Moving While Recovering From Injury or Illness

by Leela Devi

Group exercise classes bring an air of fun and comradery to our workouts. The expressiveness of dance brings smiles, while the deep relaxation at the end of class allows us to let go of our daily worries and struggles. Are you feeling sidelined by an injury or recovery from an illness? No need to let the fun pass you by, you can learn to participate in group fitness classes in a way that supports your healing process. Nia and Fit for Life both provide opportunities to engage with the joy of dance, the stimulation of interesting or uplifting music, the relaxation of a deep breath and stretch, and the fun of working out with positive people. Leela cues both of these classes with varying levels of intensity and modifications for situations you may be healing. Here are some attitudes that can help you make the most of class while learning to adapt the moves to fit your healing process.

  • Go easy on yourself – practice ‘beginner’s mind.’ Consider these classes “movement practice” – we come together to practice, not to be perfect. We are learning what works for us right now, at this time in our lives. Let go of what worked twenty years (or six months) ago and be present with where you are right now. No need to ‘try hard’ or ‘figure it out’ – find the movements that feel good. Keep the focus on the sensation of pleasure.
  • Listen to your body. Start small and work up to greater intensity over time, only when your body says you need more (ignore the ‘shoulds’ in your head – listen to the body). Never push into pain! If any movement hurts – don’t do it. Pain is body talk for “stop that!” Listen to your body. Just because a movement works for others does not mean it will work for you, right now. Modify your moves to find pleasure in your dance or stretch. Over stretching or overdoing any movement can cause injury or set back your healing process. The more you listen to your body, the more intelligence you will find.
  • Let your instructor know about your concerns, he or she can direct you towards alternative or smaller movements. Keep your focus on what’s working, what feels good, and move towards pleasure. Anxiety about pain produces greater pain. If you are in a lot of pain, you need medical care, not exercise. If you are not in extreme pain, you may find that shifting your focus to what feels good actually reduces the pain you do feel.
  • Be consistent in your practice – show up for yourself! Those who start and stop, and start and stop tend to give up before they establish the exercise lifestyle. If you over-did it one time – don’t stop – show up and find out how to avoid making the same mistake again. There is no shame in having to work smaller or slower, it’s all learning.
  • Notice that you are surrounded by some of the nicest people in the world. Your classmates are welcoming and willing to offer helpful tips to newcomers. Some of them have even been where you are right now. Don’t be shy, and if you are – that’s OK, too.

Don’t let an injury or healing condition keep you from finding the joy of movement. You can learn to take your movements down a few notches to a place where you can practice in safety and develop greater body awareness, along with all the other physical, mental, and emotional benefits of exercise.

Leela Devi is a Group Exercise Instructor at Timberhill Athletic Club.  She teaches Nia Tuesday/Thursday at 6:45 PM as well as Sunday at 11:30 AM.  Leela also teaches Fit For Life Monday/Wednesday at 1:00 PM and Friday at 12:30 PM. 

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