Back pain, mental pain and Yoga

I love cross country skiing, and I feel the season here i Trondheim was shorter this year. Therefore, I was very excited to see on Saturday morning that it was snowing. I booked a car (we are part of a car collective), and I agreed with my husband that I would go for a trip on my own. I wanted to be as early as possible to make sure I was in the forest before too many people had the same idea as I had.

I was so early that there were no prepared tracks yet, and it was snowing so much that it was a bit challenging to actually ski, but I didn’t mind, I love it when it snows like that, and I was outdoors, on my own.

At some point, I got a bit lost, and I wasn’t sure where I was, but I just kept going knowing that I would find a sign somewhere some time. I had been going mainly uphill, so when I saw the first downhill, I was happy and relieved thinking that I must have been going back somehow.

The snow was heavy and sticky, and my skis weren’t gliding much and at a turn, I lost balance and fell on my knees. Nothing dramatic, just a little fall. But when I stood up again, I felt it. A sharp pain on my lower back. Good old lower back pain that takes the breath out of me. It’s been a while since last time, but I recognise it very well.

I couldn’t call myself a yoga practitioner if I didn’t use the tools I have learned for this kind of situations, so I tried to calm my mind that was going all over the place with ‘where am I?’, ‘how am I going to get to the car?’, ‘I’m completely alone here’, ‘it’s so painful’, and so on. I took some deep breaths, tried to straighten myself up, and attempted to continue and see what happens. I soon decided to take off the skis and walk down the hill. I took out my phone, found the right app, and to my great relief, I found out I wasn’t far from where I had parked my car. Somehow, I had made some sort of loop.

I was, of course, slightly disappointed with my trip and the back pain, but I was glad I was able to walk back. What is more, I know this old friend of mine, the back pain, it comes unexpectedly, it gives quite a lot of trouble, but it ends up leaving at some point.

The practice of Yoga asana has allowed me throughout the years to get to know my body better, and when an injury like this one happens, I know most of the time what I need to do for a speedy recovery. What is maybe more important is that since I know I suffer from lower back pain, my daily practice is focused on keeping my core muscles, my glutes and my legs strong and flexible.

So I drove home and did what I usually do, a combination of relaxing, going for walks and doing soft movements and some gentle stretches to release tension in the muscles that tend to contract when I hurt my back.

After a couple of days, I was much much better, and that is when I remembered that maybe two or three years ago, when I already had a quite steady yoga asana practice, I hurt my lower back just like last week, and I was devastated. I couldn’t understand how I could be in pain again when I practice asana every day and am very cautions of what I do to avoid getting hurt. The funny part, is that I have experienced the same when it comes to everyday life. I know my triggers, I know my mental and emotional weaknesses, and every time I would end up in an emotional situation, I would be so disappointed feeling that ‘I haven’t learned anything!’ To this, my yoga teacher has always said the same: develop patience.

So I have been reflecting about how, the practice of yoga as a holistic approach, does not necessarily prevents me from getting into situations where old patterns of thought and behaviour arise, where I feel bad about myself, or hurt, but I come out of such states of mind faster. Just like with my lower back pain. I am more capable of bearing the pain, observe the pain, and do what I need to do to get through it without making a bigger mess, without creating more mental and emotional distress for myself.

That is life, isn’t it? Keep walking, enjoy the highs and bear the lows with as much calmness as possible to not spend precious energy on making things worse for ourselves… I love what Yoga is bringing to my life.

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