When I was 18 years old, I was running an average of 50 miles a week. And not stretching. One day, showing off my flexibility, I did the splits, on my non-dominant leg, cold. I heard a loud *BOOOONG.* Something like a rubber band snapped and popped in the back of my leg. I let myself rest exactly 3 days before resuming my runs.
I was in my early 30's when I fell in love with yoga. I was extremely limited in my forward folds, especially in Prasarita Padottanasana. I often had to wait until I heard a loud POP from my left hamstring before I could bend forward. Slowly over time, I gained flexibility in my left leg but it was still weak. Up until about two years ago, if I was doing Virabdrasana III balancing on my left leg, there was no way I could straighten my leg. I dumped all my weight into my hip joint for balance and I would tremble and shake and hope nobody noticed.
It wasn't until I went to school to specialize in yoga therapy did I learn how to fully heal this injury. I learned how to locate and work with my specific muscles by identifying which muscles were weak and which were over compensating, I was able to apply specific yoga poses and techniques to heal a 20 year old injury.
Often students (me included!) think that stretching is the best thing to do to heal from an injury. Often people think this because the stretching can feel good. However, many times, to heal from an injury, strengthening the muscle is required. Muscles can be tight and weak.
Yoga as a practice is whole body health. In the asana practice you gain strength and flexibility. On an energetic level, you learn how to breath, and how to be more aware of your breathing, to keep your nervous system in balance. And on a mental level, you practice mindfulness to reduce stress, anxiety, and gain "peace of mind."
Yoga is a powerful therapeutic tool to correct physical and psychological imbalances. Real healing takes time and energy. Along with our happy stories and day to day experiences, we are getting on our mats with a lifetime of injuries, traumas, shame, and doubts. Not many people are coming to yoga in perfect form. The amount you open yourself up to the healing benefits of yoga, is the same amount this ancient practice will serve you.