I have not taken a class since April 7. That day, I was in Susan Bowen’s 2/3 hot vinyasa class. She led an upbeat session that had us moving through sun salutations and modifications. I noticed something was wrong: I began feeling pain and discomfort in practically every pose and transition of the vinyasa, deep in my core and focused on my left psoas and radiating down by leg, up towards my hip and kidneys and across my hips. In the earlier stages of the injury, it was happened only in certain poses, and I would avoid them or get into them very mindfully. Now there was no avoiding the pain and muscle spasms.
In the middle of the class, I shut myself down. I did poses to soothe my core muscles, hip abductors/flexors and lower spin, laying or seated on the mat. I rested on my back with my knees propped on blankets. All the while my friends were sweating away in an active class.
For two month, since the first instance of the injury, I had rested the injury, making regular visits to my body worker, Howard Rontal, and then started taking yoga class after two weeks being very mindful in my poses and flows. During my daily routine, I was not conscious of any difficulties. At the gym, I did not feel any problem doing aerobic exercises.
Obviously, that approach did not work, because the injury (?) has flared up in a more generalized pattern. I decided to stop yoga classes again, see a chiropractor and check in with my acupuncturist, Kelly Welch, who had helped me in the past. More in future entries.
Last night I went to Thrive Yoga and had two choices: hatha yoga with Marylou McNamara or vinyasa flow 2/3 with Susan Bowen. I’ve been taking Susan’s advanced class on Saturday mornings, but mostly steering towards hatha class to work on the fundamentals. I took Marylou’s class on Sunday. Today, however, I was vacillating. I’ve been getting my evening yin yoga classes in regularly so I am covering the “soft” part of my practice, but I’ve been shying way from more upbeat classes. I know I need to work more on my conditioning, stretch my limits and build up strength.
My friend, Glenn, came into the studio reception, and he resolved my dilemma: “I’m going to class with Glenn to night.” Glenn is a former gymnast who is the kind of yogi that I want to be when I grow up. Hes been practicing about as long as I have, and has been at Thrive Yoga since it opened.
Everything Yoga: “As a yoga therapist in training, it pains me to see people getting injured by what’s supposed to be a healing practice. The goal of yoga is not to force your body, but to get in touch with your body and honor it.” Diane Cesa’s Everything Yoga has been nice enough to link to this blog despite the limited amount of blogging that I’ve been doing lately, so I am returning the favor. But the quote is actually relevant to my practice.
In yesterday’s yoga session at Thrive, I tweaked something in my lower back. I did not notice it until I had cooled off and gone home so I cannot identify which asana or movement might have overtaxed my muscles. I think that the session was not particularly difficult or strenuous, and I’ve been focusing on body awareness during my session, both in terms of breath and alignment. Kim Dellaroca, the instructor, had just been at a hip opener workshop so she emphasized that in the class so my ache might be simple muscle fatigue.
I had a far more serious problem with lower back pain about two years ago so I am concerned about how serious this might be.
In the Sunday class with Kim Groak, I mentioned my problem to Kim. She did a class that was strong on hip openers as well. I felt much better after the class than before so she must have done something right. I was able to do Half Moon pose with my arms spread wide. It had always been hard for me because my hips tended to be unstable, throwing me out of alignment, not to mention my general balance deficiency.
Over the weekend, I took a Hip Opener workshop at TranquilSpace. It was a two-hour workout, double what I normally take. The instructor was Kevin Waldorf-Cruz, and we had a nice chat before class, when I told him of my history of lower back pain and what I had been doing to treat it. I was fearful that I might overload my lower back because of the intensive nature of the session, but it was the opposite. I came out really tired, pushed to my extreme, but my back felt fine. I don’t think I “cured” my lower back pain, but I did come to release into it and accept it as a given in my practice. I learned I had to listen to it attentively and patiently — and apply that lesson to the rest of my body.
I have spent the past week concentrating on my lower back and hips to try to restore balance to my yoga development. I have not gone back to the studio, either at TranquilSpace or Bally’s. The up side is that I have a daily home practice that concentrates on my weaknesses.
I purchased a book, Back Rx: a 15-Minute-a-Day Yoga and Pilates-Based Program to End Low Back Pain by Vijay Vad and Hilary Hinzman. The book is published by Gotham Books, New York. Vad is a sports medicine specialist in New York and has worked with the golf and tennis pro tour. He endorses a hybrid method because some routines in boht Pilates and yoga put undue stress on the lower back. His routines are three sets of about 15 poses. You’re supposed to be able to get through one routine without pain before moving to the next level.
I’ve also being doing poses for my hamstrings and rotators: Hips too tight? by Judith Lasater and Ease on the Back by Julie Gudmestad. Both articles had originally appeared in Yoga Journal. I only do the exercise that do not cause me pain.
This weekend I was working out at the gym and I aggravated a lower-back sprain that I got the previous weekend. I thought I had recovered completely, but obviously I hadn’t. I was actually working on leg presses, but apparently compressed my back, putting pressure on the lower back. I’ve been putting a lot of time into aerobic exercise and also working on strength, especially arms, shoulders and core.
I have set myself the goal of dropping at least 10 pounds because I can see how my weight interferes with my yoga. I haven’t been under 190 pounds in ages. I’ve altered my diet, eliminating meat and potatoes from my lunch. It’s going to take time.