Sometimes an opportunity can be hard to recognize. Especially when it presents itself in the form of a crippling injury.
That was the situation for Columbus-area yoga instructor Lara Falberg when she suffered a broken lower leg, both her tibia and fibula, after an ATV accident.
As she sat in the hospital she realized there wasn’t a way to avoid her gnarly injury, she simply would have to find a way to work around it. That started with seated twists in the hospital and isometric holds using her arms, which reminded her that regardless of the injury and the weakness in her lower body, she was still strong.
Following recommendations from her doctor, Falberg renewed her yoga practice just days after the accident. She uploaded a video of her broken-leg yoga sequence, which has since amassed thousands of views, proof that she’s not the only one searching for ways to continue yoga throughout recovery.
In the eight months since the accident, she has sharpened her verbal instructions, grown more patient and carries a much greater sense of gratitude.
“I used to always think, ‘I wish my legs were skinnier. I wish they were prettier.’ It was all surface,” Falberg said. “I almost brought this upon myself to some degree because I didn’t appreciate what I had. I didn’t appreciate that they were strong, that they were pain-free, that they were flexible, that they enabled me to do so much, so that’s the other opportunity behind injury, just to be grateful.”
Practicing yoga while injured allows your body to move within its limits and exercise without adding stress to the injured area. When you’re hurt, it’s easy to want to sit and feel sorry for yourself and wait for it to magically feel better over time. But by remaining active in a non-destructive way, like yoga, you can continue to build upon the strength you have and not skip many beats as you heal.
In fact, Falberg said it might be the best time to try yoga.
“For a lot of people, if you don’t have an injury you might just jump into it and try to do things that are out of your realm. But if you have an injury, you’re a lot more respectful of your body, you’re a lot more cautious about what you do,” she said.
Yoga also provides therapeutic benefits that can aid healing. During practice, you can improve circulation of the lymphatic channels of your body, which are linked to your circulatory system. The lymphatic system works to clear away infections and keep body fluids in balance. A poor lymphatic system can result in fluid buildup in tissues (swelling) and infections, not really something you want going on in conjunction with a broken bone or torn muscle.
With lower extremity injuries, you will be elevating your limbs as part of your recovery so by incorporating yoga poses such as “legs up the wall,” your practice provides added healing benefits. Yoga will also help to get rid of lactic acid in the muscles, which can cause soreness.
You can choose a sequence of poses that avoids using either the lower or upper body, depending on what area is injured, such as substituting a seated forward bend for a standing forward fold if you have a lower leg injury.
“Yoga can really be available to a lot of people dealing with injury because there’s not that competitive, ‘push yourself’ feel to it. You can isolate,” Falberg said.
Be sure to heed your doctor’s instructions about your specific injury, though. Generally, with minor muscle and ligament injuries, you can still do most poses as long as you dial back the stretch from its normal range. With broken bones, it’s best to follow your specific weight-bearing guidelines.
Lower and upper body sequences to implement when a nagging pain or injury has you sidelined (appropriate for beginners to advanced practitioners). Photos by Leonardo Carrizo.