The Doctor Is In Meditation

Steph Schwartz, a yoga instructor and accomplished ultra-runner, explains how the mind-body connection can play into healing injury. “Yoga is all about focus and being present. It allows you to get to know yourself more so you can get to the root of the things you are holding onto that may be manifesting themselves through your physical body.”

Chris Klinga, an experienced climber crushed by a rock the size of a coffee table while belaying a friend in Eldorado Canyon used yoga to get beyond the physical and into the mental aspect of healing. He broke both legs and feet and shattered his pelvis. After 13 surgeries and physical therapy, he added yoga, acupuncture and massage to his recovery regime. “The biggest part of coming back strong from an injury is training your mind. I really had to strengthen my head, and that’s one thing that Eastern medicine definitely does better than Western medicine. Since the accident, I would consider myself way stronger mentally.”

Matching the Mindset

Athletes are often a different breed: health focused, driven, results-oriented. From pro endurance mountain bikers to casual joggers, no one wants to hear they have to stop doing what they love. Time off can be detrimental to all aspects of an athlete’s life, from career, to team, to family, to psyche. “When you’re treating athletes, there’s a totally different mindset,” explains Boulder Therapeutics’ Abookire. “The focus has to be on helping an athlete heal so they can get back in action, back to what they enjoy—whether it’s running 100-mile races or going on a short hike.”

Alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage and yoga are not invasive, have limited side effects and don’t require recovery time like surgery. In other words, athletes can often continue training while undergoing these treatments. “I was drawn to alternative options because if you go see a doctor they say to ‘take a break’. Well this is basically my job, so a break isn’t really an option for me unless it’s a serious injury,” says Adriana Pirtea Nelson, a top distance runner who logs up to 110 trail miles per week and is gunning for a shot on the 2012 Olympic team. Nelson sought alternative treatment for a nagging hamstring injury that had been holding her back for three years. “It’s important to find practitioners who are athletes themselves and work specifically with athletes. They know where you are coming from and focus on treatments to get you back to where you were instead of giving you pills and saying to take time off.”

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