Yoga and Back Pain


Over the past month, month-and-a-half, I’ve been spending my days rebuilding my back.  Sometimes I wake up with this desperate desire to regain the health and the pain-free life I had in my twenties.  And yet, just as my cancer awakened me to a sense of perspective (and secret) of life, my pain is awakening me to a perspective on health.  I take nothing for granted.  Every walk, every workout, every stretch has a critical and conscious importance in my life now, and I do nothing without studying my posture and breathing, listening for snaps and cracks that tell me my back is releasing, and asking my body, “does this hurt?  what about this?”  It’s a fulltime job, working with my body, and through the tragedy of never being able to have children, I’m deeply grateful for this silver lining.

Recently a hand surgeon gave me a cortisone shot for a ganglionic cyst on my wrist which has prevented me from doing yoga for the past couple of years.  I suppose it had been yet another one of a list of problems I’d had during a time of nearly daily doctor and ER visits.  I had decided my wrist pain was a very low priority item — yet one more nagging doctor’s visit where I would swear my cancer was back and he’d swear I was a hypochonidriac and send me home.

The morning after my first yoga workout in years — about 2 weeks ago — I was completely pain-free.  When I’m having a pain crisis my pain is so consuming I can barely remember a life without pain.  I feel as though I’ve been jailed for years and years and am finally breathing fresh air and seeing sunlight for the first time, and it feels so liberating.

Now I do 1 1/2 hours of yoga nightly, alternate days of weight training and 1-hour walks, and do my physical therapy exercises as well as tai chi daily.  That amounts to approximately 3 hours of exercising I do every day.  My back gets torn down from all of the work I’m demanding of it, and my pain-free mornings quickly disintegrate.  Even though most of this isn’t strenuous from a normal person’s point of view — the walking is slow, the tai chi gentle, and the yoga is slow and meditative — it’s a huge amount of demand physically for me, and I spend my idle moments in bed, watching Netflix and being a Words with Friends addict.

This morning I decided that instead of jumping into my daily back-breaking routine, I’d spend my pain-free morning catching up on bills and my blog.  Yoga has given me the gift of pain-free mornings.  I should use this gift more wisely.

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Yoga and Back Pain

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