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.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Nine Families joined our MKC Free Kids Yoga class yesterday and I couldn't have been more joyous! We haven't had this class since November and it was a sublime pleasure to share the breathing ball with all those new little faces! We had children from 3 months to 6 years in the room and even though it's always a challenge to compete with the activities at the clubhouse we did a 40-minute class!

Here's how we practiced!

We started with the Tibetan singing bowl calling us to focus, learned a little pranayama (deep breathing) then raised our energy with the "Are you ready for yoga" song! After that we started moving our spines - all six directions! We continued our warm up movements by mixing up our fun yoga cookies complete with flour, sugar, hugs and eggs, then as they 'baked' we did some salutes to the sun. Our strong legs carried us through mountain pose, lunge pose, then snake pose, lunge pose and standing again, reaching HIGH to the sun. Then it was time to MOVE - we stomped around like dinosaurs (and did a little dinosaur ballet) to Laurie Berkner. To help our hearts and breathing slow down after that we moved on to being the wind through the trees, and then the trees themselves, learning balance and stillness! When we sat back down ..SURPRISE the cookies were ready so we had our yoga snack on our tummy picnic tables, and magically sipped milk SLLLLOOOOWWWLLLY through our noses (in and out - silly but effective for slowing our breathing). Since we had an active kids cooking class just over the partition, our traditional lay down and rest time wasn't going to work, so did our quiet time as a "reading savasana." We sat quietly snuggled close to our families and listened to a really sweet book about a little gosling that loves her bright red boots (and learns to share). Then we brought out the Hoberman Sphere (breathing ball) and all the little ones helped us breath in through our nose, out through our nose as we expanded and contracted the sphere.
After all our work, we rubbed our hands together, created a little heat and put it over our eyes...then held our hands to our heart and sang the namaste song "There's a light in me, there's a light in you, and together we are one; there's a light in me, there's a light in you, and together we are one" (that sort of follows the "peace like a river" tune).

I hope that some of your will be able to commit to coming out some of the Fridays in February to celebrate yoga a little bit more. Please just email/text me at least by the day before to reserve your spot -I'm so grateful to have been able to share a little bit of what I love to do with you!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Deep Breaths

Two days in a row my toddler affected me in the most profound way. Two days in a row he was behaving impish - you know, toddler stuff...yelling, being indignant, thrashing while I tried to change/dress him. Two days in a row I growled (idle) threats at him of severe corporal punishment and days worth of time-outs. And two days in a row, he sat up, looked at me wide-eyed, and said "Deep Brefs...Deep Brefs," and waited for my response.

Which was, initially, to stare in surprise. Then, to do exactly as suggested. And wouldn't you know it? It worked.

I'm still unsure if he meant HE should take the deep breaths, or I should, but still, it was the exact right thing to suggest and do.

Since the day he was able to understand what a breath was I have tried to teach him to take a few deep ones when he is crying, or frustrated, or angry. It at the very least breaks the anxiety cycle and allows us to communicate about the problem. I don't remember the lesson for myself often enough when not on my mat. So with his 28.5-month wisdom, my little Virgo has reaffirmed his guru status for me, for my yoga.

They listen, they hear and understand even when we think they don't. Teach your children well, and they will do the same for you!