Anyone who has practiced with me over the past 2 months knows, I have a bad knee.
I tell everyone; as often as I can. I steal every opportunity to remind you all that I am a poorly boy.
Some of you have even seen me unable to move away from my teaching mat as the knee joint I am so protective of, locks and I am immobilised.
The reason I have made such a showing out of telling you I have a sore knee, is not that I want your sympathy, but because I want you to honour your bodies in the same way I have been trying to honour mine. I want you all to accept injury, to work with it, and not against it. This idea of self-compassion and tenderness towards yourself seems straightforward and sensible, but it’s hard in every-day life, when we have deadlines to meet, pressures to perform, and lives to live.
What is Ahimsa?
Ahimsa is a Yama. The Yamas are 5 of Yoga’s moral and ethical codes that we as yogis should try to embrace and live by. These Yamas are one of the 8 limbs of Yoga which were written and laid out in the Yoga Sutras, which is an ancient Yogic text.
Simplistically, Ahimsa is Kindness, to most of us, the idea of non-violence, seems fairly straight forward, you don’t go around picking fights, or being cruel to others, so you are good at Ahimsa!
But how often do you put yourself down, put yourself second, work longer than you should, harder than your body can cope with?
Now ask yourself again whether you are good at Ahimsa? Maybe, you can say yes, but I suspect secretly you understand that non-violence to other earthly creatures is the easy part of Ahimsa and that being kind to yourself constantly, consistently is the real challenge.
I am on a path to rehabilitation and recovery, and over these past few sunny days have even been able to walk my dogs further and longer, a sure sign I am on the mend. But my journey back to this point has been long and at times painful.
I’ve discovered that It’s always better to prevent injury to your body by living a life full of kindness and compassion to yourself as well as to others, but when (if) you do injure yourself, it’s important that you take the time to allow yourself to heal properly.
Next time you are on the mat, and you are struggling to reach the depths of a pose your ego strives for, come back to kindness, find a prop, ask for help, work with a modification and allow yoga to sink inside your body slowly. Practice and live with Ahimsa as you relinquish the ego.
Yoga for healthy knees.
As part of my recovery, I started to research Yoga for my knee injury, I knew Yoga could help me recover if I gave it the chance, and alongside other therapies, my knee injury (A Medial Collateral Ligament tear) is almost healed, I know there are things still beyond my ability at the moment, but I know in time, they will come back to my practice, and until then, I will continue to strengthen other parts of my body, I will build my breath, and explore my mind.
If you are suffering from knee pain, first of all seek professional help and advice, then maybe try some of these stretches at home or in the studio to see if you too can start to rehabilitate, and remember to take the option with the prop, to use those things we offer you first of all, and then settle into a deeper stretch as your body can accept the deepening.
In all of these poses, it is important that the knee leads the way, and that our focus sits with the knee throughout the entire journey, never allow the knee to roll into, or away from its natural line. The knee is designed to be stacked above the ankle and foot, if we start to move the knee away from this natural point, the strain, weight, and risk of injury increases. All of these poses can be modified to lighten the load and lengthen the journey to recuperation, Ask Iain next time you are in the studio how these poses could help you to strengthen your balance, feel more grounded in your standing poses, and how you can build strength to prevent injury before it happens with just a small amount of Ahimsa, and body awareness.