Ohm—Ow: How an Injury Deepened My Yoga Practice. ~ Ilka Omdahl

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I knew something was wrong—my wrist hurt.

It pained me to push up: out of the tub, off a chair, out of the car. I dismissed it as overuse.

Months passed.

Recently, I discovered that I tore a ligament in my wrist, and that my ligaments in the other wrist were overstretched. Anatomy 101: ligaments connect bones together and once they are stretched, they are stretched for good. When they tear, sometimes they heal, sometimes they don’t.

Needless to say, I didn’t take the news well. One would have thought I found out my hands needed to be amputated, or my arms, or all my appendages. There was plenty of wine and even more tears.

Contemplation. Denial. Not necessarily in that order. Last week, I had a “Come to Jesus” meeting with myself  that lasted for about 46 hours, and then I was back in touch my inner Sara Bernhardt. I had to yell, “Stop!” out loud so I could shush the self-pity and calm the tantrums.

Today, I met with the occupational therapist, who along with my orthopedist, are true angels in disguise. I shared with him my mourning, and talked to him about my formerly vigorous yoga practice. He said in a matter-of-fact tone, “Those days are over.”

The words stung me. Not because I thought it was otherwise, not because the pain in my wrists indicated something was terribly wrong, but because I had just said those same exact words to a colleague when they asked why I was wearing a wrist brace and what that meant for my yoga.

Everything changes. Everything shifts. Sometimes what we have is a moment, or maybe hours, or it’s stretched out to years.

But in the end? Everything ends. The good and the bad.

I am finding with this ending a conscious acknowledgement of complete gratitude for a practice that has brought me the joy and excitement of my lifetime. Now, it must change.

Confession time: my fantasy posture was being able to do a handstand in the middle of the room. For me, that posture epitomized ultimate strength and grace. To be able to hold oneself upside-down always had me wowing on the inside. I never made it to the middle of the room—I only made it two, three, maybe four inches away from the wall, only seconds (maybe 10 tops), with my feet over my hands in one long line of energy. Then it was gone.

I am discovering, as I peel back the layers of disappointment and sadness of a former practice, that yoga is about presence. “Duh?!” one might say (I’m a slow learner). It’s the poses that we practice that force that presence—the poses both on and off the mat.

Life can do that, too, and experiences are just asanas in disguise. Those “asanas” whether or not they are practiced in the middle of the room, without support are just as meaningful as the ones we do, with props aplenty against any wall we might lean against. They take grace and strength, only a different kind.

I feel blessed to have had the yoga practice I had. I am excited for the new one that is ready to unfold before me.

I only pray I can stay awake and be present for it.



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About Ilka Omdahl

Ilka Omdahl is a middle school teacher by day and a yoga practitioner and teacher by night. Ilka teaches Vinyasa and Restorative yoga, and is a Relax and Renew Trainer®. She has her MFA in Film with a screenwriting emphasis and hopes to one day make her living as a writer. Ilka currently lives in Denver.


3 Responses to “Ohm—Ow: How an Injury Deepened My Yoga Practice. ~ Ilka Omdahl”

  1. Todd says:

    Yoga is not just asana anyway. Probably the best thing that ever happened to you..good luck

  2. anjelam32 says:

    A car accident in December damaged my wrist severely. I rediscovered Yoga during this time of pain due to the wonderful stretches and rehabilitative work that it provided me. I found some excellent videos online that focused on yoga for the wrists. I have diligently been doing yoga ever since, I just avoid some of the more painful postures such as downward facing dog. Most postures can still be done without putting any pressure on the wrists, and the ones that put light pressure only can be assisted by rolling the end of the mat and using the fingertips of the end so that the wrists are slightly elevated. Don't give up on yoga – you can develop a fantastic practice around the injury. You never know one day, you and I may find that the pain is finally gone and we can resume a normal practice – as the body has an amazing ability to heal itself with time.

  3. Ariana says:

    I love your perspective ~ I don't hear it said nearly enough that yoga is about presence, that asana isn't the end-all. Of course, asana practice is a fabulous tool for tuning the body, breath, and mind ~ but with awareness, anything can become yoga. It's a matter of tuning-in, paying attention. And it should be noted that even asana practice doesn't have to 'look' a specific way ~ every asana will be unique to each body.

    One question on the healing front: have you looked into prolotherapy? I've heard great things, including from my teacher Richard Freeman who had to resort to it once. Apparently, it somehow 'shocks' the ligaments into shortening (that is not the scientific description 🙂 I have heard about prolotherapy using saline injections, and those using stem cells. I've heard the latter is more effective, but you definitely want to go with someone with a great history of successful treatments. I've researched a bit because it's something I'm considering, and I can pass on my resources if you like. Just reply with your email if so…

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