Diaphragm Injury

Hi everyone.

I’m new to the board and this is my first post here.

Six years ago I got into doing yoga. I did a few classes, and then, not being aware of the risks, I promptly bought a book, and began practicing yoga and advanced pranayama at home on my own.

Unfortunately my body was not ready for it. To put a long story short I suddenly became very ill. Initially I came out in a rash, then joint pains developed and I developed full blown autoimmune disease (joints, bowels, kidneys and liver all affected). After two years I had lost 14kg, I was jaundiced and my body was wrecked. Medical doctors never figured out what was going on, but I improved myself 80% by changing diet and lifestyle.

Now that I have largely conquered the inflammation, I am left with the structural damage to deal with. Being aware of my breathing and body through yoga I realise that my left diaphragm is (I suppose) semi-paralysed and very weak - especially on exhalation. I have not yawned or taken a “full breath” since the day I got ill and my left diaphragm clicks very loudly when I exhale - like it’s clickking over my bottom rib. All the abdominal muscles in my left abdominal area are very weak and knotted, my left psoas is in spasm, and I have a left hip and knee problem just to top it all off.

Having given up long ago on the medical profession, my assumption is that I have a functional diaphragm problem which is twisting my body up like a corkscrew. I have tried multiple therapies to get my body back in shape, but none have worked.

I have read stories of pranayama being a double edged sword, and I am living testimony to that. My thoughts now are that since it is pranayama (albeit done not as yoga intended) that made me ill, I need to conquer my breath and diaphragm to return to full health. However, being aware of the risks of pranayama done wrong, I am nervous of going ahead.

I feel that I need guidance, but unfortunately here in the UK it seems that most yoga classes are exercise/stretchy yoga with a bit of deep breathing to relax at the end. I feel that I need an experienced yogi to help me through this. Someone that I can trust and someone that will help me find my breath, and through this restore my health.

Does anyone have any suggestions on where to start?
I live in Surrey, UK (near London).

Thanks in advance guys !


This is such an important post for yoga practitioners to read. I have spoken about the nature of pranayama and its power but to have someone testify brings more wind into the sails of the ship.

I don’t believe a discourse on this is particularly relevant. What I do think is relevant is that you locate Drew Stallcop in London. Drew is the only 2,000-hour certified Purna Yoga? teacher in the UK and having trained with him side-by-side I can tell you he is a thoroughly trained, compassionate, wise teacher of the complete (purna) practice.

He can be googled and you may mention that I directed you to him.



I’m very sorry you have this problem and such physical distress, and I hope you find a solution.

But can you share what it was particularly which caused the damage?

Hi Deeks,

Thanks for sharing your story and being so frank.And welcome to the forum.It’s good to have you here.

To me ,it sounds like you’ve got a dominant pingala by the sounds of things.What does that mean? Well you need your ida & pingala,corresponding to left & right sides of the body.,approx. iin balance for healthy functioning.What can happen occassionally is, i believe, we can bring a very temporary balance( & awaken sushumna temporarily- the ‘energy’ equivalent of the spinal cord) using sometimes too powerful techniques,that an inadequately purified system is’nt quite ready for, & practiced over too short time-scales. And one side , the less dominant side ,especially if there was an existing imbalance that existed prior to the commencement of any formal practices, goes back to sleep & remains dormant and the dominant one is still awake or somewhat over-stimulated.This can cause a disturbance in the energy body or another way of putting it- a nervous system disorder i would classify it if that’s of any use.

I can tell you that one of your greatest allies,i think, is probably anuloma viloma 1 & 2 or nadi shodhan,aka “alternate nostil breathing”.This is a great balancer,one of the bestfor this situation i feel… I would also recommend deep meditation and some light rounds of spinal breathing ( see www.aypsite.org for more info & online lessons) if you’re a difficult case.

I am curious however what practices you might remember doing , if there is anything specific ,that maybe precipitated this change in your health status.

As these issues arised from tryiing to follow books , then consulting a teacher might be a wiser course of action. When you say you feel you need the experience of an experienced yogi, i actually could’nt agree more with that statement.I know from experience that if this is your introduction to yoga it can be very bewildering and confusing. And understand & appreeciate your nervousness especially to pranayam. A good tip is to start off gradually from the basics taking an incremental approach.If you get in touch with the breath,befriend it ,you’ll find there’s noothing to fear.

I think you’ve tackled two of the potentially most difficult issues that help you towards self-healing which as you mentioned, the diet and lifestyle areas.I still really struggle at times with diet myself.It’s so basic yet it makes the difference.

You actually sound like what i had; the symptoms sound like classic ones and pretty much down to a T with what i experienced.One side of the body,the left in my case…You get compensatory twists and de-rotations in the vertebrae as you so well described, together with the side-tilting, tight hip or posas. My initial diagnosis was intially tight hip flexors on one side or psoas muscles,the prime mover in the body that initiates locomotion, then i delved somewhat deeper and began to unearth a deeper & more complete picture.I had a slight imbalance before i started yoga that got somehwat exacerbated and then i pretty much stopped the hatha yoga altogether as i realised it was’nt really helping, or at least not the way i was practicing it.It was possibly just over-stimulating pingala, the dominant nadi, and muscles were just getting tighter and so on.An approach that addresses the nervous system, at the root, would be a good one for these issues, i think.Learniing to access the breath, or the flow and distribution of prana, is part of that.

There’s nothing to fear once you start seeing improvements, then you’re back in the driving seat.My hunch is though it might be hard to find experienced teachers for say a fuller yoga practice.Pranayam is best one on-one and probably demands more energy and commitment from a teacher.I just don’t know if many teachers have either the experience ,the inclination or the time and willing to commit…And it’s obviously unfortunate that this occurred from a book.Many seem to teach mainly " stretchy" yoga, as you say,so i would’nt fear practicing but i can appreciate your nervousness.I would say always go slowly,less is more,start off with basics( e.g- no ratios or retentions say if you do nadi shodhana, at least to start with certainly and plenty of resting in savasana or recuperative poses perhaps to assimilate any changes) and always use common sense.I know that might sound a bit glib.

I would avoid a vigourous practice as it’s unlikely (if it has’nt helped already),certainly on it’s own,in my experience to help with these kinds of issues.

Thanks for the replies. Inner Athlete - I have contacted Drew Stallcop…

What caused my problems? I wish I knew !

My guess is that even prior to starting yoga, I had certain musculoskeletal compensations locked into my body due to a combination of unresolved emotional stuff and poorly executed dental work as a youngster.

I am a believer that any emotional trauma if not physically or emotionally released at the time of the experience, or soon after, is locked away into the mind-body system (as suggested by Wilhelm Reich in the last century). In my case I think even since childhood, a lot of stress/tension was being held in my diaphragm. The whole notion of taking a sharp in breath (due to fear or shock) and not releasing the diaphragm, due to a maintained “stress response” holds strong resonance with me. I spent many of my developing years in fear and probably “holding my breath”.

As with many people childhood wasn’t great. There was lots of fear and anger in my childhood home. This without doubt had an effect on my breathing. I had asthma as a kid - this has been scientifically linked to a stress response. It can be triggered in children at will by triggering a fear or shockresponse. Apart from a bit of mild asthma though, I noticed no imbalance or health problems as a child.

Secondly, as a teenager I underwent two years of unsuccessful and very painful orthodontic work (dentistry in the UK was pretty medieval in the 80’s and 90’s). This has resulted in a pretty severe dental maocclusion, an imbalanced bite and a jaw (or TMJ) imbalance. I know that a malocclusion like this can set off structural imbalances into the rest of the body and affect the cranial bones, cranial nerves such as the trigeminal and vagus which control digestion etc…

But like I said, all felt fine until I suddenly fell ill at 25years old. When I was doing advanced yoga, untrained, on my own, and feeling on top of the world after each time I did it!

I was performing Kapalabhati, viloma, anuloma and even bhastrika. I was not aware of the risks, and was doing them all with vigour for 20-30 minutes after a daily routine of asanas. I felt dizzy and elated and felt almost “high”, and carried on since it felt good at the time. I experienced a mid-back inury (where the diaphragm inserts into the thoraco-lumbar spine) and then very quickly I developed inflammatory and digestive symptoms, and the downward spiral began.

I have read about Kundalini. The elation of a positively raised Kundalini and the illness of kundalini when the practitioner is not prepared for it. I have had amazing and exstatic experiences with yoga as well as the nightmare one I have outlined.

I feel really strongly that exactly as core789 suggested, getting in touch with my breath and my body again, and ultimately mastering these is the way I need to go to get my health back. I can not help but feel nervous about it though. I think I need to go back to basics with my breathing and perhaps find an experienced teacher/yogi to help me through this. Core789 I think you are right…it is frustrating, but my instinct is telling me that I need to avoid anything vigorous and really go back to basics.

Hi Deeks,

You mentioned Willhem Reich whom i don’t know a great deal about just that some(not me) may have found him a little controversial at the time.

I’d like to share this video about him , his theories:-

The positing of orgone energy,“life-force energy” or primeval psycho-sexual energy, for which he may have been ridiculed or derided for at the time, certainly appears to invite the comparison with the prana yogis talk about , or even the dark matter/energy astro/quantum physicists talk about

.Even the reference to the basis of energy being psycho-sexual, a motivating force, also sounds like kundalini, or inviting comparison, from the yogic model.It may be academic but the comparisons that can be drawn ,certainly from the yogic perspective and other allied mind-body disciplines & therapies,i find interesting.

As you know , unlocking the mysteries of prana or energy is a real key in yoga.

I find Reich’s theories fascinating. But mostly his theory of us unconsciously creating a “body armour”. According to Reich this is a somato-emotional response to unresolved emotional conflict/trauma.

For me, a part of yoga is developing my energy and energetic being. I think working through this emotional body armour through the use of yoga, meditation and Om, are fundamentals in my practice.