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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pain, pleasure and everything in between: lessons of injury

Last week I injured what I believe to be my left side iliacus muscle (part of the ilio-psoas group). It's the big one that lines the inside of your pelvis and connect down to your leg to help you do things like lift your leg (you know, nothing major LOL). I seem to have overdid my pedaling in a spin class last week, and furthered in the injury trying to pick up Eli while twisting to the right. Bad idea (I actually felt something TWANG inside). I spend Saturday night to Sunday morning flat on my back, and started a regimen of ibuprofen, white willow bark, arnica tablets, tiger balm (and 1/2 prescription painkiller tablet every 4 hours, to a total dose of 2).

Because of the nature of how this muscle works, standing upright actually felt better than trying to be sitting (or trying to maneuver between sitting, standing and laying down). So the four hours I spent cooking Hamantaschen Sunday AM (with the medication as assistance) actually HELPED.

I tell you all this because what I found was this was an exercise in patience and body awareness that seldom I (we?) have a chance to experience. I spent quite a bit of time moving my leg around slowly through different ranges of motion, trying to feel exactly where the pain would go, what would feel like it gave release, and what other movements affected the discomfort.

If you aren't sure where this muscle is, I can explain by saying that if you have ever felt low back pain but it wasn't on your back side (posterior), but it felt more like INSIDE or on the FRONT, and lifting your leg gave you a bit of a tummy ache AND hurt your back, then you probably have experienced an injury to the iliacus or the psoas or both (ill-ee-A-kus and SO-az).

It also gave me a chance to peruse my yoga anatomy book with personal interest :)

Today I took a lovely pilates/yoga class that gave me a chance, after healing for a couple days, to try to test and strengthen that sore muscle. What I found was that with injuries, there is no "powering through" - and there is no "giving up" either. I had to breathe deeply (in fact at points all I heard WAS my breathing), and pay VERY CLOSE attention to what caused discomfort and what actually caused pain. I also discovered that not only was there pain, but significant weakness as a result of injury, and the body putting energy into healing, rather than expressive power (in stronger poses).

We did a very theraputic series  I would call Sunflower with the kids, where you have a wide legged stance with knees bent, and you inhale and bring your arms up and straighten your legs, then exhale, sweeping arms down and bending knees as deep as you can until your bottom is close to level with your knees. When you inhale, you bring IN the good: happiness, health, sunshine, pleasure, love. When you exhale, you release what does not serve you: pain, mistrust, anxiety, doubt. I like to try to come up with new words each time In bring in the breath and let it release. It's the writer in me, flipping through a mental thesaurus and actually drinking in the words, then letting the others go, letter by letter, as if in a cartoon.

This morning's experience of yoga moreso brought me through the range of sensations and emotions worthy of any therapy session: pain and pleasure, calm and anxiety, stress and release, strength and weakness, impatience and patience, openness and retreat. I left not feeling exhausted and not feeling (artificially) exhilarated. Just calm, normalized, and aware that I still need to be patient and loving toward my body so that can continue to perform for me for years to come.

Children can't express their emotions in the same words as we can; they are more apt to "act out" when excited or angry, or even in pain. What we can do for them in yoga is let them know it's a practice to help your body feel GOOD, so if it hurts, don't do it. Feel strong, take a break when you don't. Love yourself and believe in your own ability to heal.

Sounds basic, but yet I have found as a 'grown up' i do forget those lessons. And this injury has brought me back to the fundamentals. So, even though I was (am?) upset about my restricted movement, I have to respect the lesson that is being conveyed.

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