preventing workout.

Fourteen years of ballet left me with better than average flexibility. When another yogi rolled her eyes at me as I balanced on my hands in "extended side crow," I thought, "What a compliment. I'm the crazy yoga person!"

Between my Gumby-like nature and seven years of practice, I figured I was immune to yoga-related injuries.

"Yoga-related injuries." The phrase sounds ridiculous. I've been backcountry skiing, diving with sharks, and this is how I get injured? Who does this?

Apparently, a lot of people: ABC News reported there were only 12 yoga-related injuries in 2000 but 5,500 in 2007. Assuming that trend continues, we won't be able to move when we finally achieve inner peace.

If you've been in a class that practices inversions or any posture in which you resemble a flamingo, you've seen someone fall. Leslie Kaminoff, a New York yoga therapist and bodyworker, notes, "Many classes now are so crowded that a single person out of control can take out any number of people." Imagine: You're in your headstand, chakras aligned, and chi glowing (or whatever one's chi is supposed to do). Then, without warning, a moment of newly-achieved pride turns into a timber! situation.

I've had my share of clumsy moments in class, but it's in one of my best postures, the "standing split," that I feel a pop in my hamstring.

Om, Om, Ow.

I'm wincing in the appropriately named "corpse pose" when my instructor comes over, "Just what the hell did you do?"

He's never been the most zen of yoga teachers.

When you're in enough pain to let a middle-aged man in a banana hammock massage your sweaty leg, you know you've got a problem.

Now, I'm sitting on an icepack. (Oh, the things I've admitted in writing). My hamstrings are killing me. My body moves more like Charlie Chaplin's than Gumby's. And I'm cold. Namaste, my a**. This sucks.

The next day, I barrage my orthopedist with questions.
"What kind of exercises can I do?
"You need to rest."
"I can't. I'm like a dog," I explain. "I have to run around or I go crazy."
He tilts his head in response, unaware of this dog-like movement.
"Do you see a lot of yoga-related injuries? What kinds? I'm writing an article..."
Perhaps I should focus more on treatment and less on how to use my injury for article fodder.

I leave the doctor's office with my ego in one hand and a physical therapy prescription in the other. It could be six months before I'm back to normal. Ironically, I'm going to have to be more yogi-esque than I was before.

This flamingo has learned her lesson. It's not about impressing the flock. Maybe I should have listened to my teacher when he said, in his veteran wisdom, "It's not how far you go, but how you try."