Harmful pain and healthy discomfort

Many athletes and movement practitioners are often injured because they have difficulty differentiating between harmful pain and healthy discomfort. Discomfort can be described as stepping out of our comfort zone by using muscle groups that are new to us or haven’t been used in a while, exploring a wider range of joint movements and stretching our muscles beyond what our daily activities require. It also involves raising our cardio level above a resting state.

Yoga, when practiced following step-by-step instructions from an experienced and knowledgeable teacher, can be considered a relatively low-risk movement practice. It is important to focus on functional yoga rather than seeking aesthetic perfection of postures. Patience is the key and one should avoid rushing the process in order to achieve a specific aesthetic form of a posture.

Injuries can occur during yoga for a variety of reasons:

1. Being too absorbed in the form of asanas and neglecting breathing.

2. Lack of proper alignment.

3. Repeating incorrect movements.

4. Push your limits and ignore pain warning signs.

5. Prioritize the final appearance of a posture (aesthetic) rather than the intention behind it (function).

6. Get ahead of yourself and be ambitious

7. Forced adjustments by a teacher without taking into account the student’s limitations.

It is important to note that our brains do not fully understand the word “pain”, so it is necessary to define what pain actually is. Pain can manifest in a variety of ways, including:

– Excess heat (burning sensation)

– Excess cold (freezing sensation)

– Compression (limited joint space, compression of a nerve, wear of cartilage or bone-on-bone contact in advanced osteoarthritis)

– Pressure (force applied to a surface, different from compression)

– Extreme pulls (tension of tendons, muscles or ligaments)

– Nerve pain (electric shock sensations in certain parts of the body)

– Inflammatory pain (feeling of cramps in an organ, severe headache or swollen body parts)

– Emotional pain (feeling of heaviness and blockage in specific areas, i.e. pressure on the upper back, chest and throat)

To distinguish between pain and discomfort experienced when learning new movements or activities, consider the following:

Stretching can cause some discomfort, but it should be “gentle” discomfort, similar to the discomfort of a deep massage which ultimately feels good and provides relief. It should leave you feeling lighter, with improved range of motion and relaxation. You should be able to walk and function normally after leaving a posture.

Signs that you may be pushing too far include rough breathing, rapid breaths or apnea, twitching facial muscles, irritation, tightness in the tendon insertions, and burning sensations during or after the practice. If you can’t use a body part as usual or experience pain or limping, you’ve probably gone too far.

Returning to yoga after a week or more without practice may cause pain from stretching or muscle engagement. However, feeling pain behind the legs, lower back, or at the hamstring attachments to the ischium every time after class is a warning sign that should not be ignored. Inform your teacher immediately.

When you learn something new that requires strength and stability, you may engage muscles that have never been used before. It’s okay if these muscles shake slightly, but it’s important not to stay in this position for too long. Build strength and stability gradually, and if you lack it, you risk collapsing into another part of the body, potentially causing compression in another joint.

For example, when learning a handstand, if your arms are not strong enough to support weight, you may collapse onto your head, compressing the cervical spine. Likewise, when falling, if you lack spinal strength, stability, or flexibility in your legs, collapsing onto your lumbar vertebrae can be harmful.

If you encounter any of the following examples, take it seriously and tell your teacher:

– Burning sensation behind the legs after practice or discomfort that persists after practice or the following days.

– Sensation of pinching or pulling behind an elbow.

– Compression in the wrist, sensation of nerve pain penetrating into the hand.

– Sensation of pinching around the shoulder during chaturanga.

– Pull on the front of the arm during internal rotation or arm balance.

– Lower back/mid back pain during or after training.

– Feeling of compression inside the knee joint or tight feeling around the knee joint.

– Pulling on the external ankle ligaments, which can destabilize the ankle joint.

– Compression of the hip joint or inner thigh when twisting against one leg.

– Neck pain after training, or constant need to crack or stretch your neck.

Additionally, if you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, overly emotional, agitated, or experience feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy after practicing yoga, it is important to discuss these emotions with

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