Yoga, My Lower Back and a Love Affair
Like many of you, I’m an office rat. Meaning, I sit – A LOT. You probably do too. This was probably the beginning of my back problems, though I was always the one who was checked a second or third time during scoliosis checks in elementary school. So hiding away someplace, there is probably a little atypical curve here or there that helps make me, well me. I digress though from our topic here so back to it. Sitting all day is hard on your lower back and my back was getting progressively worse. At this point I was in pain, and was not getting enough exercise just walking all over NYC.
Having never been one for sports per say, I did however always love swimming. They say it’s one of the best forms of all body exercise! I swam laps at my local gym for a year or so, but really, I was not feeling different or better. Sure I was a bit more fit, but overall, the way I felt on a daily basis was unchanged and that pool is incredibly difficult to get into when it’s cold outside. We had recently changed gyms and I was coerced and cajoled into trying yoga by my other half. It really did take some pushing to get me those first classes.
I have always been a fast paced person and I kind of prided on being such. Did I mention I live in NYC? I walk quickly, talk quickly and tended to steer clear of all things moving at a slow pace even before I moved here. I walked into yoga wondering how something so slow could really have so many benefits, and I was frustrated by the first few classes. Then after say, the 4th class or so I was beginning to ‘get’ the asanas (stretches) a bit better. At this point I was not a regular in one class, and I tried a few classes at a few different times/days with differing teachers so there were new things gained in each. The class I ended up attending primarily was a Hatha class that was chosen for the best overall stretch in one hour, so I left feeling rejuvenated. However, I learned more in a few of the other classes (Iyengar and others) about holding the poses, moving into them, how they feel and noticing and focusing only on me. I was the star of my own class. This was perfect for a non-competitive person like myself.
At the end of each class, I was still sometimes leaving before Shavasana and meditation. However, things began to change now that I was beginning to feel the benefits of the various asanas and found ways and improve my movements and poses. The pace of the class became tolerable because my focus moved to me internally, and how each asana was having effect. Having had a ‘special’ back all my life I had never really been great at forward bends to say the least, but now I was slowly making progress. As the yoga teacher I still go to says over and over, “…you want to go to edge of the stretch but never over the edge. Got right to that edge and with each out breathe inch yourself downward just another millimeter”. I could touch my toes and this was real progress!
I set up a better yoga routine and knew I had to snack before class. Once I began snacking beforehand, no matter the oxy-moronic rush to get there, I began staying through the entire class each and every time. Now that I was content with the pace of class I had to learn to adapt to Shvasana and stillness. At this point, I began to learn not just the more surface benefits of the class but to enjoy the deep relaxation. It took time and practice before I could stop myself from thinking about my upcoming dinner and instead focus on the now. How I was feeling, my breathe and the state of my body after our poses. Finally allowing myself to engage fully in this non-activity and having an enormous amount of stress occur in my day to day life really propelled me along. Suddenly, I was researching free meditation apps to try. Only the guided ones for quite some time! At this point yoga was changing how I felt physically and mentally by stretching me, but also quieting my mind and allowing the chaos, the constant reminding, worries and regrets to be significantly reduced. Instead I was refocused and secure.
I still sit for much of the day. Sure, I ensure I get up regularly, I stand on the train or when I’m eating breakfast sometimes, and I go for a walk at lunch. Let’s be clear though, I spend a good amount of time sitting. Reducing my stress levels has worked remarkably for my back, though it’s admittedly a work in progress after 4 years of yoga, but isn’t everything?
This was my story of my love affair with yoga. Share your thoughts on this post. Have you had a similar experience or did you find this inspiring as you weave through your own journey? If so, like and share please!