When I was a baby, my mom tells me, I used to suck on my toes and put my foot behind my head while on the change table. Naturally, she sent me to gymnastics when I was old enough and I loved it. Fast forward a few years and I discovered yoga. I went with my mom to a class in a neighbour's basement. I was hooked and became a regular yoga student right away. The bendy pose shapes were easy for me and I felt good because I was 'successful' at so many yoga poses.
As I learned more about yoga, I learned to do more poses and practiced more regularly. When I was 17, I hurt my back for the first time. I was passing a stack of plates to someone and felt a click. I had a hard time moving and rested in bed for several days. After I was done school, I turned to my yoga practice to help me heal. For more than 10 years I practiced yoga-almost out of necessity-to keep me able to move. My back would flare up and cause me trouble from time to time and I would go to yoga to stretch and help it heal...but it never really healed. It was this background concern that limited my life. 'Don't do burpees, they're bad for your back' or 'I can't sleep at my mom's because that pullout couch ruins my back' and many other pain management tools were constant to get me through my days. I needed regular massages and saw several physiotherapists along the way.
Some days, I resolved that this was just how it was - I can't bungee jump with my friends because I know it will just hurt my back....ok, well maybe there was more to that wimping out, but my back WAS a concern. Other days I was motivated to fix it. I thought that there must be a better way out there and I just had to keep looking for it. I went back and forth between those two mindsets constantly. Can anyone relate?
I aggravated my back for what felt like the 100th time in 2010. It was the worst pain I have ever been in. I remember needing to stop and get out of my car and stretch 3 times on my usually 45min drive to my MRI. I couldn't sit. I had to grab onto anything solid nearby if I was going to sneeze so that it wouldn't hurt...I bet you've felt that before. I consulted with a surgeon, but decided to postpone a surgical repair. I believed it would happen in the future, but just wanted to see if I could delay it.
It hurt to do EVERYthing. I was both very healthy and very injured. I led classes and clients through workouts and was just barely able to pick up my pen if I dropped it. People regularly said how unfair it was that I suffered so much considering how much I worked at my physical health. Physiotherapy helped some. The exercises and manual therapy worked to maintain my mobility, but the primary goals of flexibility (I could put a foot behind my head) and core strength (I could hold a 8 minute plank) seemed like they were not the answer. I knew in my gut that it was not going to heal me.
By some stroke of luck, I signed up for a workshop about the psoas muscle with Susi Hatley. Her teaching opened my eyes to movement patterns and a level of awareness of my body that I had never thought of. I started going to a yoga therapist in Toronto, Matthew Romantini, and discovered that there were several things contributing to my sore back that I could change. It wasn't that I didn't have a strong core, I just didn't have much control and coordination in my core. Some things were quite challenging, and frustrating to learn, but I kept progressing. I felt empowered. I knew that healing myself was within my abilities. I was finally in control of my health. I signed up for Susi's therapeutic intensive right away. Over the next two years, Matthew became my mentor and guide through the journey of becoming a yoga therapist.
I've been practicing as a yoga therapist now for just over 2 years. I have helped people who believed, just like I did, that they had to live with their limitations to feel in control of their own body. The magic happens when pain and pain management systems disappear, a world of possibilities open up. The tools of yoga - breath, stillness and movement with awareness are POWERFULLY healing. The coolest part is that change can happen quickly.
I don't live in fear of hurting my back any more. In fact, I rarely give it a thought. I know that it IS possible because I did it. I can help you get there. Oh, and those burpees....I did 250 of them just last week.