Healing a bad back on the mat (ENG)

Guruji in Samasthitih

Some of you already know that with a past as a gymnast and a dancer, I have been suffering from two slipped discs in my lower back since I was in my twenties. I started practicing in my thirties and after two years the two slipped discs (L4 and L5-S1) came back with a vengeance. One day I was through all primary series, and the following day I could not even walk out of bed. It took me one year to get back to my usual me, yet despite all doctors’ recommendations (“you shouldn’t do any sport nor yoga!”) I continued practicing almost every day. If you have suffered from a bad back, you know what I am talking about. I had always been very flexible, and all of a sudden I could not even touch my feet. Anyway, day after day I recovered although my back keep knocking at my door from time to time. Usually when I am particularly stressed or come out of a very tiring working week. I am a fashion sales executive and despite the glamour you might think is involved in this role, I travel almost 4 days a week (driving) and carry very heavy luggage (samples). You cannot park in front of your client’s doorstep (fashion stores are often in limited access areas) so you have to carry these bags for, literally, hundreds of meters. I practice regularly and this keep my back in check, however there are days (like today) when I walk out of bed limping. Not a very nice feeling! So what do I do? First of all, please note that I am not a doctor or a chiropractor. This is simply what has been working for me in years, and most probably can work for, in general, a rather fit and trained individual suffering from similar issues. However, you might want to give it a try, after consulting your GP and, most of all, a certified yoga teacher. I generally find that if you don’t move, the pain gets worse!

My “bad back routine” is mainly based on deep breathing. I stand in Samastithi holding my bandhas and practicing Ujjayi breathing for at least ten breaths. Then I step into downward facing dog, always holding bandhas and breathing very deeply into my back. I walk my feet towards my hands very slowly, then move into Malasana (yogic squat). Again, strong bandhas and deep breathing. Come back into Samastithi and perform Sun Salute A and B VERY SLOWLY. The key is always deep breathing into the back, and strong bandhas. I don’t care about form but mainly about working through a comfortable range of motion and through the pain. I find upward facing dog extremely beneficial and I spend a couple of breath into each move. I follow sun salutes with lounging for at least five breath each leg, stretching the psoas (a key muscle if you suffer from a bad back! The stiffer it is, the curvier you will find yourself). I then sit on my knees and perform extended puppy pose (see pic), stretching my arms in front of me, keeping my hips on the same line of my knees, and resting my chin or my forehead on the floor. Follow with cow face pose (see pic) and child’s pose. Finally, I rest in Savasana with Anurag’s Boyfriend, a wonderful wooden tool that press all the right places if you suffer from a bad back. I perform at least ten deep breath, then I continue resting in Savasana removing the tool. If you have never tried it, please refer to Anurag Vassallo of Asthanga Yoga Ibiza to find out what this wonderful, simple tool can do for you. This great Ashtanga Yoga teacher, authorized by Guruji and a long time student of Graeme Northfield, with the help of a Lama, has developed this tool that does wonders to a bad back, wherever your pain is located.

So, this was my practice this morning and I struggled with it. Yesterday I was floating on the mat and performing primary series as if I was strolling in the park. Today, I struggle through each single move. But you know what? It helped. I am walking fine and I feel I will be able to practice much better tomorrow. And if not, I’ll practice the remaining seven limbs, and keep it up with my modified practice, adding one posture at the time.


Extended Puppy pose


Cow face pose
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