Unknown pain

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Joined: Sun Jan 29, 2006 7:41 am

Unknown pain

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I recently received the following:

  • Hello dear Bernie,
    When you have a moment, I would so appreciate your insight and expertise into this issue.
    A student who has been practising Yin yoga with me for over a year now,
    has come to me experiencing a new sensation...
    She has been working through a lot of uncomfortable sensations, aches and emotions,
    especially in her hips, thighs, calfs and shins...
    we have been using a plentitude of tools to make sure her practice remains healthy,
    props to encourage relaxation and to keep from moving too deep too quickly,
    listening to her edge (with a clear understanding of what sensations she is staying let to),
    coming out of the posture when she feels she is complete (unique to each practice), and
    staying attuned to the quality of her breath as another edge navigator.
    The growth that she has experienced in the practice is heart warming,
    the release and healing both physically and emotionally has been profound,
    but now she is expressing that the sensations are increasing again, as though she has met a new edge.
    Deep aches especially in the backs of her knees and into the front of her hips in Child's Pose,
    also a more condensed sensation into the area of the hamstring attachments, deep into the backs of the hips.
    I would love your insight into what is going on here, and how to advise her to continue her practice.
    My sense is that she has met her "final" physical edge, and that she should now support herself with props at this appropriate place.
    The deep sensation at the backs of the hips, suggests to me need of massage work into her glutes and piriformis muscles,
    as the yin postures have helped her find the full range of motion available to her in her hip joints and now the postures are not being able to target these areas of tension.
    I realize that it is difficult to give a general diagnosis without seeing the body in front of you, but any help would be so appreciated.
    Namaste ~ With gratitude. Nadia.

Hi Nadia

it is great that your student has received so much value from your teaching. Your attention to her care and nourishment is commendable.

You mention that she is experiencing “deep aches especially in the back of the knees and into the front of the hips, and “a condensed sensation into the area of the hamstring attachments, deep into the back of the hips., What is going on here? I have no idea and I don't understand the types of sensations she describes, but clearly these sensations do not sound good. I would advise her to not go to where these sensations arise. Pain is usually a pretty good indicator that something unhealthy is occurring; so backing off would be wise. Either modify the poses so that she doesn't get these sensations (using the props as you suggest), or do some other postures that work the same targeted areas but without the unwanted sensations.

Would massage help? Maybe. If this is really bothering her, I would advise her to get it checked out professionally. There are a few things that could be causing the pain that would need serious help, and massage could actually make things worse (i.e. Cancer!) As you point out, I can't give a diagnosis: I am not a therapist, I haven't seen your student, and I don't know what is going on in her life. I can appreciate, however, your dedication in trying to make the practice fit your student. That's great: keep that attitude, but be open to the reality that you are not a doctor either and suggesting she see one can only help you help her.

A good doctor/therapist would take time to learn not only about the physical aspects of any complaint, but ideally also she would ask about her life in general. There is a growing recognition in medicine that physical symptoms are only one part of the whole situation: we must also consider the psychological and sociological components of health. This is termed the biopsychosocial model of health care. I believe it applies to everyone, even yoga students. So, when your student notices new sensations arising that do not feel wholesome, we cannot automatically think that the solution must be physical. It is natural to turn to physical solutions, given that so much of yoga is body-centred, but unless you know the whole student (what's happening in her life right now that may be causing such changes, her past, her environment and social structures, levels of stress, etc.), just prescribing physical stresses may not resolve the issue. Indeed it could make matters worse. If this were a student approaching me with specific complaints, my first question would be “Have you seen a professional about this?, If so, “what did they suggest?,

Good luck!
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