I attended my first yoga class when I was 21 years old. At the time the purpose was purely to appease my ego so I could tell my family, friends and coworkers that "I do yoga". To me, yogis were "cool" and I liked being associated with that healthy lifestyle. My twenty-something year old mind was in a self-absorbed place and I fully enjoyed the freedom of devoting myself to yoga and other fun ways to fill my time. Yoga in its purest form is supposed to be practiced without ego and is intended to aid the individual's mind and body. Yoga increases flexibility and strength, but some find it to be a spiritual experience that brings peace and joy. My first yoga class was at an established yoga studio in Oshawa, Ontario where I had an unforgettable teacher named Maureen. I loved her gentle encouragement. Maureen inspired me to stick with yoga and gradually—as my ability and confidence grew—I progressed to more advanced poses. As I went to my weekly yoga classes, bending and twisting and telling myself "I can do this," I started to reap the benefits. I was sleeping better. My body felt less sore and I noticed a calmness come over me. I felt more patient dealing with life's irritations, too. But, here's the irony. Yoga isn't something you do. It's something that you experience. It's called a practice because over time, it gets engrained in you. Maureen's teachings were planted in me like little seeds that didn't really fully flourish until much later in my life. Though I didn't intentionally give up my regular yoga practice, someplace along the way it took a back seat to running. Those little seeds were still there but lay dormant for now. Running was different. I felt free moving swiftly along the road. Being goal oriented, I found tracking my mileage to be a satisfying accomplishment. Running was enjoyable for another reason, too. My best friend Linda was also a runner, and we would meet most Sundays for long runs. We'd put in 15 to 20 miles each week and participated in occasional half marathons together. Running that distance took time—two hours or more. But I always looked forward to running with my friend. Finding My Way Back to Yoga/Destination Yoga Since then my life journey has taken me to many unexpected places, and I eventually found my way back to yoga. Those little seeds were there all along. Like I said, yoga has a way of becoming engrained in you.
My Back Pain and Yoga If you've been following my blog, you know that I've had back pain through most of my life. In my thirties, the pain became more pronounced, but I hadn't been to a Yoga class in a very long time. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, my little friend "yoga" quietly arrived back on the scene. My pain riddled body seemed to intuitively know it needed yoga again. Before getting out of bed in the morning, I started feeling the need to roll over on my back and pull my legs towards my chest. (The knees-to-chest pose stretches your lower back muscles and is a gentle, soothing way to start your day.) The simple stretch felt really good and energizing.
There are numerous benefits of yoga, especially for managing low back pain and maintaining health. In a recent study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institute of Health, individuals with chronic lower back pain were shown to experience less pain and more mobility after 12 weeks of yoga. A follow up experiment was conducted after 26 weeks, and those same yoga participants were still experiencing less pain and increased functioning. For me, the continual practice of yoga has relieved my pain to the point that I no longer require pain medication to get me through the day. Other Ways Yoga Relieves Back Pain
So, let's get started with a few poses that are easy to do and great for maintaining flexibility in your spine. Try these three poses daily for increased flexibility and your spine will thank you! Knees to Chest Pose (Picture below)
Those little yoga seeds—planted by my first teacher so long ago—have continued to grow/flourish. Today, I am a fully certified yoga teacher and enjoy sharing my practice with students every week. May you find peace on your journey and pain relief as well, one pose at a time. Namaste.