Two weeks ago I injured my back very badly. I’m not entirely sure what happened – something involving unloading the dishwasher, I think, but the result was extreme pain and an inability to sit or bend and even lie flat for any length of time.
I’d like to share with you here what I’ve done to get over this injury – as after only two weeks I’m back to almost normal function again. I’m convinced that without my yoga practice, it would have taken much, much longer.
A cautionary note first. I’ve known I had an issue with instability in the joints of my pelvis since one of my pregancies 11 years ago. The injury is one that has flared up several times since then and I have developed an understanding of what might be going on and which kinds of movements and postures will help.
But everyone’s bodies are different and you might need a different practice. The specific movements and postures that worked for me won’t necessarily help you. But the principles underlying my approach to getting well are ones that I am happy to promote.
- Initially rest – stop doing whatever is making you hurt. Do whatever you need to get comfortable and rest for a day or two. In this stage, hot water bottles are great.
- See a professional. I went to a very good osteopath Yinka at Holmewood Osteopaths, who was able to help assess what was causing the problem and begin to get things moving again.
- When beginning movement again, stay strictly within the pain-free range. Any nasty tweaks or twinges, you’ve gone too far.
- Use the breath to get the most benefit from held postures – breathing into areas of tightness and discomfort and waiting patiently while the breath helps to bring ease.
- Balance very gentle stretching with core stability.
- Practise every morning before starting the day. I found 30 minutes was enough and I noticed every day a little bit more movement with a little less pain.
The poses that helped me.
Remember, while these might be not the poses for you – the principles they follow are useful.
My lower back was very tight so I wanted, gradually, to reduce this tightness and find more length. I was trying to encourage the ability to round the back. Initially I needed to use a bolster and lots of height to support me, but gradually each day I found I could reduce the height as my body was able to let go of the tension. It’s a great pose to feel the breath actually bringing space into the areas of tightness. I would mentally direct the breath into the back the ribs and pelvis.
Core stability is partly about asking the big external “movement” muscles to stop doing things that actually the smaller, deeper core muscles are designed to do. As it’s such an internal process it’s hard to illustrate with photographs and is best experienced with a good yoga teacher. But lying in this position, I used a series of subtle exercises to remind my core how to engage appropriately.
These simple movements we do all the time in yoga classes were extremely painful at first so I didn’t do them straight away. Once my lower back started to lose a little tightness I gradually began to explore the pain-free range of movement, breathing into the spine as I moved thorough miniature versions of cat and cow stretches. To an outside eye it probably didn’t look as if I was moving much at all for the first few days!
It was a week or so before downward dog was possible – and with knees bent and heels off the floor, not like this picture. With breath direction, I got a feeling of length coming into the back.
The magic of yoga – combining breath, direction of the mind’s awareness and phsyical relxation. Using images of warmth and light coming into the body, bathing the most tender parts.
Hands On Yoga
Together with Tanya Shoop, I am running a head-neck-spine workshop on 13th Febraury. Combining gentle Hatha Yoga with the postural awareness of the Alexander Technique, we’ll be putting into practice the principles outlined above of moving within pain-free range of movement and learning to find the combination of stability and flexibility that helps us maintain healthy backs.
Hands-On Yoga workshop, Sat 13th February 2-5pm at Yoga Point, 122 Dalberg Road, Brixton SW2 1AP. Price £30, bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org