The Journey from Pain to Freedom : Anatomy of an Injury

Earlier this year, I suffered a major back injury, the exact cause of which I’m still not sure. I think it was caused by a sudden jerky movement (like waking up from bed), a day after very physically intense gardening activities (digging mostly, with the wrong tools).

But I can’t be a 100% sure because it manifested and peaked during the middle of my sadhana later in the day, while sitting in vajrasana to be precise.

It started as a dull pain which I initially noticed while showering in the morning, but eventually climaxed into an extreme and debilitating pain across my entire back, to the point where I was afraid to drive back home, as every single movement was an intense struggle.

After I got home, I was only able to find some comfort lying down. Any attempt to get into a vertical position only brought back the extreme pain. For a couple of days, even simple things like going to the bathroom or sitting up to eat were acts of tremendous struggle.

Obviously I couldn’t do any sadhana in this condition and I was unsure how long this would last. For the first time ever in my teaching career, I even had to reschedule a couple of workshops that I was doing that week.

After about a week, I was starting to move a little more confidently around the home and attempt at least my kriyas. Any hatha yoga practice was still out of the question so I avoided them, of course quite unwillingly.

I went to see a GP who gave me some simple tips like getting out of the car with both legs (turning 90° before stepping out and trying to stand), using my hands more while seated, and taking nurofen tablets which were very helpful to manage the pain.

But after about a month, when it started to really worry me if I would ever be able to do my sadhana again, I finally decided to see a physiotherapist, which I realised I should have done weeks ago.

The physiotherapist had a very good experience with working with similar types of back injuries and said it was probably caused by a sciatic nerve pinching.

Having lived a relatively healthy life and doing a lot of Yoga, it was a surprise to me that I would suffer this injury that I had only heard the name of but hadn’t a clue of the pain and its debilitating effect. So from that perspective it was a learning experience.

The exercises I started to do then (incidentally quite contradictory to everything I knew from a Hatha Yoga perspective, in terms of alignment and posture) had a dramatic effect in terms of my mobility and after a few weeks, I was slowly able to restart my sadhana of Upa Yoga and Yogasanas. Angamardana and Surya Kriya were both still out of reach as they had movements that severely aggravated the pain.

After about 8 sessions with the physiotherapist, I was able to move a lot more and eventually got back to doing some Hatha Yoga as well. It was exhilarating to be able to restart these practices but I was still not 100% free from the pain.

For some time, I was doing the practices along with the physiotherapists exercises, but I eventually stopped the exercises and now after about 5 months, I’m able to do my full sadhana (even Angamardana) without any pain or struggle.

The journey has really been an eye opener to the world of injuries and to understand why some people just cannot do what you ask them to do in class. I am grateful for the additional awareness that came out as a result of this injury, and deeper understanding of the mysteries of the human body.

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