Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training – Pain Shouldn’t Be Your Friend


Years ago my right shoulder used to pop out of its socket. It wasn’t pretty and hurt like hell. Like Hell.

Like Hell.

Because I didn’t rehab it properly, dislocation happened more frequently and recovery wasn’t ever complete. Even worse, I got used to both the pain and the instability of a shaky shoulder. But I kept working out, kept pushing myself.  I didn’t want to change my routine or stop my busy life to deal with it.

Not cool. (Oh boy, it also says tons about my mindset at the time. Who in her right mind walks around knowing that at any moment she can be writhing on the floor, and not in a good way?)

On most days my right shoulder would throb. I subconsciously adjusted movements to avoid actions that would result in dislocation. It also had this way of popping out in inopportune moments, the most embarrassing of which took place at the gym as I walked to the shower (just wearing one of those ridiculously small sandpaper towels).

My foot slipped. The slip didn’t cause a fall, but my shoulder popping out and dropped my now naked butt (the handkerchief, I mean towel, fell off as I fell down) to the tile in what can only be described as the most horrible pain I’ve encountered. I could entertain you with the complimentary comments from the big EMS dudes, (which actually made me laugh, resulting in more shooting pain). I won’t, because being carried out wrapped in a sheet, in the middle of December to an ambulance is really, really hilarious and humiliating. Let’s not even talk about having to describe the the ER doc how I managed to show up without clothes- because to try and put anything on would have meant me screaming and injuring myself further. My dad came to pick me up- he had to bring clothes. Ugh.

I got surgery a week later.

Did my rehab like a good girl.

Years of trauma though, had reprogrammed my body and I avoided major shoulder activity during workouts. Another bad idea. Babying myself wasn’t smart. Sharp pain and constant injury shouldn’t be your friend in any workout but especially yoga. But you must challenge the muscle (with supervision if necessary) in order to gain strength.

Reflecting, I see that it was my ego working overtime.

If you’re not careful, Ego will have you living a life in pain.

Thankfully, yoga found me.

Both breath work and my asana practice have opened up my back and shoulders. Being kind to myself has allowed for emotional and physical healing. Weight bearing poses have improved strength. I’ve finally learned the difference between pushing limits and pain.

And still with all of these tools I still managed to push a little too hard when learning the full expression of Chaturanga Dadanasana. I blame excitement and not ego. Chaturanga is a fun thing to do once you get the hang of it. While I may have been strong enough to support myself, I hadn’t consistently been engaging the muscles around my rotator cuff. A few days ago I woke up with a scary familiar throb in my left shoulder.


The good news is that I am not the woman I was 15 years ago. I immediately tended to it. I’m looking for a great shoulder doc to check it out. During practice, the plan is to focus on precise alignment. And le sigh, modifications until I’m feeling up to snuff.

I’ve learned to honor where I am at any given moment. Yoga isn’t just the asanas, it’s what happens when I’m home relaxing or surrounded by chaos. By being in the present and acting accordingly, I make the best decisions. As a yoga teacher I owe my students that. We are all worth such reverence.

You can’t guide others through practice if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

This is yoga. And I love it. My shoulders do too.

Namaste y’all!


4 thoughts on “Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training – Pain Shouldn’t Be Your Friend

  1. Why is it so damn hard for yoga teachers to take our own advice? If you had a student with a bum shoulder you would never tell them to “get used to it.” I had a torn meniscus that used to shift around and cause my knee to lock up in a most unpleasant manner. For 35 years. I was teaching a roomful of students one day when it went out and left me writhing around on the floor – and not in a good way! (good one! :)) One of the students was an M.D., and he said, Why don’t you get that thing fixed? So I had surgery and it fixed the problem. However, four months later my knee still hurts from the surgery and feels sort of mushy and unstable. So…. do you think by this time I’ve gone to a physical therapist to help me rehab it?

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