Injuries. A blessing or a curse?

Injuries. A blessing or a curse?

Since I can remember I have started dancing, I can easily say that I have experienced a lot of injuries.

From smaller to bigger ones and even some heavy ones, that one could call career threatening.

And yet, today, if I look back, I can count some good years on stage as a professional Ballet dancer, despite this little unhappy moments, that in the end, are part of what we do.

I have not had always the best support next to me in terms of recovery when it came to injuries. For me was more “when there is a will there is a way”and a big curiosity of learning and exploring these fields, in order to go on.

In the end this and my love and passion for dance has taken me to meet the right people in this areas and learn a lot about myself and my body.

But let’s go back to our main subject: you got an injury. Assuming you are a “veteran” in this chapter or just a “newie”.What is the NexT step?

I believe from my personal experience but also from observing other colleagues around me throughout the years, that injuries come in phases:

  1. The shock aka the moment when the injury happens
  • Body is going through a trauma. Pain enters the scenery, and suddenly you are restricted from moving/dancing.Your whole system is concentrating in healing, leaving you usually exhausted both physically and mentally
  1. The Negative phase

Despair , anger, tears, pain come next and flood you with their best tools and with an arsenal of negative thoughts and feelings.

You see nothing but pain, you see a dead future in dance.Drama strikes.

“That’s it , it’s over! Why is this happening to me. I shall quit dancing, I am out, I am useless.I worth nothing if I am injured. What will happen to me now? “

These are just few example and thoughts that run freely through our sad minds when we are in this phase.

Depending on the case and of the severity of an injury , taking a break is usually the first recommendation plus medication. Then after a period of time, decided by the doctors and the physiotherapist, you can start the  rehab journey.

  1. The acceptance

At this point no matter how serious or not the injury might be, you get to that point where you have to accept what has happened to you. This is also a key moment of the whole process of being injured, because you need to start helping your body to understand the injury and to help it heal.

Although is sounds so great here on paper, usually this is maybe, one of the hardest injury phases in the life of a dancer.

Why? Well basically an injury will put you off the routine and the life rhythm you have had daily so far. One day , out of blue ,boom, a change is forced to happen.Maybe you were just to get promoted , maybe it was your first big role, maybe you were at your peak of career, maybe you were just feeling great . The reasons are countless in order to say … “this came in such a bad time …”.It is true, an injury unfortunately does not have a schedule, it comes out of the blue without warning and never welcomed.

Unless in some cases, we are given signs or warnings  , such as “ you should take care of this or that” , injuries are very much out our control.

Another thing a dancer, usually does not like.

So yes, one can imagine why it is so hard for dancers in this situation to see the light or any positivity.

Usually it is the far opposite spectrum, with the easy feeling of falling into the tornado of  despair, spiced up with low moods and negative mind set. (“ I will never be back on stage again. I will never dance again”).

Meanwhile you are dealing with these things that are tearing you apart on the inside, life goes on and everyone is dancing like you also did some days ago. And just from this common perspectives, you feel left behind.

Your mind will go always faster than the body, and you might wanna feel a bit better one day and say “oh I am ready”but in reality you are not. At this point a strong bond with your therapists and doctors is mandatory.

From a personal view, this is a moment where you gotta press the brake in the recovery process and try as much as possible, on your own terms, to bring these two big parts the body and the mind, on the same line.

It can be very hard for a dancer that for example, that got injured on stage during a rehearsal or performance , to even watch a ballet performance in the following days or even months. The whole system is affected, body and mind.

This is a moment where one has to turn inwards and accept the situation and focus their energy on healing and actually trusting the rehab process. It is also crucial and of a great importance to have the right people next to you to guide through this, and as well as being close to your friends and family.

  1. The rehab

Somebody while ago said to me, that the rehab is probably the most important process that an injury can lead you to.Wise words . And here I would like to develop a bit more the concept of  “ blessing or curse”.

As I previously said, the main feelings regarding injuries are staying in a big percentage, in the negative space.

We easily fall into the victim place and start pitying ourselves , our lives and/or our experiences.

Here I dare, to put the foot down and say this: Yes!I totally agree that these kind of experiences are never pleasant, and this is not about making them so. BUT, they do take us inevitably, to certain roads in order to heal.

And these roads are paved and filled with knowledge and new resources, new ways or understanding things or how to approach them differently.

You get to see and understand that body is incredibly smart and it is a system that knows how to deal with a lot of things and situations. We just need to be more in touch with it , listen and take care of it as we are not used to and either trained to do so.

You will also get to understand during this time, that yes you might not be able to dance and train as you used to for a while, but that there are so many other ways that can keep you trained , just different. . You might also  realize that you will have more time to discover things outside the ballet world, expand your horizons, or just focus on something else for a while.

Personally, from the multitude of injuries that I had, looking back now, I have always came out those journeys  with a bigger or a smaller lesson. Never negative.

I will write here couple examples that I can connect with:

– creating a better routine in training / warm up  for example before class or before

– understanding what your body needs at that time ( better alignment, posture, placement)

– treating your body better ( pre routine or post routines for both training sessions and performances)

– training more specific a certain area of that body ( knee, ankle, toes, shoulder etc)

– creating a new, healthier routine

– adding different trainings to your routine ( strength, cardio, stability, flexibility, endurance , pilates, yoga etc)

– change your diet in order to keep your body healthy and strong

– nutrition knowledge

– getting different perspectives in movement (ex: how do you dance after experiencing lower back injury and what do you need to change in order be able to do the things you were doing before)

– creating a new mind set and/ or keeping your mind set up during a rehab process

– get more in contact with yourself, your emotions (understand and be aware of  how are the emotions are affecting the body )

– finding a new path in life

– understand some phsycological patterns within yourself

– understand how the injury happened and why, learn from it

– learning to trust yourself and your body despite these challenges

– creating a new form of discipline and constancy in your rehab process

– understand how the body works and respect its own pace and the time it needs to heal

– balance the work life and the personal life

– getting new ideas or perspective for your future

– helping others through your experience

– creating new Exercices /new methods of training ( ex. How was gyrotonic invented)

-learning to listen more to your body  and its limits

The rehab process  is where you get to reconnect to all levels with yourself.

Think that , only by the simple fact that you have to do daily the same exercises for a certain period of time in order to heal and  strengthen a certain structure. You will have doctors and physiotherapists by your side to watch and support your progress (I would certainly hope so !), but in the end it is your work you are doing with and for your body. And it is like a bond that you create within yourself and that no one can break it. Body and mind.

I will not deny the frustration that will come in these periods. I won’t say that it is easy. Some rehab process are more tedious than others and it clearly depends on each person’s background and body.And certainly It will require lots of amounts of patience and constancy.

  1. The coming back

The day has come and the trumpets are absolutely singing in your head, when you get the green light form the rehab team ,that you can dance again.

I would mention here, that even if you feel super man/ woman and you ready to fly in class and on stage, don t lose that connection you have worked on , in the rehab process between mind and body. Still listen to your body and see what it will need at this point .

It is a big difference between the rehearsals and performance rhythm and the actual rehabilitation program. So be patient and take things gradually and smart.

Stay present and acknowledge everything that you have learned in the process so far, and apply it.

The Body will show its own gratitude soon and things will be back to normal before you know it.

As conclusion, my point is that in  that in all this injury chaos, there is light and there is always hope. There is always something new waiting for you to discover it in it .It might need work , you might need to get vulnerable , get to places inside yourself that you were to afraid to go, fight your worse demons! You might feel to cry , to laugh, maybe do both in the same time.You might have to break down walls, put the ego aside and start rebuilding yourself from zero.But you will make it .

As in the end, when you will get to the “finish line” I  say with all my heart, that you will not be the same person and dancer , that started this journey.You will feel much powerful , in connection with yourself and your own body.

Believe in yourself , believe in your body and think that nothing is impossible.

Your mind is your own limit.

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