Posted by: Bruce Black | June 1, 2017

Ouch, My Aching Back!

We may spend hours learning to align our bodies properly in yoga poses to prevent injuries on and off the mat, but we can still end up hurting ourselves.

That’s what I learned last month when I sat on the side of my bed and leaned forward to tie my sneakers.

No sooner did I bend over than I felt as if I’d received an electric shock to my lower back. Seconds later I was sprawled facedown on the bedroom floor.

Not only couldn’t I get up, I was unable to move to either side and lay motionless on my stomach wondering how I could have thrown out my back by simply bending over to tie my sneakers.

It seems like such a simple action, one that I perform every day without a problem, and I practice yoga, so I consider myself relatively flexible. And yet I found myself on the floor, my spine throbbing with pain.

Ten minutes must have passed before I was able to roll onto my back, with my knees up. As I lay on the floor waiting for the pain to subside, I thought about getting older, and about the unexpected ways age can catch up to us. After another few minutes, I managed to stand and was able to walk into the kitchen, feeling lucky that I had been able to rise off the floor.

The next day I felt a dull ache in my lower back and a sharper pain if I wasn’t careful about how I moved my body, but at least I could move.

And in the week that followed I devoted my attention to how I walked, how I sat at a table, how I got into a car, how I leaned over the kitchen sink to wash dinner dishes, and how I bent over to load and unload the dishwasher.

Each day, as I performed another task, moving with care, I realized just how helpful my yoga practice has been to keeping my body healthy over the years. Without yoga, who knows? Perhaps I might not have recovered so quickly.

And as the week passed, I realized something else: thanks to my yoga practice, I had become more attuned to the way my body moved so I could move safely, even with an injury. Yoga gave me a way to monitor my movements for proper alignment.

This close attentiveness to my body–how I lowered myself into the driver’s seat of my car; how I climbed into bed each evening and left the bed each morning;  how I brushed my teeth; how I sat at my desk typing–was the result, I’m sure, of my yoga practice.

Each activity required close attention to how my spine was positioned since the slightest strain on my muscles, the slightest lack of attention, could have meant having to endure more pain.

My back is mostly healed now. But I can’t help thinking about how, over the years of practicing yoga, I’ve taken my spine for granted. How I’ve bent forward in Forward Bend without paying much attention to my spine. How I’ve reached to touch my toes without thinking about the gifts that yoga offered me–the gift of being able to bend, the gift of being able to touch the floor, and the gift of being able to rise up again without pain.

My injury was temporary, thank goodness, but it gave me an opportunity to appreciate yoga as a gift that can help me remember to care for my body, not just on the mat but off the mat as well.

Perhaps you’ve discovered this, too: how your practice can help keep your body healthy for years to come and remind you, as well, not to take any part of your body for granted.

Practice journal: While standing in Mountain Pose, notice your spine, how it feels to stand up straight, how it feels to lift your arms and twist gently left and then right, and how it feels to lower your arms. Can you be more aware of your spine? How? Can you describe its contribution to your wellbeing? Write: 10 min




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