As regular readers of my blog will know, back in the summer I injured my back. It did me good in a way that these challenges often do. Encouraging me to notice where I had become complacent and what parts of my life needed attention. With hindsight I had been out of alignment since a small car accident late in 2011 and feel that this probably led to a slightly compromised posture. We all make compensations for pain or stiffness in one part of our body and these can lead to other injuries or highlight previously unnoticed weakness.
This year has been an educational year in a number of ways. Encouraging me to study more into the physical aspects of yoga therapy, to explore the effects of such on my own injuries, weaknesses and mis alignments. Even how I coped with the pain of my back was good for me in a number of ways….even if it just allowed me more compassion for others with intense nerve pain it was worth it.
One lesson it highlighted is that I had neglected my daily physical practice over the early summer months. With other activities, admin and day to day life such as house DIY being given priority. Something I am sure all of us with a daily yoga practice do at times! Some months our practice is enthusiastic and easy to maintain, we may bounce out of bed onto our meditation cushion or yoga mat to indulge in a flowing smooth practice. At these times we never seem to have quite long enough to really appreciate the joys our practice is able to provide. Whereas other months it is only the discipline of knowing we need it for physical and emotional wellness that gets us onto our mat. It was after a couple of these less easy months that my back injury emerged.
There is no excuse but a wrist injury from gardening (yes it’s been one of those years for breaking myself!) had restricted my physical practice. I was non weight bearing for 6 weeks which meant many of my own practices weren’t the joyful flowing experiences that they had been on previous months and therefore I was having a bit of an ‘internal pout’ time of disgruntlement. This meant that rather than really doing a balanced practice I was often doing a shorter and less balanced practice with my mind often more on what I couldn’t do than what I could. Even this practice was sometimes foregone totally and hence my meditation practice also suffered as I find the two often flow together..,.sitting after loosening my body physically or feeling the joy of being alive and the need to move after a seated meditation or pranayama (breathing) practice.
This is part of the integration of yoga, for me anyway. That although each limb is in a way separate, they all integrate as a whole which encourages wellness in mind and body. When one limb is neglected I find it easier to neglect more and slip into old habits of externalising blame and feelings of suffering. So my discipline, tapas, was lessened as my meditation practice lessened and vice versa. So this summer taught me, and weekends since have reminded me, that a regular practice doesn’t need to be long, it doesn’t need to be anywhere in particular, but it does need to happen. Just making myself sit quietly or move on my mat for few minutes. Maybe for an entire song, which will often mean I then stay for three or four,or longer…re discovering how much better I feel as I do so. Yoga ing myself out of my mental or physical rut.
Anyway back to now. My back is so much better…I still have a partly numb foot and a herniated disc but in a way I’m almost healthier for the injury! Looking at the scan results and how my body feels and moves really highlight the positive effects of the yoga therapy. As with many of my lessons…I sometimes need to break to notice what I need to maintain myself and stay on my journey to wellness. I am enjoying exploring the principles of back care in observing the effects in myself. One great practice that I have incorporated into my daily practice is shown on my core strength 2 video on YouTube. Obviously working with your health professionals guidance as to what is appropriate for your body, in my opinion this is a great way of working through stages of strengthening and mobilising the core. So maybe try it and see for yourself. See if you notice a difference by including it into your regular practice. Or maybe for you it is more about using the new year as a reason to initiate a regular practice and noticing how much your life improves on a number of levels. I’d ask you to learn from my mistakes and maintain it through business, new passions and illness. In at least some form or another, but I know we all have this lesson to learn for ourself, in my case over and over again! That is however the joy of yoga, being an eternal student and accepting it’s a lifetime’s practice 🙂
And that it is worth it 🙂