The secret is two fold. Good news and bad news, but in the reverse. The unfortunate news is that even yoga teachers get back pain! Just like you, I can be too enthusiastic about gardening, lift a box and twist the wrong way or just overdo it. Yes, I am a yoga teacher who occasionally forgets to listen to my body and pays a price the next day. It happened last week while I was teaching a class. Not warmed up, talking rather than breathing, while demonstrating a twist. Ugh. And there I am, hobbling home to ice my lower back and eat some humble pie.
The good news is that these rare occasions remind me of other people’s challenges and why they seek advice and counsel. The good news is that there are tried and true techniques to help heal strains. Over the years, physical therapist, Laura Probert, introduced me to a muscle testing protocol called Total Motion Release for genuine improvement during rehabilitation. Feldenkrais Method practitioner and PT, Ann Behrends, has helped me notice and correct a habitual rotation of my ribs slightly to one side. Yoga therapist and PT, Sherry Brourman, taught me the value of conscious walking to correct unhealthy movement habits. Her book, Walk Yourself Well, is a gem with numerous suggestions and specific exercises to eliminate back,neck, shoulder, knee and hip pain. I have found it priceless and come back to her ideas whenever my body feels off.
So the secret to nipping muscular-skeletal pain in the bud is to bring thoughtful awareness to the table while searching out experts in the movement therapy field. Once the inflammation has subsided I put on walking shoes and enjoy the bounty of summer by strolling mindfully. I notice how my feet make contact with the earth. I feel a springiness in my knees and high swing from my psoas muscles. I sense my upper body over my lower half rather than being behind it. I allow my ribs to rotate and my arms to glide with them. I keep my gaze well forward on the path and my chin slightly down.
There are lots of individualized details, but here are preparatory “steps” for you in a nutshell…
1. Lift your body up and over.
2. Unlock your knees.
3. Bring your weight to the front of your feet.
4. Bring your chest down and lower your chin.
5. Visualize widened steps and horizontal shoulder rotation.
6. Take a big sideways breath.
Finally, I share my secret because pain is part of the human experience and it’s is unescapable no matter who you are and what you know. Pain invites me to listen and respond, yet it is also tempting to either hit the couch and give up or aggressively try to fix the problem. Instead, I find again and again that believing in the beautiful architecture of the human body with its many checks and balances goes a long way in setting me back on course. So when my back fusses, I listen, think affirmatively and practice healthy movement habits. This is truly yoga.