Wednesday, April 3, 2013

YOGA! Pain Relief, Prayer, and Peace of Mind

I love yoga. I only know a few poses, but when I do them, I love them, every time. In the past year, I have discovered that in addition to fibromyalgia, I have lumbar spondylolisthesis, which is basically a fancy word for “slipped discs.”

I’d been having pain from this condition since my mid-twenties, but it was intermittent. When I lived at Venice Beach during that time in the 80’s that I call my “Kerouacian Period,” I walked all over the place, wondering why I was in so much pain by the time I got back to the little apartment my friend and I sublet from the roaches. Turns out, it’s possible that I got the injury when I was kicked in the back with steel-toed boots by my first husband.

As I got older, the pain came more often. Since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I attributed almost everything to that, since it seemed like that’s what the doctors did.  I continued my active lifestyle, because I refuse to give in to pain or any other roadblock – I just find ways around the obstacles, most of the time. Until this past year when it became almost impossible to turn over at night because of the pain in my lower back and right hip. This time it didn’t go away after a day or so.

That’s when an x-ray confirmed the disc problem. My injury isn’t all that severe.  Try telling that to my pain receptors. There have been days when I’ve used a cane to help me stand up from my chair and keep me going when I walk.

Everyone knows I’m not an extreme sports kind of person, but I’ve been pretty active throughout my life. I’ve been a hiker, taken jiu jitsu, practiced Tae Bo and even a bit of belly dance. I don’t like being forced to slow down. Where I live, I often see people in their 70’s and 80’s donning hiking boots and heading up a mountainside with a bottle of water and a walking stick. This only adds to my frustration. How can people thirty and forty years my senior move with such ease, while I sometimes struggle to take my first step? I realized that I’ve got to do something about this!

So, I bought a weighted hula hoop and started doing yoga again. I also started up reminders on my Habitforge account so I would do at least 20 minutes per day. Since I don’t know that many poses, this forces me to hold them longer.

As I go through my Sun Salutation, I can feel the positive impact it is having on my spine. The energy moves through my limbs like an electric current.  I know that it’s working because I feel better. It isn’t perfect yet, but it’s better. I told my new doctor I was doing yoga again. He smiled and said (rather perkily, I might add), “Yoga is the best thing for this!”

Yoga has become a time of prayer for me. I do it outside in our garden, where birds provide beautiful background music and the cat likes flicking his tail at me when my face is closest to the ground. I start with the hula hoop, working until I’m able to keep it going for at least a minute. I hope to get better at that one day. When the hoop drops for the last time, I walk barefoot to a flat spot, where I try to find my center in a Tree pose. I’ve lost my center. I can never do this correctly the first time. Once I’ve completed my little routine, which consists of a Sun Salutation and what I think is a Moon Salutation, I end the session with another Tree asana. This time, I can do it. Not for as long as I’d like – but I CAN do it.

All the while, as I hold each pose, I breathe in and out my prayers for the day – for my family, for my friends, for those I know are in crisis and pain, for prosperity, peace, and productivity. Then, when I am all done with this activity, I sit down in silent meditation.  At the end of my practice, I’m ready to face the day head on with a peaceful heart, expecting to make a positive impact in some way. Sure, I still have some pain, but I can overcome it so much easier than I could without having taken this time in my backyard.

I cannot think of a better way to begin my day and relieve my pain, along with some weight loss. Though I hope one day to be able to afford actual lessons, yoga at home is just fine!

The vining rose bush as I enter the back yard for yoga and meditation

The garden beneath the mesquite tree

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