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Thursday, November 02, 2006

yoga therapy

for the two weeks that i've been on the injured reserve list and relegated to less strenuous yoga classes, i've been making a concerted effort to study with master teachers and/or teachers whose backgrounds are in injury rehabilitation or physical therapy. i figured that if they truly knew their stuff, not only would they tell me what i should and shouldn't be doing, but they would also correct me if they spotted me doing something that would reinjure my back all over again. at the same time, i've been very conscious of the way i move in and out of poses, focusing on the difference between "good" pain and "bad" pain; that is, the discomfort i feel while i'm trying to get deeper into a pose vs. the discomfort i feel when i'm doing something incorrectly.

with my heightened awareness and slow, deliberate movements, i've finally come to the conclusion that the reason why i injured my back in the first place was because i was doing things the wrong way (duh!). instead of making space between the disks in my back by lengthening my spine before doing backbends, forward bends, and twists, i was keeping my spine compressed, and in so doing, i was jamming my disks into each other, causing spasms and pain.

yes, i know that teachers have been telling me what to do since day one, but obviously i haven't been listening.

... that is, until now, when i find myself the poster child for what bad yoga habits can do to you.

fortunately for me, right after that proverbial light bulb went on over my head, i was able to take classes with three excellent teachers who were very hands-on: amy lafond at yoga works montana, annie carpenter at yoga works main street, and ben fritz at forrest yoga. they watched my every move and offered much-needed (and much-appreciated) guidance. and even if i thought i was doing a good job of lifting my ribs away from my pelvis, they showed me that i could still lengthen my spine even more. they also pointed out other things -- like the time amy adjusted my wide-legged standing forward bend because my right hip was higher than my left. or when annie pointed out that i tilted my pelvis forward too much when i was standing. or when ben kept reminding me to relax my neck and shoulders because all that tension was eventually going to find its way to my lower back.

and thankfully, through proper chiropractic care and a more conscious yoga practice, my back is feeling much better. i won't go as far as to say that i've been healed (praise the lord, alleluia!), but it's definitely on the mend.

speaking of seeking therapy from qualified professionals, i just received confirmation that i'll be volunteering at the 1st symposium on yoga therapy and research (SYTAR) which will be held in los angeles on january 18-21, 2007. this conference, sponsored by the international association of yoga therapists (IAYT), will feature a speaker program which includes many luminaries in the yoga and medical fields. it also will include many LA-based yoga instructors such as marla apt, sherry brourman, rajashree choudhury, larry payne, eric small, max strom (a former LA resident), and lisa walford. i'm looking forward to attending workshops, taking classes, and checking out the exhibitor booths. oh yes, and doing the usual administrative tasks that volunteers are expected to do :)

anyway, this recent injury has made me even more convinced that every yoga student must spend some hands-on time with a knowledgeable and caring yoga instructor. after all, it's one thing to be able to do the poses well enough to follow along in a class, but it's another thing to be able to do the poses well enough to prevent yourself from getting injured.

maybe i'll finally learn to listen to my own advice...