Injuries are Gurus

Dear Yogi,

I thought of myself as an indestructible, bionic woman in 2007. As a professional aerialist, I could bench press my body weight, do more pull-ups than most men I knew, and was getting booked by an agent for dramatic shows on my red silks at casinos, art museums and the like. I was a certified yoga teacher lauded in my Midwestern community as an archetype of strength and fitness. I had plans to move to Philadelphia that year to further my circus education and teaching career when my shoulder started hurting.

What started as a nagging discomfort in my shoulder quickly became debilitating, searing pain. I thought I was simply overdoing it and took some time off from my training. I sought help from a kinesiologist, a chiropractor, and massage therapists. I tried Reiki and meditation, but got only minimal relief.

I moved to Philadelphia later that year, and enrolled in aerial classes, but the brutal pain came back immediately. I was devastated that I couldn’t finish the first session due to my shoulder. I left every class in tears, and felt like such a failure. I, the once-bionic woman, couldn’t do what I loved any more. The pain was limiting more and more activities. Aerials were out of the question, and yoga was becoming more and more difficult. I couldn’t drive my stick shift car. Even lifting a glass of water made me grimace.

One day in class, I was in Urdhva Dhanurasana (full wheel pose) and my teacher came over and asked me to move my hands more under my shoulders. I said casually, oh sorry, I can’t, because I can’t bend my right elbow fully. Why not? she asked. Oh, 10 years ago I broke my upper arm bone, and after it was set, I never regained full range of motion. The doctors and physical therapists couldn’t figure it out. Why didn’t I tell her this when she asked about injuries at the beginning of the training? she seemed so concerned. I shrugged. It doesn’t seem like an injury to me. It’s just my weird elbow….I’m used to it…..I mean, my elbow doesn’t HURT or anything….and then it hit me all at once, before she even said anything. “When one part of the body is stuck, another part will move too much to compensate”……

Like when doing pull-ups as an aerialist: if you can’t bend your elbow fully your shoulder will come out of the socket to finish the movement. With every pull-up, every time I had placed my hands for wheel pose, every time I threw my backpack over my right shoulder, every pose that asked for deep elbow flexion, I was hurting myself. I was re-injuring my right shoulder every day with countless little actions.

However, the pain became so familiar that I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t even consider it an injury anymore.


Your pain is telling you about asymmetries, movement patterns and misalignments in your body. LISTEN. As I dug into the asymmetries deeper, I learned that not only had my right shoulder adapted by becoming hyper mobile, but my right ribs were shifting to accommodate.

After working privately with Zhenja, I was able to first become aware of my unconscious movement patterns and tendencies and then adjust them bit by bit overtime to prevent future pain. Thank you, injury (and Zhenja), you are my guru.

If you’re ready to quit adapting to your pain and instead get to the bottom of it to find a solution, it’s time to schedule private instruction. Our teachers are highly trained experts in alignment and anatomy. They’ll help you learn why you keep hurting yourself, and the ways you can re-pattern to live pain-free.


Reply to this email with questions.