Healing with Yoga: How Yoga Benefits Injuries

Injuries change our bodies forever. Once an ankle is sprained, an arm is fractured or a cut is made, a permanent mark remains for the rest of our lives. It is the methods of healing that can build a stronger body post-injury. Yoga has established therapeutic properties, allowing the body to move beyond the injury into a stronger whole body.

I recently sat down with Ossi Raveh to discuss how yoga helps us heal by framing our injuries with a new mindset. Ossi is the founder of Brooklyn Yoga Project, an intimate yoga studio in Brooklyn with a mission of extending yoga principles into every part of your life.

Brooklyn Yoga Project
It is impossible to share my conversation with Ossi without first telling her story. A 40 foot fall abruptly ended Ossi’s dancing career.  The accident broke her entire body, shattering her knees, pelvis and changing life as she knew it. Once the bandages were removed, she began bringing herself back with Pilates, meditation and breathe work.

First focusing on Pilates and Gyrokinesis, Ossi found yoga too painful to endure with her still mending body. Then she was introduced to yoga in a heated environment. Whereas in other yoga styles the injures were strained, the heat warmed those areas and added an extra element of healing. Heat allowed the body to be ready and relax. It is this practice that led Ossi to teacher training in 2004 and brings her back to the mat each day.

“Injury to the body is one thing but what it does to the mind is another, totally separate thing,” Ossi shared with me. This is where yoga differs from physical therapy, Pilates and Gyrotoniques. Yoga brings with it the meditation philosophy. And this practice gives you the tools to deal with the things that come up through injury.

Brooklyn Yoga Project

HOW BODY-MIND WORKS

Ossi painted a clear picture of how yoga does its good work. When you practice Pilates, you really have to pay attention to what you’re doing. It is mind-body and requires very specific ways of moving. In contrast with yoga, our body helps us to get out of our heads. It is body-mind. Yoga lets your body take the focus and lets your mind take a break.

The heat is another element that helps focus your mind. With an elevated temperature, your mind is too focused on your body heat to get distracted by other thoughts.

The mind needs mending just as much as the physical body when healing an injury. Ossi believes the work we do with ourselves is integral to any healing process. At Brooklyn Yoga Project, much work is done around acceptance, acceptance of limitations and honoring them. I love the way Ossi ties in yoga’s philosophy throughout her classes, raising her students awareness of finding the peaceful place within themselves. She reminds me that yoga is about accepting your limitations.

And this is where I saw myself in her story. Not too many years ago, I severely sprained my ankle during the last month of marathon training. The injury took me off the pavement and onto the mat. I was focused on healing as quickly as possible so I could go back to my running routine. But my body had other plans. It rejected all forms of running. I was devastated.

Ossi works with a great deal of runners who come to her seeking quick fixes so they can get back on track. If I may stereotype runners, myself included, we’re generally intense, type A, competitive people. And we’re drawn to more intense exercise, i.e. hot yoga rather than traditional. The runner comes to class expecting improvements in their running, but come away with so much more.

“A lot of the mindset that goes into running is what causes the injury,” Ossi says. An attitude of overachievement pushes them beyond a healthy level, similar to my personal overzealous marathon training. When runners come to yoga they look for flexibly and the strength in their body, when they actually need it in their head. After establishing a dedicated yoga practice, many runners return at a slower pace, with a different intention and a new mindset around the sport.   

I could see myself clearly in Ossi’s words. I felt that she was mirroring my personal story. In my running days, yoga began as a “off-day” activity. But as my running injuries increased, I found myself in the studio more and more. Yoga became my primary activity and with it I’d gained acceptance of my limitations. Now seven years later, I see how the more I come into yoga physically, the more it shifts my mind away from the type A mentality.

Since yoga is about acceptance, the practice teaches you how to embrace challenges and find new solutions. After Ossi’s traumatic fall, she didn’t give up. She refused to use her accident as an excuse not to move anymore. It became an opportunity to go further than she had ever gone.

Often times with injuries, all of our energy is focused on the area hurting and how to make that feel better. But Ossi explains the work is in the whole body, “You’re not trying to heal an injury, you’re trying to heal the body around it.” The question to answer is, “how can you build the strength around the injury so the injury is left alone?” Then once it heals, the rest of the body is strong.

Ossi offered the beautiful story from Iyengar to explain this further. “The flower of the tree is furthest from the seed, and that flower might be your tension, but the seed is where it’s coming from. What patterning in your body has created this injury?… You don’t want to focus on the injury, you want to focus on the seed.”

Brooklyn Yoga Project

WHERE TO BEGIN

If you want to begin incorporating yoga into your recovery routine, Ossi offers a few suggestions:

1.  Do what feels right to you. If something feels uncomfortable during class, its not going to feel better later. Try a modification.

2.  Muscle memory changes quickly and the patterning in our fascia is also created quickly, so it is recommended to practice two to three times per week to creates new patterns and awarenesses.

3. Check in with your breathe. “If you can’t breathe in what you are doing, then something you’re doing is not good for your body.” Back out of the posture and take a break.

An injury can be a set back or an opportunity for growth in your whole self. It’s all in the mindset. Yes, my ankle will never be the same but that sprain taught me the transformative power of acceptance, patience and mindfulness.

Real healing is rooted in acceptance and this is yoga’s greatest gift.

You can learn more about Ossi Raveh and Brooklyn Yoga Project here.

And sign-up for an upcoming yoga class by going here.

Wellness Beets Episode #17: Natural Movement for Babies, Physical Therapy, and Yoga with Jennifer Cohen

Heads up! WBKitchen is an amazing company that creates grain free Paleo and SCD friendly treats including cookies and snack bars. These treats have amazing, well-sourced, and clean ingredients that are good for you, the planet, and your taste buds.  

WBKitchen is kindly offering us a special discount from June 10th-June 30th!
When you go to WBKitchen.com, just type in the discount code “BEETS15” at checkout.

 

Interview with Jennifer Cohen, Pediatric Physical Therapist and Children’s Yoga Teacher: 

#1.  We first met you when you submitted a question to the podcast! So cool! When we chatted, we found out you are a pediatric physical therapist and teach yoga for kids and we wanted to learn more about what you do. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

#2.  What do you think are some of the biggest benefits of kids doing yoga? What are the things you see the most?

#3.  Yoga is so great for everyone. Do you see kids who are resistant to the idea? How do you advise parents to deal with this problem?

#4. When we chatted, you brought up this really fascinating topic of alignment and natural movement for babies. So, so interesting! Can you walk us through how you think about this?

#5. It makes so much sense that we create an unnatural, movement less environment for babies that get them set up for future problems. What are your best tips for parents?

#6.  What are your thoughts on strollers, baby harnesses, shoes, and toys?

#7. Where can people learn more about you and get in touch with you?

Connect with Jennifer at: www.luvwhatyoudo.net and rootskidsyoga@gmail.com

 

Here are some resources that Jennifer recommends:

►APTA – Physical Therapist’s Guide to Container Baby Syndrome 

►Children’s Hospital of Atlanta

►Tummy Time Tools (I love this one because it’s not just tummy time but holding too)

►Where Jennifer did her certification: http://rainbowkidsyoga.net/

 

We love questions! Send us yours at wellnessbeets@gmail.com

 

Did you enjoy this podcast?

If so, please leave a review for us in iTunes and subscribe to get the latest episodes!

We are super grateful for you helping us get the word out!

 

Don’t forget to get a discount off your order of WBKitchen goodies! Use the discount code “BEETS15” at checkout.

 

 

Apple Fennel Salad

Potlucks are one of the great community builders. Never underestimate the power of food in drawing people together. This past Sunday the owners of my yoga studio hosted a potluck for all the volunteers. We sat around a long wood table in candlelight sharing stories, yoga experiences and food. Some of us had never met, yet by the end of the evening we were all good friends. There was a certain welcoming energy in the space that made everyone feel at ease.

The act of full participation, of the give and take exchange shows kindness and I think that’s the beauty of a potluck. Everyone feels included to partake on the same level. It’s also relatable. Food is the great commonality. We all have to eat and we all have opinions on food. The yoga studio is a place where health is valued and there is a general consensus of eating for nourishment. Our meal was abundantly green, with four different salads, three kinds of brussels sprouts and ample fresh fruit.

My contribution was this salad of baby kale, apple, carrot, fennel and golden raisins. I kept the dressing light and simple taking care not to overpower the natural flavors.

At the yoga studio, our community continues to grow. The studio owners plan to open the potlucks to all in the community later this summer and I’m looking forward to sharing more stories, making new friends and eating delicious food. 

Apple Fennel Salad

Apple Fennel Salad

Apple Fennel Salad

 

Apple Fennel Salad
Serves 6
Baby kale, apple, fennel and carrot with a lemon olive oil dressing.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Pink Lady apples - sliced
  2. 10 cups baby kale - loosely packed
  3. 3 cups carrots - chopped
  4. ½ cup fennel - thinly sliced or shaved with a peeler
  5. ½ cup golden raisins
  6. Lemon Dressing
  7. 4 tbsp lemon juice
  8. ½ tsp salt
  9. ¼ tsp onion powder
  10. ½ cup olive oil
Instructions
  1. Once everything is sliced and chopped, combine all in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle over the dressing and toss to coat evenly.
  2. For the dressing, combine the lemon, salt and onion then allow to sit a minute. Add in the oil, stirring to combine. I like to make my dressing in a mason jar so it’s easy to put a lid on it and save the extra.
Notes
  1. For shaved fennel, cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise. Beginning on the side of the fennel bulb, peel strips of fennel using a peeler.
Sparkle Kitchen http://sparklekitchen.com/
Apple Fennel Salad