How Yoga Helped my Injury More than Medication

Written by Claire Austen.

I was in 7th grade at the time of the accident. I sat in the very last seat of the school bus and chatted away to my friend across the isle. It happened so fast I didn't even know what hit us. The bus was stopped to drop off a child when suddenly we were all thrown forward in our seats from a large impact from behind. I had been sitting sideways in my seat at the time we were hit, and my head was thrown against the seat in front of me, causing my neck to bend in ways it never should.

plank pose

At first I felt no pain. I even whipped my head around to see the source of the impact. Peering out of the back window, I saw a car lodged underneath the side of the bus where I sat. A man lay unconscious and bloodied in the driver's seat. Was he alive? I wasn't so sure.

The ambulance came and I was taken to the hospital. I sustained a severe sprain to my neck and several hairline fractures. For the next month, I walked around with my neck tilted sideways. Whenever I moved my head I experienced excruciating pain.

As I grew up, the neck pain never entirely went away. X-rays of my neck showed calcium build-up in the discs that had been fractured. This caused several nerves in my neck to pinch. For years I used everything from prescription pain medication and Advil to chiropractic spinal manipulations and massage therapy in an effort to ease the pain. Although these things did help, they never entirely eased the pain and were not long-term solutions.

Then, in 2008, I was fortunate enough to discover yoga. Under the guidance of my yoga teacher, I gradually worked my way through poses that involved moving the neck. I admit there was a good amount of discomfort for the first year whenever I attempted poses like Camel pose, Full Upward Dog, and Fish Pose. But my teacher strongly emphasize that I never allow myself to feel pain while holding a pose. If I felt pain, she instructed me to stop immediately and back out of the pose. However, she said a bit of discomfort could go a long way.

And a long way it did go. After about a year of yoga practice, the near constant ache in my neck had resided. And poses that once caused discomfort could be done comfortably.

Today, I've found that if I skip a few days of my yoga practice, the aching pain in my neck starts to creep back. But within a few days of being back on the mat, the pain has resided once again.

Easing my neck pain is just one of the many things that yoga has done for my life. I feel very fortunate and blessed that I stumbled upon this ancient practice nearly four years ago.

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