Nagging groins and Yoga apps (Guest post)

Growing up, my mother, who loves to watch sports, would laugh every single time she heard a commentator say a player had a “nagging groin.” There’d always be snickers and, if she was feeling particularly ribald that day, suggestions between her and my father about what and why the (almost inevitably male) groin was nagging. Until last May, these memories were the extent of my interest in the subject of nagging groins.

Then I played a soccer game in early May in -4 C weather and strained my groin, apparently badly straining the right adductor brevis muscle and “tweaking” my right adductor magnus muscle. The left side was equally displeased. The combination of an ineffective warm-up in cold weather, muscles that had not kicked a ball in some months, and age meant that for the first time ever in my personal history of playing sports I had to go down on the field of play. I managed to hobble off on my own, and I was smart enough to stay off the field for the rest of the game.

Long story short: I did those things one is supposed to do to treat a strained groin. I rested, I iced, I gently stretched. I was back exercising and playing relatively quickly, although I still had the odd twinge in the muscle for a long while. I got better at kicking with my left leg. By July I was hiking on Hadrian’s wall, playing soccer, and doing pretty well everything normally.

I say “pretty well everything” intentionally: I couldn’t sit cross-legged.

I could sprint, squat, and kick, with no pain. I could swing my leg across my body. I could lunge, twist, and push off. I just could not sit cross-legged.

Of course it infuriated me to no end. I went from being someone with flexibility in that area of her body to someone whose knees were up around her ears at every attempt to sit cross-legged. I needed to regain flexibility, and after a month, I knew it was going to be a long, slow process. I went back to yoga, telling the instructors that I needed help with modifying the poses, spending a lot of time being gentle with myself (even as I continued to play that aggressive sports that I love with good reason [see previous post, In Praise of Physically Aggressive Sports). Yoga helped a great deal, and I made incremental, but noticeable gains when I did it more regularly (which for me was three times a week.)

In the summer I could make it to two classes, but as the fall term got under way I had to accept that the class that I had been going to on Tuesdays at noon was not going to be possible. I couldn’t suspend the balls I had to juggle for the two hours it would take to get there, not in the middle of the day on a typically intense day of my work week. I noticed that I began to constantly agonize over when I could fit MORE of it in to an already full life in order to keep making progress on regaining my flexibility. Factoring all of the things that I have to factor in – costs, childcare, time, other commitments – I had to accept that if I believed that yoga was helping (it was) and if I knew I needed to do it more regularly (I did), that I would need to do it at home more than once a week. It meant confronting my inability to stick to a home yoga practice …

This comic by my friend Jules pretty well sums up my home practice of yoga: Used with permission.


Here is the point in this blog post where, if you have not noticed it already, my own privileged position will be made entirely clear. Because my solution to what counts as a problem in my life was to find an app for my (new) phone, something that would help me do yoga more regularly, something that mimicked as closely as possible the experience of being in a class. This solution worked for me because I wanted the aural cues for the pose more than I wanted the visual cues (such as would be provided in a magazine), and I do not have a television in an area that would work for yoga (so a dvd was not an option). I wanted something that would work when I travel as well. I decided on the app called “Yogify” that allows you to select some or all of a series of classes. The classes range from 15 minutes to 60 minutes, and they offer “strength,” “flexibility,” or “balance” programs at three different levels. In total, I think I have 45 different options.

I can (and do) complete a 15 minute long class called “Great Groins” while my child is in the bath. I can (and do) complete a 30 minute long class called “Rock Star” in the early hours of the morning, after I am done meditating and before my house wakes up. I can (and do) complete the longer classes on nights when I am in a hotel. It works for me. Proof: On Dec 27th, for the first time in almost eight months, I managed to meditate with crossed legs. In other words, I held the static position for, in this instance, more than a half an hour. I still don’t have the same flexibility I used to, and I still have to be extremely patient with myself. But it is no longer an exercise in frustration to get on the floor to play with my son or to sit comfortably with my legs crossed.

Now if only the cat would stop attacking my wrists while I am in downward dog …

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