[SI joint injury frequently intersects with other causes of low back pain, such as bulging discs, arthritis, and muscular strains; these guidelines are also appropriate for injuries to low back, pelvis, & hips.]
Previously: SI Joint Dysfunction Intro, SI Joint Injury & Yoga practice
I will talk more about SI Joint & low back injury management and specific postures in the Bikram Yoga series in the future.
I am sharing safe guidelines to approach a yoga practice WITH an injury to the SI Joint (and by extension, most injuries to the back, low back, hips, pelvis, etc etc etc.), because if you insist on practicing with an injury, I hope you will at least try to be cautious about it.
But ask yourself: why am I practicing yoga, when I have an injured back? If you were a runner, and you sprained your ankle, would you get back out there on the track the next day? NO, of course not.
Here is where I expect to get some push-back from the yoga zealots. The yoga zealots prescribe yoga for all ills – even the ills caused by yoga.
Let us be clear from the start: yoga does not fix everything.
Particularly in the Bikram Yoga world, the Bikram beginner series is prescribed as the solution to all ills. It is not. It is a good, solid beginner yoga series. I teach it. I enjoy it. But not all postures are appropriate for all bodies.
If you have an injury that is exacerbated by a particular posture, DON’T DO THAT POSTURE. Sounds logical, right? But many Bikram Yoga teachers & studio directors will simply tell you, when you’re hurting, to “yoga harder”.
This is the wrong answer. If you are hurting, stop doing what is hurting you.
I was in pain from an SI Joint injury every day for over 2 years. When I asked my teachers (& the staff at teacher training) what to do, the answer was “DO MORE YOGA!” This was the wrong answer.
The right answer was: TAKE A BREAK.
I’m here to tell you that you CAN do yoga with an injury, but you don’t NEED to.
Some studios and teachers will pressure you to keep practicing through the pain, to keep taking class every day, to “help you recover” from the injury. For some injuries, that might theoretically work – or at least not worsen things – and might (theoretically) help you maintain your mobility at a slightly higher level than if you took a break. It really depends on the type of injury – whether or not there is tissue damage, inflammation, misalignment, and so forth.
So, sometimes this advice might be helpful – or at least not harmful.
But for other injuries, a break from practice is essential!
Here is the guideline I use: if you are in the acute phase of an injury (or illness), take a break. Rest.
If there is inflammation, treat the inflammation. If there is a broken bone, let the bone knit.
If you have a fever, take a break & rest. If you tore a hamstring two days ago and are still in acute pain, take a break & rest. If you sprained your ankle yesterday, take a break & rest.
So, to me, it follows logically that if you are in ACUTE PAIN from an injury to your back (as in SI Joint dysfunction), you TAKE A BREAK.
Please take a break from yoga if you have an SI Joint injury. Whether from creating a misalignment, forcing an increase in soft tissue flexibility, or exacerbating an already existing injury, yoga is associated with back, hip, and SIJ injuries in many practitioners.*
If you never had low back pain or sciatic pain or hip pain before you started practicing yoga – it’s probably because yoga is causing the problem. Stop doing what is hurting you.
Take a break. When you are better, practice gently, practice mindfully. Think of it as an overuse injury, a repetitive stress injury. Try not to overdo it.
So, all this being said, I know there are many yoga practitioners who will keep on doing yoga despite being injured. To them I say: take it easy, be mindful, don’t exacerbate existing injury.