When I was attending secondary school (which was also way before I got into yoga), I was a school rhythmic gymnast. Being a competitive gymnast, I trained four times a week, four to five hours each time. Gymnastics requires a lot of flexibility, so each training session would be filled with our instructor pushing us into ‘over-splits’ (splits which are more than 180°), pressing us into backbends where our heads touched our bottoms, or challenging us to walk on compressed toes to enhance the points of our toes.
In such a sport, there is very little regard for potential injury. It was very normal for everyone to be injured in some part of her body at any one time during training. Not surprisingly, I too injured different parts of my body as time went by. From a dislocated shoulder to a loose shoulder to torn portion of my Latissimus Dorsi, my injuries were endless, and until now are still bothering me. However, because having an entire body of injuries was the norm back in school, I never actually realized how these injuries were negatively affecting my body.
In gymnastics, we always relied on a dominant hand, foot or leg. As a result, my right hamstring was extremely flexible while my left was unbelievably tight, due to a previous tear in my gracilis. This had never struck me as a problem back then since I could still compete – all my splits and jumps were done with my right leg anyway.
It was only when I started practising yoga that I realized how severe the problem was. I could barely open my legs 90° in a side split, simply due to my left gracilis. This came as a shock to me, as I hadn’t bothered to attempt a side split for years after I injured my gracilis, and also because I used to be able to do a 180° very comfortably. Determined to get my 180° side split back, I stretched out my hamstrings twice daily for fifteen minutes, slowly opening my split a little each day. After three months of slow but constant practice and stretching, together with the healthy mindset of taking things a day at a time and not pushing into any pose or through any pains, I managed to get my side split back to 180°! It was then when I realized how important it is to not just be aware of your body, but also to not push yourself more than you should to achieve a particular goal.
TYX (200hour Hatha/Ashtanga Weekdays)