Hi Yogis,

I have some exciting news to report: Sometime in the last 6-8 weeks, my back stopped hurting.

I have been babying my back for many years now. I have been careful about forward bending and posture and lifting heavy things. I have been afraid to fall down, afraid to sleep without a pillow under my knees, and afraid to even sit for too long because I never knew what might start it hurting again, and when it decides to start hurting, it can be pretty debilitating.

That all changed one day recently, as I was talking to a physical therapist friend of mine. I mentioned to her that my back hurt all the time and that I was frustrated by my tight hamstrings. I was sure that stretching them made my back hurt worse. “No!,” she exclaimed, “tight hamstrings are probably making your back hurt!” Wow. So all this time I have been treating my back like an acute injury, and never moving into a phase of rehabilitation.

A lot of times in class, we are reminded to just listen to the words of the dialogue and follow them exactly. As students of yoga, we are encouraged to have faith in the practice, trust it, and the more I do that, the better my practice becomes. I decided to do exactly that, especially for the postures, such as rabbit and hands to feet pose. My hamstring flexibility has increased tremendously (although they are still pretty tight!) and I think that is the number one thing that has lead to my decrease in pain.

I will admit, that at first my back hurt much worse. I used a little ibuprofen at work, and some heat and ice, but I continued to really push myself in class, especially in these postures that are so challenging to me. I simultaneously tried to work extremely hard in the spine strengthening series, and consistently keep my core engaged throughout class.

My back pain, miraculously, began to subside. I can’t pinpoint the exact day it went away, and there are still days when I have some pain, but I realized recently while I was at work that I felt fine. In fact, I felt great.

I am beginning to feel more balanced and more comfortable. I am slowly losing that off-kilter in my body feeling that I really think was contributing to my back pain. My posture has also improved quite a lot since early November, and I’m sure that helps too! I guess this is just another lesson in learning to trust the practice.

Bikram’s really does heal all!

-C

Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a doctor. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on 30dayyogi.wordpress.com.

Advertisements

Hello fellow yogis and non-participatory yoga enthusiasts,

I know I haven’t written in a while – it’s because of finals.  I can barely find and hour and a half to go to class and then writing about it afterward?  Forget about it.  But, well, here I am writing about it.

Last night I took the 11:15 class, which I haven’t done before.  Kristine and I came to the conclusion that a person who took the 11:15 class must either have no life (and thus nowhere to wake up and go the next day), or just be kind of dumb.  Actually, as it turns out, the class was amazing.  There were seven people including me in the room, we all got a front row space, Katie was teaching, and it was the best class I have had in a long time.

The past week or so I have really been struggling with a lot of different issues.  I think it started with my back hurting so much and I kind of lost faith in the yoga a bit.  Then I started losing my balance a lot, losing my focus on the class, and not finding the experience quite as rewarding.  Last night, being so close and really being able to connect to myself in the mirror and really see my body, I feel like I kind of found my yoga again.  I felt very focused on myself and on the poses.  I was so in the moment that when we had finished the floor series I was surprised, because I just wasn’t thinking that way last night.

In terms of Katie’s teaching style, I really appreciate it.  I think of all the teachers I have taken classes from, she is the best at reminding me that the yoga is all about me.  I’m not doing it for the teacher, for any of the other students in the class, for anyone but myself.  She said two things last night that I really liked.  The first was “I don’t have to make the class hard, it’s already hard enough.”  This just reminded me to push myself, work hard for myself, and not rely on others to do it for me.  A lot of the instructors will call you out, ask you to do things you haven’t done before, and sometimes I like the encouragement, but especially lately as I have been doing modified postures to reduce my back pain, I don’t like it when they ask me to do things without knowing where I’m coming from, or what’s going on with me.  Sometimes they do know about my back and they have their own opinion about what I can do in the class, how I can do the posture.  I appreciate Katie’s belief in me to pace myself, and her respect for the fact that I know my body better than anyone else.

The other thing she said that I really liked, which also kind of goes along the same lines, is that “yoga is the only activity where the goal is you.”  She explained how in soccer the goal is to get the ball in the net, for example, but in yoga the goal is to improve yourself, which is pretty unique in terms of physical activity.

Speaking of my back, it is feeling so much better.  I have basically stopped putting any pressure on my back during forward bending by keeping my hands on the floor supporting some of my weight (in separate leg stretching pose and in hands to feet pose), and completely avoiding rabbit pose altogether, modifying half tortoise by not pushing my knees together and focusing on keeping my head below my heart.  I think it helps really understanding the goal behind each posture, for example in standing separate leg head to knee pose, it can stretch your legs and back, but the point of it is compression of the neck and abdomen to improve the endocrine and adrenal systems (among other things).  So I can do that pose, and focus on the compression and just bend my knee a lot to take the pressure off my back, as well as helping myself back up into a standing position to take the strain off my lower back.  For rabbit pose, I just generally do a second and third set of camel instead.  Backward bending is good.  I also really work hard in the spine strengthening series.  I’m hoping to increase the flexibility of my hamstrings, without over-stretching my back, and increase my spinal strength a lot, and I think that will heal my back.

I’m almost done with my thirty days, and I have seen such a huge change in myself, not just in my body, which has changed a lot, but also in my lifestyle and  in my outlook on things in life.  Last night Katie said to take some pictures of ourselves doing poses now (camel, standing bow, standing head to knee), and then take more in a year and see what a huge improvement you’ve made and how much your body has changed.  I think that if I had done that at the beginning of the month and now I would already see an incredible difference.  I know my postures have improved a lot, and my body shape is changing.  I’m so much healthier than I was 4 weeks ago.

Happy holidays everyone!  I am so excited to go home and spend Christmas with my family.   Katie recommended The Sweat Box in Seattle, so I’m planning on giving that one a try.  She said there’s also a good one in fremont, so we’ll see!

here is some adorable-ness before I go.  Have a great end of the week!  I’m done with my challenge on Monday!

Lily

Lily

Hello!

So a few things have been going on the last few days (apart from finals… why I haven’t been posting daily).  First of all, my back became a problem.  I started to wonder why it seemed to be getting worse and not better, so I decided to ask Katie about it.  She suggested that I do only the back ward bends and spinal twists and skip the forward bending all together.  I decided to go for it, since that is what my doctors told me so many years ago when I first became injured:  no forward bending!  The good news is, it has completely worked after a total of two classes with no forward bending, I am back pain free.  The bad news is, it is really disappointing not to be able to completely participate.  I am trying so hard to get over myself, not let myself be competitive, stay humble about my practice, but it is really hard.  Do you remember before how I wrote about part of the discipline is knowing when to stop or not do something?  This is definitely testing my will in this aspect.  Bikram says part of the practice is learning to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and it was definitely an uncomfortable situation tonight when everyone was bending forward, and I was standing there upright like a tree in a field.  I treated that uncomfortable feeling as part of my practice though, and tried to work through those uncomfortable feelings by focusing only on myself and not fidgeting, trying to just breathe and stay calm.

I have been able to modify some of the postures so I can do them.  For example, in standing head to knee pose, I am locking my standing leg and bringing my other leg up so that my knee is at a 90 degree angle, but just not bending forward to hold onto my foot.  I am just going to try to focus a lot on my abdominal strength,  and keeping those muscles contracted, and also really try to work on y backward bending and  really really work my ass off in the spinal strengthening series, and then after 5 or maybe even more classes, I will try some of the forward bending again.  Knowing that I can fix the pain with just one or two classes of no forward bending increases my confidence about trying again, because I know I can fix it.  Especially if I really take it easy.

I wanted to quickly address the issue of Bikram’s Yoga being a mean practice.  I was talking to my mom on the phone tonight, and she said that my aunt had tried Bikram’s and thought that the instructors were mean.  She said they yelled at her, they were harsh on other students, and they made the class unenjoyable.

When people hear “yoga,” they think relaxation, calmness, soothing, and resting.  Bikram’s yoga is not that kind of yoga.  I can imagine it would be difficult going into a class if you didn’t know what to expect, because it is really unlike anything else I have ever done.  (I guess the closest thing I can think of to it was doing Mrs. Han’s pointe class in high school:  she yelled at us a lot).   In the class, the instructors are loud, the lights are bright, and it is fast paced.  It is not a time to relax, it is a time to work.  The relaxation comes from the fact that you are working so so  so hard that you can’t think about anything – not your problems, not your job, not your name.

The teachers do try to make you work harder, so that you are stronger, so that you get more out of the class.  Some people don’t like them yelling “lock your knees lock your knees last chance to lock the knees!”  but I find it motivational.  Part of the meditation is letting the teacher be your mind, and letting your body just follow what they say.  If the teachers weren’t telling you what to do constantly how would your body know what to do?

Yoga to me is like a 90 minute pep talk.  I like hearing the teacher remind me I can do anything.  I like hearing a reminder of how strong I am, how much this is benefiting me.  I think it’s great.

My mom also said she couldn’t imagine how this yoga could possibly be burning so many calories, it’s just yoga.  She wondered how someone could work that hard if they aren’t running on a treadmill or lifting weights.  She is going to come to a class with me this month… and she’s in for a wake up call!  This is not your stereotypical yoga: get ready for the work out of your life!

exercise