No, I’m not secretly recovering from an alcohol or drug addiction. A while back I wrote a blog about getting injured and the challenges that posed. My re-habilitation/path to recovery has been slow but illuminating. I’ve learned that on the whole, allopathic doctors have very little understanding of patients with back problems. They would expect a ‘normal’ person of my age with a back problem to have virtually no movement at all. But as someone who has practised yoga for 40 odd years, I didn’t fit into this idea of normality. I knew something was wrong but I was dismissed by the medical profession because I was still ‘flexible’.
I’d have liked a scan in order to better understand what I was dealing with, but as this was not forthcoming on the NHS, I set about intuitively healing myself. I soon realised that any rotation or lateral movements made things worse, so in the early stages of recovery, my yoga practice consisted of very basic asana on the sagittal plane. I practised what Donna Farhi calls Upward Puppy (Sphinx Pose), Plank, Downward Facing Dog, and a modified Salabhasana. Warrior 2 and modified Tree felt ok too. At first I also tried sitting meditation – until my Feldenkrais practitioner said she thought I should lie down instead – in fact lie down as much as possible. It was such a relief to be given permission to lie down! Then I realised my best way forward was to surrender on all fronts – just do essential tasks and stop trying so hard.
Caroline Scott my Feldenkrais teacher was my saviour during the six month ‘back pain episode’. She treated me as a whole person without pathologising my problem. I would lie down while she used gentle touch to encourage my body to move in subtly new ways. The idea of a Feldenkrais Functional Integration session is to give the body more movement choices – that are healthier. It was lovely to be moved and to feel myself breathe more freely. (contrary to what I would teach, even breathing deeply had increased my pain). Caroline’s ‘touch’ to my body was skilled and intuitive based on a wealth of experience. In addition her intention was all important. Here’s was Moshe Feldenkrais said about touch – ‘On the sensory level communication is more direct with the unconscious, and is therefore more effective and less distorted than at the verbal level. Words, as somebody said, are more to hide our intentions than to express them. But I have never met anybody, man or animal, who cannot tell a friendly touch from an evil one. Touching, if unfriendly even in thought, will make the touched stiff, anxious, expecting the worst, and therefore unreceptive to your touch.’
For about four months my personal yoga practice continued in the very basic manner described above, and in silence. I quite liked it as a change from my usual more upbeat Vinyasa Flow practised to music. My practice was so basic and short that there was lots more time in the morning – time to read the papers and have breakfast in bed – an important part of the re-hab ;-). Before I got injured I was practising the Vinyasa Flow part of my practice to some funky Tango Club music. It was probably making me feel even more crazy than I was already at that stressful time, but somehow the music had to fit the mood.
Now I’m nearly back to health, I’m playing the Tango Club music again. I’m practising ‘Slipped Disc’ Sun Salutations
and I’m incorporating Feldenkrais inspired dance moves that weave their way in and out of a gentle Vinyasa Flow sequence – it feels like a marvellous celebration of getting my body back!