I’m sure we all have heard this phrase, “Listen! Pay Attention!” Likely from a teacher in grade school when you’re doing just the opposite, or from your parents or significant other. But, as kids we are rarely ever taught to listen and pay attention to ourselves.
One true aim of yoga, and one thing that it has helped me with over the years, is trying to cultivate self-awareness - to listen and pay attention to your self… thought patterns, behaviors, actions, symptoms, dreams and aspirations. (It’s an on-going, challenging process). We all get those red flags when something is or isn’t right. Whether that be entering into a relationship when you know you probably shouldn’t, deciding to take a positive leap of faith even though you’re nervous and scared, but you have a gut feeling that it is the right thing to do and it will make you happy. Or, listening and paying attention to your body when it just isn’t feeling right. Sometimes, even after we listen and pay attention we don’t necessarily do anything, or make the best decision. We often ignore and ignore until the same situation is then exacerbated leading to a larger problem.
About a month ago my hamstrings were yelling, “Hey, we are tight!!!” I listened and paid attention yet didn’t do much about it. Now, my knees are yelling, “Hey, we are tight, stiff, swollen and a bit bruised down here! – help!!!” I noticed my knees yelling at me yesterday – on my day of rest. I looked in the mirror and saw that they were a bit inflamed on the backside. I had a quick freak out moment thinking that maybe I was developing a tumor or blood clot or something tragic. Then I became rational and started to try and put the pieces together. I have been increasing my personal yoga practice and teaching more yoga, in addition to more walking because it’s summer and standing when giving massage. I then, remembered my hamstrings! (That I previously ignored :( ) and that it is likely the culprit for my knee discomfort and inflammation.
The hamstrings are made up of three muscle groups, the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and the semimembranosus. They originate at your ischial tuberosity, commonly referred to as your ‘sits bones’, and they attach right behind the knee, making them a key component of knee stability. When tight, overstretched and often weak they can cause strain and pulling on the knee capsule and joint resulting in pain, inflammation and bruising – exactly what I have! :(
So, what do I do? I could a. keep on ignoring it and continue my current routine. Or, b. I can do something about it! This is exactly what I’m doing starting with:
- Ice!!! – To reduce inflammation. While in bed last night, I elevated my knees and iced them as I did some deep breathing. Thankfully, since I’m a massage therapist, when I came to work this morning, I had all the necessary equipment to ice again at work – every four hours for 15 minutes. I would encourage anyone rehabbing an injury to bring ice packs to work with them if there’s a freezer on site.
- Contrast Therapy – I also will do contrast therapy in which you alternate heat, ice, heat, ice, heat, ice (always ending in ice). This helps to stimulate blood and lymph circulation and increases the healing process.
- Massage – Something that I should have been focusing on more when I noticed my hamstrings becoming really tight. I try to receive massage regularly, at least every two weeks; however, I wasn’t focusing specifically on my hamstrings and surrounding areas (hip flexors, gluteus, low back and lower legs). So, now that will all change. I booked a massage with one of my favorite therapists next week who does zero balancing and will also have him focus on really just rejuvenating the area with more superficial work and kneading techniques to bring blood flow and circulation to the area instead of deep tissue work.
- Acupuncture – I also receive acupuncture regularly, every two weeks. I usually get treated for my menstrual cycle, allergies and stress. For my next sessions, I will have her focus on my current issues along with other points that she thinks may be beneficial. One thing that I thought was interesting was about a month ago, I received a bruise from one of the points – something that has never! happened. Then, this week I received another bruise yet quite smaller on the other leg in the same point. I was a bit concerned because it is one of the main acu points that stimulates blood flow. Yet, reflecting perhaps it’s because of some stagnation that’s going on in my legs (since it’s on the medial portion of my thigh close to my knee). Just a theory. But, I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what happens.
- Strength Exercises – strengthening my hamstrings, quads, hip flexors and calves will lead to increased support for my knees.
- Castor Oil Heat Pack – I have never tried one of these before, however, many naturopathic and ayurvedic practitioners recommend it to reduce inflammation and toxins and increase circulation especially of the lymphatic system. So, we’ll see how that goes! If anyone has tried this and has any tips – let me know!
- Rest and decreasing activity – I don’t want to overdue it, and with any new injury rest is key, so I am going to ease up a bit on my personal practice. In addition, I will be making sure that I’m not hyper-extending my hamstrings by keeping a bend in my knees especially in forward folds.
So, after listening, paying attention to my body this is my plan to do something about it! Hopefully all of this self care works – I’ll keep you posted!