Back Pain Is A Bitch…
Anyone that’s suffered with chronic back pain knows that deep nagging ache, like a well meaning friend that won’t shut up because they think they know what’s right for you (and deep down you know they are probably right), yet they can be annoying, tiring and draining none the less, if you are not open to listening! Can you still function with niggling back pain? Most of the time yes if you suppress it with pain killers. Does it make life enjoyable? No not really. Is there stuff you can do to ease it? Yes, and the Truth is it’s going to take a bit of time, consistent practice and maybe some changes to your habits.
I know from past experience what it’s like to be in pain. As a figure skater in my youth I routinely battered my coccyx. Some days it was so painful I couldn’t stand upright, yet when one has dreams of being a world class figure skater, stopping is not an option. Anyone with persistent chronic back pain knows though, that pills will only get you so far, whether prescribed or herbal. At some point the body says enough! Best to listen before it puts you flat on your back. Listening is an art all in itself. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered there too. Check out my free monthly Meditation Clinics and Blue Star Zoom Q&A Cafe.
I can say without doubt, when I find myself in pain it’s because I’m not listening to my body. Even when I’ve had accidents (and I’ve had quite a lot), there is usually something I am not addressing physically, emotionally or mentally. Over the years it has become clear that the body is my vehicle through this life, and if I don’t look after it, just like if I don’t look after my car, eventually it’s gonna conk out!
A little bit of regular maintenance is well worth the effort. Yogic practices give my body some structure, in physical strength and in routine. The trick is to keep pressing “The Reset Button”. Keep your vision in your mind and keep coming back to it no matter how many times you drift off, tweaking it along the way if necessary. Over time, you’ll drift less.
You’ll hear me talk about the “Begin Again” a lot if you follow my writings and it will likely be the topic of my next blog. There have been times where my practice has dwindled and the Universe has reminded me (often through pain), that I have the tools and awareness to re-attune it! Pain is an invitation to make needed changes to your life. You don’t have to accept the invitation and it’s probably wiser if you do…
Things That Influence The Well-being of Your Spine
• Genetics – You do not need to be bound by these, in fact observing other family members can be a good indicator of where you need apply more conscious awareness in your own body!
• Lifestyle – What you do at home, your work, sports, play, family, community and travel.
• Attitude – Your hopes, dreams, outlook, abilities, triumphs and tragedies.
• Nutrition – What you consume, levels of hydration, body weight, fat distribution.
• Drugs – Prescription and “recreational” including alcohol.
Remember your spine is not a separate body part. Nerves that connect to the spine send signals to every organ in your body. A holistic approach to healing, always looks at the whole picture.
Your Body And Your Mind Are Connected…
If you doubt the connection between mind and body, imagine eating your favourite food and see if your mouth doesn’t start to water.
“Your mind, emotions and body are instruments and the way you align and tune them determines how well you play life.”Harbhajan Singh Yogi
An out of tune instrument can play notes, yes, but does anyone want to listen! How much sweeter the sound when one takes the time to tune it up! Just like any instrument, the body, mind and emotions need regular fine tuning and maintenance. I have observed, and I believe Dr Joe Dispenza has written, that when you actively look after two aspects of BEing, the third seems to come into alignment of its own accord.
So what is it exactly you are aligning to? Simply put… You. You being your Soul’s essence… Your Source… Your Life Force… Your Authentic Self… Your big “I”… Your Original Face… Call it what you like, I don’t care what name you put on it, just find a way to stay in tune with yourSelf. And keep re-tuning in. Keep returning. When we are out of tune with ourSelf, pain usually follows to wake us up again. Pain is an indicator. It’s not a judgement. Say that again, you’ll need to remember that. There is a bonus to being more You. When you align with yourSelf you are less easily manipulated by the outside world. It is often this manipulation and going against our own inner Nature, Intuition and Wisdom, that causes our spine to bend out of shape, hence the term “spineless”.
In this blog series I am more concerned with the type of back pain that is insidious and that unless the root cause is addressed, (which can originate in the mind or through some unconscious repetitive action or bad posture usually because you are in the mind and not paying attention), the pain continues, unless you are doped up to the eyeballs.
From a Yogic, therapeutic perspective, in order to decipher what actions you can apply to ease the pain, to make it long lasting, you also need to look at what injuries and/or daily choices and actions, have led up to that point. The crucial question is:
Are you prepared and willing to make some changes? If the answer is no, then read no further. What was that quote on my home page, oh yes:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting the same result.”Albert Einstein
Consistency and Kindness…
It pains me to say it as a person who has always struggled with consistency but…Consistency is the key to maintaining health and a healthy spine. Kindness is crucial. The monkey mind (clue… the not You!) can be a hard task master. The monkey mind can be more of a bitch than the back pain itself.
Even as an experienced Yoga and Meditation teacher, consistency for me looks like continually pressing that reset button I mentioned earlier. The first rule in back care and pretty much anything that needs “healing” is to consistently make the changes necessary to allow the body to heal, whilst also BEing kind to yourself. I know you are probably hungry for a miracle Yoga posture, “Just give me something to DO!” says monkey mind (and you will get one in a bit that may provide you with some relief)! First I want to give you the opportunity to see that there is a big difference between the mindset of DOing that wants to “fix” things and the state of BEing which is required and allows healing to occur. The BE always comes first. To BE means being receptive. To BE means being innocent and curious. To BE means to first learn to listen to your body and it’s own innate intelligence.
Kindness is crucial if you wish to proceed down this Holistic path. Without Kindness and the correct Attitude, you will at some point use Holistic and Spiritual practices that have the Power to transform you as a way to beat yourSelf up or as an ideal that you may never achieve. I’ve been there mySelf and seen it many times in my clients, students and fellow Cosmic Explorers. This is why we start with Kindness and why we have the Magick reset button.
In truth, whether you are ready to admit it or not, it is highly likely that a lack of Kindness has contributed to your back pain or pretty much any pain you are experiencing. What I mean by this is that you have made your work, or netflix, or food and drink choices, more important than your health. You may be unconsciously sitting for long periods of time in a position that gives your muscles no option but to scream at you. You may have been putting stuff into your body that is the equivalent of putting diesel in a petrol car so your body is struggling to regenerate or is so overloaded with toxins that your kidneys and liver can’t keep up. You may simply be dehydrated. Do you drink enough pure water? Start there. It’s often the simple things that make the biggest difference.
It is highly possible you are addicted to some of the things and habits that are contributing to your back pain. This is also why you must learn to BE consistently KIND TO YOURSELF, as you learn to burn up those old patterns and rewrite new healthier ones. Do not worry when unconscious behaviours take a hold. As soon as you realise, press the Magick Reset Button. Start the practice again. Say YES again to awareness, to stretching, to making time to calm your nervous system and putting in the right fuel for YOUR body to function optimally. If you keep coming back to YES, over time the scales will shift and you will become more conscious of your choices than not.
In Part 2 we will take a look at the psychology of back pain. In the meantime, if you want to play try this:
1. Check your water intake and increase if necessary. The discs between our vertebra need fluid to cushion the bones. They can become a little dry and brittle when not properly hydrated, exacerbating back pain. Don’t skip this if you want to be free of back pain. You can flavour water with slices of cucumber or lemon if you really must, however this is not about appeasing your taste buds. This is about the health of your spine. Treat your water intake as you would any medicine and increase to 6-8 glasses of fresh water a day.
2. Have the intention of being more aware of your posture. You can immediately improve your posture by bringing your feet parallel, standing more evenly on your feet and “rooting”, which means pushing gently down into your feet. Imagine each foot has four corners and press them down. You will notice this will make your inner aches lift. Notice that rooting naturally lengthens your spine. Root whilst taking a breath deep breath into your belly. As you breathe out see if you can maintain the length and space you just created. Root and breathe deeply anytime you notice you are slouching. Eventually it will become muscle memory.
3. Practice BEing Kind. Notice any judgements around your unconsciousness and the choices you make when you slip into unconscious patterns of behaviour. Start to shift your attention from the past and what you have or haven’t done, to what you can do Now. Let yourSelf rest if you need to. Be excited that you can choose again, as you will meet this place many times in your practice and it can truly become a place of celebration and wonder.
4. Have a go at Childs Pose (Sanskrit name: Balasana). I couldn’t find a picture so I painted one! I suggest the restorative supported version for 10 mins a day, either placing a cushion under your forehead so you allow the neck to be in alignment OR tuning the head 5 minutes on one side and 5 minutes the other:
• Ideally support your belly with a bolster (as pictured) or make your own with a rolled up quilt, or lots of sturdy cushions so your spine is flat and the muscles can relax.
• If you have knee and or ankle issues or have tight quads and hamstrings try placing a soft blanket under you knees, roll a towel up and place under your ankles to bridge any gaps and also place a bolster or cushions between your feet and your bottom to bridge the gap there. You might then need to bring the floor up underneath your bolster so your spine remains horizontal.
• If this is still too much take the legs out of the equation for now. Place some cushions on a table or use your sofa or bed as a platform so there’s not so much pressure on your ankles or knees. Lay on your belly and rest there. You will be getting the same benefits in the spine as doing it on the floor. Do not be afraid to adapt a posture to suit your body.
• The aim is to align the spine by supporting the front of the body which allows the back muscles to relax and gives the sacrum (lower back) a chance to open. Much lower back pain is caused by habitual compression and contraction at the sacrum.
In Part 2…
We will be looking at the possible psychological states that contribute to back pain and how we can begin to address them. Also there will be another little diagram of a therapeutic Yoga posture that you can play with at home.
To make sure you don’t miss part 2, please sign up to receive blog post notifications from WordPress by email by entering your email is at the bottom of the home page.
You might also like to join the Blue Stars Members Newsletter, sign up is also currently on the home page where it says, “Make me A Blue Star” and mentions Mailchimp below. Then you can access the free support I mentioned earlier and be included in the monthly prize draw which is a little thank you for trusting me with your email.
Contact me for a free consultation if you’d like a personal back care practice designed for your own body, through online zoom 121 Yoga sessions, or in person, currently at Whitespace Yoga.
I hope you find some hope and maybe even some relief from your back pain if you play with the suggestions included in this blog. And if you have no back pain then I hope what’s suggested here helps you to maintain the health of your spine.
Remember… Kindness is crucial. Practice BEing Kind to yourSelf and your spine.
Blessed Be Cosmic Explorer!
See you in Part 2…
P.S. This blog series is dedicated to Shanice, whom is a regular at The Blue star cafe and requested a blog on back care. If you have any topics based on what I offer, that you’d like me to write about, please send a request and I’ll dedicate it you.