How Yoga Ended My Back Pain In Six Months
An eighteen-wheeler introduced me to real pain. After suffering a major trauma in a collision with a vehicle ten times bigger than my own, I began a long, painful recovery from multiple injuries, including the wrenching of almost every muscle and tendon in my back. This place of pain continued as center point of my everyday life long after returning to normality.
Once recovery was thought complete, I restarted my life acquiescing pain as companion. My lungs, lacerated and collapsed in the crash, continued with soreness for years. Deep breathing always proved difficult. The pain that most often invited immobilization came from my back. Back pain is always written as I write it; two simplistic words incapable of expressing the broken physicality's complexity. In everyday life, back pain is plural. There’s never a singular place of raging fire, knifing torment, or weighted strain. These sensations manifest all at once in indescribably varying degrees.
Six years after the trauma, I continued to experience daily pain in both my back and lungs. I had fully recovered, moved to a new city, relaunched my career, and was living every aspect of my day in unnoticeable convention. Except for pain. At this place in my journey, however, I interpreted the pain, also, as convention. It was normal to have the knife in my ribs and lungs when I sneezed. It was normal to not be able to drive any distance without aching flames through my upper back. I expected and accepted the hallowing throb of my lower back even when relaxing at home.
I didn’t have any interest in Yoga. The woman I was dating invited me to join her at a Yoga class and attending was rooted only in attraction for our relationship. The room at the local gym was small with awkward quarters augmenting my own awkwardness on my first visit to the mat. My initial thought that Yoga was going to hurt proved, even on the first night, completely incorrect. A surprising feeling overcame me that evening; I liked it.
I attended yoga classes with her for two nights per week through the next months. Sometimes we would enjoy a third practice, attending class at a specific event, or with an online session. It was the first time I began genuinely breathing deeply. Not merely since the trauma, but in my life. I was neither athletic or meditative in my history and had never understood the power of breathing. Through Yoga I became acutely conscious of my breath and discovered it debilitatingly shallow. I had unconsciously trained myself in shallow breaths in pain avoidance for years. Yoga proved it was, in fact, my own shallowness preventing my lungs from truly healing.
I don’t know when it happened, exactly. I only recall realizing the nagging little pains in my back were gone. In disbelief, I spent the next three days in full awareness of not having any pain. The personal crossroads happened in the sixth month of my practice. I had been experiencing pain in my back for six years, and now, in six months, it was gone.
What I’ve learned most is the value of alignment. Yes, I had become stronger during those six months, but I feel this was more about training my body, or retraining if you will, for postures in proper alignment of my spine and my neck and my shoulders and my hips. I’d spent most of my life treating my body as very individual parts, instead of as a whole. A whole of body and breath. And, of course, of mind. For not only did Yoga reintroduce my many physical parts as connected community, so did it offer the pathway for a new way of thinking. I had never fully accepted healing. I had, instead, accepted pain. I had accepted being broken was the norm. And those terrible postures I learned in pain had become my postures long after the trauma had past.
Yoga became, and now always shall be, an integral part of my health and wellness. And in times of pain, in times of unspoken struggle with the questions pain asks of me, I will roll out my mat. I will explore the answers.
And yes, I still attend Yoga with the woman who invited me to class that night. We’ll celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary next year.