Hello and Happy Monday,
That's right, yoga saved my butt, well actually, my back. About a year after I had Melissa, I had lower left side back pain that on a good day had me wrapped up in ice and/or heat and on a bad day had me doubled over and if I had a choice, stay in bed all day pain. The pain left me only able to sleep on my right side. I'd love to tell you I got this taken care of quickly, but the truth is, I didn't take the time or have the resources to fix it. As I practiced yoga, some of the pain would alleviate and with a 3-year-old and one-year-old, when that pain seemed to disappear, it was no longer a priority. By the time Melissa was 3, it was ridiculous that I hadn't taken care of myself and was still living with this back pain. By then I was teaching a few classes a week, and learning more and more about anatomy, mostly to help solve this back pain issue. I had started taking Pilates classes again because some of my teachers suggested strengthening my core to help with the pain, and it helped, but the pain persisted. Then one day I came across an article about the psoas muscle, the more I read about it and the issues it can cause matched what I was feeling. I learned so much that day about the psoas muscle and was excited to try out the postures I had already been practicing but with a different intention.
At the time I was attending 532 Yoga on Washington Street, not only was it 4 blocks from where I was living my friend and favorite teacher, Brittanie DeChino was teaching there. I mention this because that studio was gently heated - the thermostat was always set between 80-85 and I had a good teacher that knew about the body. I showed up to class and asked Brittanie if we could work on some front line, psoas opening postures and of course, she obliged.
I remember that class clearly. I remember being in a low lunge, right foot forward left leg back and Brittanie asked us to bend into our back leg and reach for the foot. As we stayed there for a few breaths, something happened. I felt a release. And after almost 4 years of discomfort, it appeared that my back pain was gone! I was in disbelief. I was so happy and yet so scared it would come back. That night I slept on my left side without pain smiling the entire time. The pain was gone. I was already paying close attention to how I moved, slept, walked, all so this pain didn't come back and now I was even more diligent so it didn't return. I was still learning about this psoas muscle and all it encompassed and here is what I noticed.
- When I didn't get a good night sleep - up for a few hours comforting a child- my back pain came back
- When I was extra stressed out - my back pain came back
- When I wasn't taking care of myself - not doing yoga, shallow breathing - my back pain came back
- When I was scared or afraid and let those fears take over - that back pain came right back.
I learned that my psoas on my left side was stretched out and super tight. Think about pulling a rubber band so tight it can't move. While comparing muscles to rubber bands is not my favorite analogy, I think it makes it clear. I learned that muscles can be stretched out and weak, or stretched and toned, or not stretched and weak and not stretched and toned. And there are more in-betweens in there. I also learned that when I don't take care of myself it's not just that I don't feel great, I am in literal physical pain.
How I practice as a student has a great influence on how I teach and how and what I teach isn't fixed, I am always evolving and learning. Yoga really saved my back and what I hoped with how I teach and the workshops I put together helped others too.
I'd love to hear how the asana practice has had an influence on you.