I am no stranger to back pain. Most notably, lower back pain. I was born with scoliosis and suffered bouts of intense pain ever since I can remember. This did not slow me down as a child or as a young adult. I was very active and even trained in Martial Arts as an adult.
During a time of intense Martial Arts training, I over did it and aggravated my scoliosis pain and later discovered a herniated disc… and found myself barely able to move. I could only stand for about 15 minutes at a time and walking was a daunting feat. It was frustrating and depressing. I felt hopeless. It seemed like when things would start to show improvement and I could return to a normal life, some little tweet or maybe even sleeping in the wrong position would trigger the intense pain back and I would start all over again.
I was tested, poked and prodded. Needles hooked up to electricity were stuck all over my back and legs. Numerous X-rays and scans that left me wondering if I had exceeded my lifetime exposure. I was told I was being tested for this disease or that disease. Some of them didn’t even make sense… I was terrified. As all the tests came back negative and no doctor could take credit for finding the hidden answer to the pain I started to feel like they were just trying to scare me or use me for whatever research they happened to be working on.
The doctors called it the “perfect storm.” The combination of scoliosis, a herniated disc and pinched nerves. Lucky me. I was in the process of being scheduled for a procedure that would cauterize the nerves in my back. This is a typical surgery for this type of injury, but I was young and it wouldn’t last forever and I’d probably have to do it again, but it doesn’t work as well when repeated… they prefer to do it on older patients… These were some of the things I was told. I was also nervous about the idea of a procedure so close to my spine. Thankfully the pain subsided enough the night before the pre-test (when they numb the nerves to see if it relieves the pain), that I wasn’t able to do it and I was able to put off the surgery.
Maybe it was the fear or Divine intervention, who knows. Though the pain decreased a bit, it was still there and still preventing me from living the life that was my normal. I started doing physical therapy. It helped. It got me over the hump of seeing no improvements, but only brought me so far. It was then that I discovered Yoga Therapy. It was a strange coincidence that a friend steered me in that direction, not knowing much about it herself, but knowing my love for yoga. I had practiced Yoga for many years before, but it had taken a backseat to my Martial Arts training. I would not have been able to do the type of yoga that I was accustomed to, but this sounded different. I signed up for a training not knowing if my back would even allow me to complete it. But it did, things started to change and my journey and my healing began.
I feel that the process of recovery sometimes starts with “two steps forward and one step back.” We get so hung up on that step back that we forget to see how far we have come. Yes, it is a slow process, but then you reach a certain point when things speed up and you realize that you are able to do things that you couldn’t before.
A positive outlook is essential, though many times difficult.
My training in Ayurveda gave me a whole new perspective in addressing pain. Small diet and lifestyle changes accelerated the healing process and brought my awareness to a whole new level. The combination of Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda creates such a complete and wonderful system for healing and health.
As I started to heal, I became inspired to share what I had learned and shed light on the dark times of the healing process for others. Healing is individual and looks different for everyone, but there are fundamental things that we can all relate to.
My life long experience with back pain has given me a special understanding for the students and clients who visit me with back issues. There is hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things will get better.
Some examples of poses that have helped me and my clients with back pain:
Figure 4 Pose:
Cross ankle to opposite thigh just above knee. Place hand on knee. Gently push knee forward on exhale and release to neutral on inhale. Do this a few times and then switch sides. This loosens hips and stretches hamstrings and glutes/piriformis. When these areas are tight it can cause increased pain.
Apanasana (knees to chest):
This pose both stretches and eases the lower back. This is a go to pose for back pain and a great counter pose after backbends. Add movement by moving knees away from chest on inhale and drawing knees to chest on exhale.
Reverse Pigeon or Thread the Needle Pose:
Cross ankle to thigh just above the knees as in the first pose and then lift lower leg up and clasp hands behind thigh. Inhale hold gently, exhale draw legs closer to chest and use elbow to slightly push knee away for a more intense stretch. Inhale as you relax you legs back away from chest. Do this a few times and then switch sides. This is a more intense stretch than the Figure 4 Pose so I like to use the Figure 4 as a warm up to this one.
Balasana (Child’s Pose):
Wonderful pose for relaxing and stretching the back. Try focus on lengthening your tailbone towards your heels and drawing your shoulders down, away from your ears. Attempt to elongate your spine as much as possible.
Chakravakasana Variation (Hunting Dog Pose or Sunbird Pose):
This is a great pose for scoliosis because it moves and pulls in opposite directions creating length in the spine on both sides. Start on hands and knees. Inhale and engage your abdominal muscles (this will help with balance and fluid movement), lift one arm out in front of you while keeping your back steady and not dropping your shoulder. Exhale and bring your hand back down to the floor. Repeat with the other arm. When you are comfortable doing this, add the opposite leg when you lift your arm. Inhale, engage stomach, lift right arm and left leg out straight, exhale and smoothly come back to hands and knees. Repeat on other side keeping your back flat and steady.
Contact me or find a Yoga Therapist near you to create a routine that suits your needs and gets you on the path to healing.
May the sunlight shine on your back!