the importance of yoga

In early 2007, I received some serious news. I woke up unable to stand up straight, stuck at a 90 degree angle, and had to make an emergency appointment with a chiropractor. After some x-rays and other things, he told me that my back was extremely messed up [my paraphrasing]. He said that it looked like I had been in a bad car accident ten years ago and never gone to see a doctor [not my paraphrasing]. He almost didn't believe me when I said that I'd never been in an accident, I just had bad growth spurts. Really bad growth spurts. My knees and ankles had been messed up for years because of them, but I never thought that something new would surface ten years later, when I was at the peak of my fitness!

So, he told me his prescription: I had to see him three times a week [this eventually got reduced to two, then one, and finally once a month], which would help with the immediate problem. But if I wanted to be able to walk for the rest of my life, I had two options: I could have painful back surgery and a long [and equally painful] recovery time, or I could do yoga for the rest of my life. I like walking. It's definitely something I want to continue doing for as long as possible. But I don't like painful surgery. Guess which one I picked.

I had already been doing yoga on-and-off for the past few years but I never did it very regularly. I struggled with some poses and sequences, most notably the downward facing dog to plank and repeat section on my favourite DVD. It took me years to get my heels to touch the floor during downward facing dog. But the news from the chiropractor got me to kick up my practice a few notches, and I quickly developed a deep love for yoga and how it made me feel [both body and mind]. And eventually, finally, with regular practice, my heels touched the floor during downward facing dog!
Downward facing dog, with instructions, at FitSugar
In full disclosure, it's been five years and I haven't kept up with it as much as I should have [just like I've let all my other fitness habits fall out of use]. For a while, I had to go back to seeing a chiropractor three times a week. But I did yoga every once in a while, knowing that I should start doing it regularly again, and could always tell the difference after a session. But my skills declined without regular use [and with added weight], and my back started causing me serious problems. This winter, spending all my time in bed, back spasms were a daily occurrence. With that happening, I knew I had to change something.

Getting out my old yoga DVD in February was a humbling experience, after all I had worked for just a few years ago. Once again, I gave up at the first downward facing dog attempt. But I did it again a few days later. And again after that. I had two goals in mind: to make it through the entire workout without skipping anything, and to get my heels to touch the floor during downward facing dog. Again. I accomplished the first one within a few sessions-- once I started, my body remembered how to respond, even though it had been a while and I was much more out of shape. The heels goal took longer, but I finally did it-- and then sprained my ankle the next day, so it's something I'll have to work towards again now that my ankle's up to it. But still, it didn't take a year and a half that time, unlike in 2007, so that's an improvement!

I'm still not doing yoga as consistently as I should. The ankle prevented me from doing it in March but even aside from that, I was only doing it once a week when I should've been doing it at least three times a week. It's one of those healthy habits that I'm still struggling to establish. Although, I've already met my calorie burn goal for the week so I think I'll focus on yoga this weekend [in addition to continuing 30 Day Shred, of course!]. But every time I do it, it gets a little easier and I feel a little better [and my back does, too!]. I'm looking forward to being back at my peak, and potentially becoming an instructor myself. Wouldn't that be neat?

Note: I wrote this entry up last night, but I just did yoga for the first time since I sprained my ankle this morning [you'd think that someone with a sprained ankle could do yoga since it's low impact, but you'd be wrong]. Partly prompted by, of course, my back bothering me today. The yoga session completely kicked my ass. I never want to take six weeks off from it ever again.