Meet Iryna. She’s a 45 year old champion, and a stunner. She’s also the Head of Nursing at the hospital she works at. Her occupation is comprised of working both days and nights, sometimes up to 14 hours. She’s on her feet all the time. And she has to do A LOT of heavy lifting.
So, when she became the victim of a T-bone collision in on April 16th 2016 that created a serious problem. Not only for her occupation, but also for her physical and psychological health.
Here were the biggest problems she encountered as a result of the accident:
- Pain everywhere, especially in the spine, particularly the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions
- Mood swings
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Inability to drive for a month
What a list.
Where does yoga practice come into play then?
Well, after going to physiotherapy and taking medications for a month, there was no improvement. And Iryna’s got things to do. She needs to take care of people at home and at the hospital, but she can’t take care of anyone before she takes care of herself.
It is also important to note that she had sustained a left shoulder rotator cuff injury 4 years ago and about 6 months after beginning yoga practice 2 years ago, her shoulder opened up, making it a lot easier for her to do other types of movement! Before that, she had not done any type of exercise on a regular basis.
She realized that yoga class had significantly helped her before the accident happened. In addition to healing her shoulder, she also experienced an increase in energy level and improved posture. So she asked us what she could do to speed up her recovery, particularly in reference to the pain in her spine.
Because we had so much personal experience with trauma and injuries, coupled with our experience of healing others just like her who had gone through serious injuries, we knew what Iryna needed to do in order to recover.
Before we get into what recommendations we gave, we’ll make clear that we didn’t allow her to come to class for 6 weeks after her accident. After 6 weeks had passed, we allowed Iryna to attend the Thursday morning classes which were lighter than the Tuesday and Thursday evening classes that she usually attended. And by no means did we tell her to replicate exactly what we were showing her to do.
Unlike many other yoga studios who preach executing poses in the way as everyone else in the class, we believe that this is unacceptable. The whole point of yoga is liberation so you should be practicing in a way that makes you comfortable and leads you to achieve this goal as effortlessly as possible. We strive to make everyone feel welcome because we know how cumbersome it is of a process to heal.
Here are the specific poses we recommended her to do:
- Extended Tadasana/Mountain Pose: cunningly made to look like you’re not doing much but this is not true at all. This pose helps to develop proper posture, prevents flat-footedness, develops shoulder joints flexibility, and strengthens the abdomen area. The way we get into this pose is never static. We always try to loosen up, wiggling first with our lower and then our upper ribs. Make sure to try to flatten the natural curve of the lower back when going into this pose. Distribute the weight of your body evenly through your feet and elongate through the tail up to the top of the head, keeping the shoulders relaxed.
- Uttanasana variation/Standing Forward Bend: makes you feel and look like you’re something more than human. This pose stretches the backs of the legs, strengthens the lower back, improves blood circulation in the pelvic area, opens up the chest, and lets your back go to rest (I know it seems crazy, but try it). You feel a lengthening in your back which is actually the increase of space between your compressed discs and vertebrae. Again, make sure your weight is evenly distributed through your feet. Get your fingers as far away as possible from your feet and make sure not to transfer your weight to your hands. Create a straight line from the tailbone to the fingertips. The pelvis, back, neck, head and arms are all on the same line. As with the previous pose, we prefer to perform this pose dynamically by wiggling the tail and wiggling the shoulders. After each type of wiggling, move the finger tips further away from your feet, still keeping the weight in the feet.
- Dandasana variation/Seated Staff Pose: time for a break maybe? Nope, it’s time to flex your feet and push forward through your heels while seated. Raise your arms through the sides and turn palms out. Keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Push forward through your kidneys and then reach up through the top of your head. This pose is never used by us as a separate pose, it is always performed as a preparation pose for some other poses or movements. We don’t suggest holding it for more than two full breath cycles due to technicality of this pose, especially if you have lower back issues.
- Salabhasana variation/Locust Pose: you’re probably thinking this is a weird way to hide from someone but make sure you’re careful performing this pose. Perform a few stretches on your back, then perform a few stretches on your belly such as walking your feet back and walking your hands forward keeping your forehead on the floor. Then and only then you can inch your lower ribs forward, lifting up your shoulders and supporting your chest with elbows. Make sure that your lower ribs are still on the floor. Bend your knees lifting your feet up and then lift your knees up with one exhalation. For your first time, it’s enough. Increase your repetitions gradually over the next few weeks. This pose strengthens lower back muscles as well as backs of the legs, lower and upper abdominal muscles, opens thoracic (chest) area, and improves blood circulation in the pelvic area.
For her psychological issues, we recommended:
- Breathing exercises to calm her heartrate and gain balance and focus.
- Taking it easy, because putting stress on top of her already-horrific situation was enough.
The rest resolved itself when she began to recover. She began to smile again with the fact that she could get behind the wheel and was no longer afraid to get behind the wheel for fear of another accident. She became in love with the way her body healed itself, and it just became easier to breathe. With her physical recovery came her mental recovery!
- Iryna recovered from all of the problems she encountered as a result of the accident.
- She learned how to deal with recurring issues that impacted her psychologically and still uses these tricks when she needs to. For example, now when she wakes up in the middle of the night with high heartrate, she does breathing exercises and she can go back to sleep.
- She experienced improvements on top of her recovery, such as: weight loss, sturdy balance, a more toned form, and—she stopped using the back of her chair at work in order to sit correctly. Everyone at work is in shock!
If you are having problems with healing your body after an accident, contact us to see if we can give you a recommendation. We are always here to help.