Make sure you get Part One of this story before you read on, because the simplicity of this post will seem underwhelming unless you do.
Back pain is an incredibly serious (and painful) problem to have. Make sure you see a doctor, chiropractor, or some kind of medical practitioner before you try out a routine from a blog in the internet.
That said, here is what I did (slowly) to completely recover from my sprained lower back.
|Sun salutations, anyone? Source.|
Now, this part might be a little hokey for some readers, but sometimes when I am really tired or otherwise not-mentally-all-there (perhaps after I light a few candles and listen to Sting), I can convince myself that this back injury was a crises of spirit.
Yes, you read that right. My physical, excruciating, diagnosed back injury was all mental.
You see, I wasn’t in yoga to meditate and focus my chi (which needs focusing), I was in there to get a work out and move on with the next thing. I was deep in the high of a new job, new town, and new marital status, and I wasn’t about to slow down for nothing.
This injury decided to slow me down.
Deadlines and important things to do at work? Sorry. Time to lay on my back.
Last minute wedding planning and social obligations? Sorry. I need to roll over on my side, and that takes about five minutes of careful planning.
Eventually (or about three agonizing days into not being able to do anything but click “Next” on Netflix), I came to accept it. It was a cleaving point unlike any I have experienced as it sank in that everything in the world goes on without me. And it became clear: my health is the only reason I can do anything.
So, back to the call-to-action aspect of The Number One Most Awesome Thing Ever Yoga. Here’s a rundown of the most restorative and effective yoga I have ever done– and therefore the most long-lasting and integral yoga I have ever incorporated into my daily routine.
I didn’t do back bends and Chatarungas. That’s something you’re supposed to work up to, and certainly not something to do when you feel injured and cranky.
Since I was re-introducing yoga to myself, I took it slow. It’s longer about getting through a tape or a class, so do what feels good. The first step is to simply kneel on your mat and look at a candle for a few minutes.
Use those moments to let your knees and settle your weight into your hips and feet. Zone out a little bit. Check out what is happening internally and try to clear your mind. Or not (remember this is highly personalized!).
From there, lean forward as comfortably as you can. If you’ve got a bit of a Buddha belly, spread your knees. Whatever it takes to be comfortable.
From child’s pose, a cat and cow combination is a good loosening stretch. So do it.
For all of these poses, shift in and out of them for as long as you like or as short as you like, and feel free to go backwards, forwards, etc, until you feel loose in a good way.
The next move is crazy and it will hurt if you had the kind of injury that I had. Lower yourself slowly onto the ground and lay facedown on your mat. This is the hardest part of the sequence.
No really. It hurts.
If you stay in this pose and breathe into it, you will find out exactly how painfully tight and uncomfortably loose (at the same time!) your back is. It is not pleasant, so go slow.
From there, sit up for Cobra, first modified on your elbows, then on your hands.
Then I usually go through another child’s pose and a cat or cow or two, since I am now sufficiently loose.
Finally, have a seat with your legs crossed somewhere with a nice view. After a few series of deep breaths, twist to each side for gentle spinal twists (to a chorus of popping), then switch which leg is in front and do it again. Then stick the legs out in front. Then out to the sides. You get the idea.
The final phase is intended to start using those muscles again in a slow and painless way. Since you are a little more limber (and blood is flowing a little more freely), lie on your back and do a few bridge poses, breathing as slowly and deeply as possible.
Then, find a wall and scoot-ch your butt up close. Sit with your legs up the wall, stretching and moving your legs if they get too cold.
For the final move, lie on your back and slowly lower your knees to each side to stretch the back out with another round of spinal twists, just this time while lying down.
This final spinal twist series is the most significant (and dangerous) part of the yoga, in my opinion, as it would be easy to over-extend and re-injure yourself. So, please do it carefully! By that I mean stay in control of your lower half as you lower it and ease into that “sweet spot” that feels like a stretch and not a numb pulling sensation.
The good news is that, done correctly, this pose also feels the best!
The the last few moments (or minutes) should be spent on the back with your eyes closed, relaxing and appreciating the time you have invested in your health.
When you get up, you may feel that horrible loose and tight feeling that is terrifying. Take a seat or lay on down in bed and I promise you will feel great in the morning*!
Like I said, I am not a health professional. What feels loose and tight to me might feel like lion claws down your spine. If you think you are in any undue pain or may have injured yourself, seek medical attention.