My Spine Speaks Up
If pain is the body’s way of communicating, my back would not shut up for the entire month of March. It started with pulsing, unforgiving spasming in my low back that caused me to have trouble falling asleep, which forced me to reluctantly take anti-inflammatory medicine almost daily. And then mid-back trigger points would flare up on days when the low back seemed to calm down (it’s all connected, after all). I decided to listen to my body and received 2 massages and also saw my chiropractor. My days became centered around a steady rhythm of alternating ice and heat. Ice, heat. Ice, heat. Still no relief.
You may be wondering what I could have possibly done to my body to cause my back to yell at me every single day for almost 5 weeks. My best guess is that I went from working at a desk job where I sat on my ass for 8 hours a day, and then suddenly switched gears to teaching about 11 yoga classes per week. I rationalized that I did not demonstrate postures that often while teaching and that I always warmed up before teaching. But…my back was revolting. My back was very, very tight. A terrifying thoughts crossed my mind: would my scoliosis prevent me from teaching yoga full-time? The terrible irony is that the reason I was drawn to yoga so intensely was the relief I felt from my back pain related to scoliosis.
One morning I woke up in a particularly sore, uncomfortable and frustrated state, and I decided to practice some yin yoga since I couldn’t think of anything else to ease the pain (and nothing else seemed to be helping). And for the first time in a few weeks, I felt some relief. Sweet, blessed relief. When something works, I stick with it! So, pretty much every day since then I have been practicing about 1-1.5 hours of yin every single morning right after I wake up. It’s a new part of my morning routine. Brush teeth, scrape tongue, drink a glass of room temp. water, and roll out mat to practice yin. I think I have found the gateway to heaven, people.
The other transformation took place after a conversation with a “fellow yoga teacher and dear friend” (FYTADF). My FYTADF emphasized the importance of taking care of yourself when you teach. We all know how important the breath is during a physical practice- it creates space in our bodies when we breathe into the sensations we feel. And we all know that focusing on our own bodies during yoga class helps to keep us safe. Well, let’s just say that when I’ve been teaching, I am talking while demonstrating (which means no deep breathing), and I am looking at everyone else in the room with a watchful eye (so not focusing). Hm. This method of teaching is obviously a recipe for disaster. But I had just never put two and two together before. So thankfully, my FYTADF suggested that I start demonstrating a bit less and if I’m going to demo a pose, stop talking, breathe deeply, focus, then come out of the posture and continue teaching. Revolutionary!
Are you wondering if these little tricks from my FYTADF have helped any? Oh, yes. I am realizing how much more attention I can pay to the class when I’m not demo’ing as much, and my body isn’t as tired after a long day of teaching. But my favorite part is that my students are not watching what I am doing anymore- they are listening to their own bodies! I instruct them verbally, and they are moving in the way that feels comfortable and right to them. YES!
So it’s been a rough month or so, but I’ve grown so much as a teacher. Who knew my spine could teach me so much?!
What have you learned from your body’s injuries?