My health care professional told me to quit strength training, and it just left me in pieces.
Approx. Four years back, I entered the world of fitness with a gym membership, and in no time, just fell in love with my strength training routines.
I still don’t know what it was, but the sound of pumping iron turns me on instantly and this constant adrenaline rush made me feel so excited about my training with weights.
Everything was going great for two years, and then I got a cartilage fracture in my left knee during one of my leg workouts. It’s been more than a year now that I have not been to a gym. My restorative yoga practice has been an enlightening journey for me so far- so come let’s take a look at how my restorative yoga journey started.
My Sports Trauma
In case you don’t know much about cartilage fractures, they are not similar to any bone fractures. Why so?
Well, bones have more regenerative qualities than cartilage; they can regenerate naturally at a slow pace. In contrast, cartilage cannot regenerate naturally.
Also, no matter how careful you are with your cartilage health, it will only deteriorate as you age with time. Therefore, my healthcare professional diagnosed me with “Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome” for life, which lies somewhere in the category of Osteoporosis.
He said I’m lucky enough because there is no surgical intervention required (like joint replacement) at this moment. But my knee health is still very fragile. Also, if I’m not careful enough, it can get worse.
So, he warned me by saying, “If I kept on strength training in the gym, then I might end up wrecking my cartilage even more, which can further compromise my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL).”
This doesn’t feel like me!
My legs were my strongest point during my strength training days. I used to do 100 bodyweight squats in 10 minutes, and my PB for weighted leg press was 150 kg.
Post-injury, I remember trying to perform simple bodyweight squats and lunges at times, but the sound of knee joint clicking and popping was always there as I bent to squat or lunge.
Once, I pushed myself to do 100 bodyweight squats, and the next day, I was unable even to stand or sit.
“This is not my body; this doesn’t feel like me” – I use to say all this to myself in anger and simply gave up. I was very much convinced by then that my comeback to a fit life was not possible anymore.
I was in immense physical and emotional trauma for months. I left the gym, went into depression, formed an eating disorder, and gained 10 kg of body weight in no time.
The Restorative Yoga Practice to My Rescue
I got introduced to yoga and its types in one of my physical therapy sessions. My therapist introduced me to restorative yoga, saying – “This has helped people worldwide overcome Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”
Now, you must be thinking – “What is Restorative Yoga?”
Restorative yoga is a passive form of yoga practice, which involves holding every yoga asana for more than the traditional yoga time frame.
Restorative yoga asana holds can range from 2 minutes to 20 minutes long. Such high tension striking yoga poses are often assisted with props like blankets, blocks, and bolsters to ensure the body is fully supported and allow the muscles to relax deeply at a cellular level.
My Action Plan – 3 Phases of Restorative Yoga Practice
Restorative yoga uses a balance of posture, breathing, and meditation. All these combined help you walk ahead on the path of healing.
How? – Well, it is proven by medical research that restorative yoga, when used as a therapeutic practice, can bring changes in both the sympathetic (fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (‘rest and digest,’ or ‘feed and breed’).
Phase 1 – The Awakening
I feared a sense of loss all the time and had no control over my physical and emotional changes. My fear of failure was – “My use to be strong leg” and due to this, I was feeling helpless and unable to let go of this emotion.
So, for the mental awakening phase, sit straight with the spine erect and start breathing deeply. Focus on your fears and face them. An awakened person is constantly mindful of his feelings, mind, body, and life’s modifications.
No matter what you have been served within your life, you will pay attention to your breath, thoughts, feelings, and actions without becoming too involved with them.
And, to be fully awakened, the rule of thumb is – to let your thoughts pass and not overthink or fear.
Phase 2 – The Balance
Balance is all about finding muscular flexibility and strength in ground yoga poses or standing yoga poses.
This step encouraged me to gain physical confidence as I practiced muscular flexibility, challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone, adapt to the physical changes, and gain strength over time.
Standing balance restorative yoga poses –
- Tree Pose
- High Lunge
- Warrior Pose
- Mountain Pose
- Goddess Pose
- Half Moon with Block
Seated balance restorative yoga poses –
- Fish Pose
- Bow pose
- Cobra Pose
- Camel Pose
- Child’s Pose
- Half Pigeon Pose
- Sleeping Swan Pose
- Seated Forward Fold
- Neck Rotation (both directions)
For balancing, the rule of thumb is – staying active and practicing movement daily to gain physical strength and flexibility.
Phase 3 – The Centering
Once you are mindful and active enough to let go of your fears, now it’s time to live in the present moment. Being mentally centered is all about returning to the center during an emotionally challenging situation with the help of Meditation and Diaphragmatic Breathing.
For example, don’t be emotionless or give up. It is normal to experience sadness, fear, trauma, and even anger due to an alarming occurrence. When I used to perform weight training, the center was to stay active.
So, whenever I used to feel bad for my injured leg, I started meditating and giving myself different reasons to continue fitness. If not weight training, maybe I can learn something new, like – Yoga or Mat Pilates.
The goal is to always feel what you feel in the moment but reflect with positivity and come back to the center of your goals. Just like – “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade!”
Centering on mindful thoughts helps you get a moment of self-introspection and self-reflection. It also enables you to cope with negative emotions, such as grief, anger, trauma, depression, and sadness.
The best centering restorative yoga practice for the brain is Candle Gazing Meditation and Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing.
Here, the rule of thumb is to – come back from where you started by maintaining a balance of thoughts and emotions for centering.
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Restorative Yoga Practice After Effects
Soon, I started my restorative yoga practice with breathing meditation, in just a span of one month, I was able to learn, experience, and feel the beneficial effects of the relaxation response in my body, mind, and heart.
Before my restorative yoga journey, I used to think I knew – “how important it is to relax in life” but never really allowed myself to relax.
I guess I have been fake relaxing until I got introduced to restorative yoga. My breath has never felt so nourishing and expansive.
This yoga practice certainly helped me look at what I was avoiding and finally let go of it so that deep release and ease could kick in my veins. And this yoga practice was my first step towards finding my spiritual self.
The changes I started to feel in my body over time.
- It reduced my workout anxiety,
- It helped me in sleeping better,
- It reduced my chronic pain around the joint, and
- It enhanced my chakra balance all over the body.
So, here I’m leaving you with hope, that you can do everything that you can first conquer in your mind. Remember that, life is going to be unexpected and everything happens for a reason. Just be more mindful of life events and tell your mind that there’s always a second chance waiting for you.
Have a Happy Restorative Yoga Practice!