The Journal of a Bikram Yoga Teacher Trainee
Chapter 15: Back In Action
I don't think I mentioned that I pulled a muscle in my lower back a week ago this past Wednesday. I first noticed it when I was bending forward to do Standing Separate Leg Stretching. I was halfway down when I felt a familiar pain in my lower back -- I have much experience with lower back strain and pain. Usually I strain my Psoas Major but this time I think it's the Psoas Minor. Both of these muscles, which are on the interior, layered between the abdominals in the front and the Quadrates Lumborum in the back, extend from the 12th rib down inside the pelvis/hips. They are used as flexors of the hip joint and it is primarily in the hips where I have been feeling a lot of pain and changes during the last couple weeks.
My immediate reaction to the strained feeling was to back off on the stretch I was doing and to proceed slowly and carefully throughout the rest of the class and sitting out a few postures. The pain continued to be strong through both of Thursday's classes and Friday morning as I applied the Bikram approach to the strained muscle: to continue attending classes and working on stretching the sore muscle, albeit gently. Usually when I throw out my lower back I respond by staying home and resting in a horizontal position.
According to Bikram (and Emmy) that's one of the worst things to do because the atrophy begins immediately and the strained muscle will stiffen and become even more painful when moved. Going against my habit proved them right. By Friday afternoon the muscle was softening up, stretching more and hurting less. After Saturday's morning class I felt great and the pain was barely perceptible. And then on Monday I did it again. This time, though, I was aware of exactly when it happened: as soon as I started lifting my right leg for the first set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee I felt a distinct wrenching in the exact same place I had been healing in my lower left back. Back to square one.
We had a guest lecturer Monday and Tuesday: Jon Burras, an Intuitive Connective Tissue Therapist. He talked about fascia, energy and emotion. I had an initial resistance to him primarily because he began by stating that he was going to challenge many of our beliefs and that he expected us to resist him. Curiously, the more he talked the less I resisted. He seemed to think his ideas and beliefs would be hard for us to accept but I followed along easily accepting all his premises and suppositions as logical.
Basically, he presented the theory that the fascia, which is a network of connective tissue surrounding all the body's internal components, is the primary conduit for the flow of the electrical energy, Chi to the Chinese, throughout the body. He also proposed that emotions are this same energy in motion and that repressed emotions result in energy blockages within the fascia which results in a variety of physical ailments and injuries. Of course, I'm simplifying to an extreme degree but that's a sufficient description for my purposes here. If you recall, in a previous transmission I referred to some emotional issues that had come up for me that I wasn't ready to deal with. I consciously decided to repress them and here I was struggling with a recurring back problem. Can you say, "well, Duh!"
I'm not completely discounting the physical origins of my back pain. I have a body type and shape in which lower back problems are common. Specifically, I have a very long spine which means that my body requires very strong abdominal muscles to provide the proper support for my torso. Unfortunately, I lack the needed extra strength because I don't have a history of consistent and proper exercise and I sit down on poorly designed chairs for long stretches of time every day.
I also, like most of us, spend far too much time in my car. Hence the yoga (which began almost a year and a half ago). While I haven't eradicated my back problems I am happy to report that they are less frequent and somewhat diminished in intensity. Still, I sometimes find myself frustrated and wondering if I will ever be completely free of back pain. It's easy to become discouraged because I think I've been working diligently and with some effort on improving the health and strength of my body.
By now, I'm sure you're in step with me and waiting for me to reveal the grand revelation I've had in regard to my emotional health being a necessary and perhaps missing component to the healing process. Well, it aint so grand -- in fact, it's fairly obvious, aint it? This is not to suggest that I haven't been working on my emotional well-being for some time. I have and I continue to do so somewhat regularly. No, the revelation for me isn't the fact of it; it's the depth of it. I'm beginning to suspect that the well is bottomless.
On Wednesday afternoon I took some time out from posture clinic and went into the steam room, alone. It took a few minutes but I was able to work myself into a decent little cry. No sobbing, no drama, just a few sincere tears of release. Not surprisingly, Thursday morning found me feeling more relaxed, more upbeat and in less pain. On Friday afternoon I had one of my strongest practices yet even to the point that someone approached me after class and said that they noticed a strength in me during Standing Bow Pulling Pose that they hadn't seen before.
Ironically, as I write this on Sunday, my back is killing me. I received an acupuncture treatment yesterday morning followed by a deep tissue massage. Today, my Latissimus Dorsi and my Trapezius muscles are cramping uaptop on the floor and leaning against the wall making the portable computer live up to its name. Fuck, I can't wait to get home.
The three remaining weeks don't seem daunting. In fact, just a few days ago I had a momentary regret that the program was going to be ending soon. I'm torn between wanting to get back to my life and relishing the opportunity to remain immersed in self reflection. I hope that the discipline I have had to call on to endure the program remains with me when I leave. I have always known that self discipline is one area that I have needed much improvement with and I have had ample opportunity in that regard these last several weeks. Hopefully, I will return with enough of a foundation to continue to develop it.
I've taken some pictures that I was hoping to publish on the web but I can't get the frikkin' USB SmartCard Reader to work. It worked easily and flawlessly when I first bought it and I'm sure I haven't changed anything in my system configuration but the Reader is simply being ignored by my computer all of a sudden. Don't you just love computers? I'll try again later today but I don't want to spendp fiercely. The pain in my lower back is still present but it's subdued and almost unnoticeable as a result of the cramping above it. I presume the cramping is a result of the massage. It might also be aggravated by the fact that I don't have a chair to sit in while I type. I'm alternately hunched over my l
Copyright 2005 E. Jennings
Posted with the permission of the author. Formerly the technical director of a national touruing theatrical company and a successful web designer, the author now teaches at his own successful Bikram Yoga Studio. If you would like to read additional excerpts of this journal, please email Webmaster@BikramYoga.com