Learning to accept and love our bodies as they are is no easy feat, even for the healthiest and most non-disabled people out there. Media and the heavy influence of our image-based culture have created pressure for us to look a particular way and, in the context of yoga, be able to “perform” certain asanas in an acrobatic and Hercules-like manner. The truth is, for every person who is able to practice an outwardly beautiful natarajasana with their arms over their head, reaching for their back foot, there are a thousand more who have difficulty balancing on their leg, let alone have sufficient hip extension to grab the lifted foot as the leg flexes. But is one version of the posture better than another? Certainly not.
Yoga encourages the dissolution of the self, allowing us to feel the moment fully, without attachment or aversion. This includes accepting where our body is at that particular time and place. Yoga is a wonderful way to feel that your physical limitations aren’t really limitations but rather an experience where you can find strength and space, whether it be physical or mental.
Here are some common limitations and alternate postures to help you feel empowered and empowered.
Tight hip flexors
Too much sitting and insufficient stretching can cause tight hip flexors. They can cause lower back pain.
It can be seen in yoga: Tight hip flexors make it hard to maintain a long stance when doing lunges. It can be difficult to flex your hip (think about how you use the hips in the crow pose or standing wind-relieving posture).
The lizard pose is painful for people with tight hip flexors. Anjaneyasana is a great alternative to anjaneyasana, where the arms are raised above the head. Instead, place the hands on the front leg. As you draw your navel in and open your chest, gently press the thigh forward and down. Place your hands on the floor, slide the back leg a few centimeters to the back, then return the arrows to the front thigh. Repeat the third time.
Rotator cuff injury
The shoulder joint is also a ball and socket, like the hip. The shoulder socket, unlike the hip socket, is shallow. This allows for more movement of the arm but makes the shoulder joint less stable.
The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles. It’s not uncommon for one or more to be weak due to underuse. This weakness can lead to impingement or even tears.
Weight-bearing is a popular vinyasa exercise that involves a lot of weight on the shoulders. This can be harmful if there is a pre-existing injury. This means you should avoid inversions such as plank pose, Chaturanga Dandasana, and all other inversions.
To heal a rotator cuff, you need to build strength. This can be helped by placing a small amount of weight onto the shoulders. Standing planks and pushups against a wall are great alternatives to chaturanga, which isn’t the best for those with rotator cufisn’turies.
Stand in front of the wall, with your hands at shoulder height and your body mainly vertical. From the heels to the crown. Press the hands into the wall and then externally rotate your shoulders. As you press against the wall, keep your elbows straight. Consider hugging your upper arms together if you are comfortable doing so (start lightly).
Once you are comfortable with “A,” you may want to progress to a pushup “l”ke action by bending your elbows at a level that is comfortable for you. As you draw your elbows in, make sure they are pointed down and towards the floor. Once you’ve bent your arms the way you like, you’ve hands to straighten them back up.
When the knee flexes beyond 10 degrees, it can rotate inward and outward to a small degree. This rotation, even if it is slight, makes the knee vulnerable. The knee joint is susceptible when the hip joint or ankle joint above or below it is under tension.
It can show up in your yoga practice in several ways. Usually, it is when the knee bends. When the hip is externally rotated, as it would be in the pigeon preparation pose, the knee may feel painful or tight. An injury to the knee can make it difficult to place the back leg down in anjaneyasana. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may be impossible to do a child’s pose or hero pose (seated or sleechild’s). It can be discouraging and frustrating not to be able to do a pose that a teacher calls out but the rest of your class is doing. If you are injured and unable to do a pigeon pose, then the deer position is an excellent alternative. This is a good pose for everyone, as the hips are in external rotation on the front and internal process on the back. Once the other side has been completed, your left and right hips will have both gone through external and internal rotation.
When practicing the deer pose, it is helpful to have a blanket or towel nearby. Take your left leg behind you, and place the heel of the leg closer or farther away from the buttock. You should feel what feels comfortable to you. You can elevate the knee with a bolster if it deems sensitive. You can also bring the front heel towards the front left hip. Sit on a block if you are feeling tight in the hips and leaning to the right.
Deer pose can be used as an alternative to pigeon preparation, allowing the practitioner to experience a mild-moderate release of their hips.
Sucirandasana/thread-the-needle pose can be used if the deer pose also causes knee pain. While lying on your back, place both feet soles on the floor. Bring the right ankle over the left knee to create a figure-4 with the legs. Bring your right hand through the triangle-shaped space between your legs and interlace your fingers on the left thigh. Exhale and bend your arms, keeping both shoulders and the back of your head on the ground. As the right leg is in external flexion and rotation, flexing the right foot will help to stabilize the ankle and knee. Engage the right thigh.
Yoga can be a very healing practice. However, when you are unable to perform certain postures due to a physical disability, it is frustrating and discouraging. There is always a way to modify or adapt a pose. Sometimes, this requires a little creativity. Each posture can be thought of as having a classical/conventional appearance, but equally, each posture can be broken down, making it accessible to people of all physical abilities.
It is important to consult with a yoga teacher who has the experience to find modifications and alternative options that are suitable for your physical limitations. When you practice these alternative poses (and yoga in general), remember that the breath is crucial to keeping you grounded and focused. These moments are a great time to accept and feel compassion for where you are in that moment. You will also feel empowered physically, mentally, and spiritually.