Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chronic pain

A few days ago I saw a documentary about people who have chronic pain. It's shocking how many people suffer on a daily basis often for years and decades. The doctors are not educated for chronic pain. They give a prescription: pain killer. Yet in the long run this ruins the stomach, the liver, it can even lead to poisoning the body. 

After 3 months of pain one speaks of chronic pain. That is the original cause might no more exist, yet the brain has learned to have pain. 

Chronic pain can be healed. What the brain could learn, it can also unlearn. 

All doctors agree: To move is good. 
My experience: it is. 

The patients learn relaxation methods.
They also learn to focus on something else but the pain, something that is so exciting for a person that the pain is simply forgotten. This helps to unlearn to have pain. 

The patients often are advised to go to a psychologist. Stress can be a cause for pain. One can learn to handle stress. 

All the exercises that I see in books or online are often sort of asanas. So today I practiced. I was relaxed. Afterwards I had the feeling that  the pain returns. I went out and walked around. This helped me not to repeat the pain routine. I feel on my way to recovery. To practice, yet to take it easy is my advice. 90 min of yoga are enough. It needn't to be 2 hours each and every day. I avoid pain and focus on those asanas that need special attention. 

I'm looking forward to primary tomorrow. It will be a lunch practice. I AM flexible. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The power of focus

So many thoughts cross my mind.

First my life is not yet pain free. Another sports doctor agreed that it's good to move. He even recommended to work on strength. I think I do this with Ashtanga yoga. I want to go swimming and to the sauna. Yoga and swimming complement each other.

Today I practiced again. Whenever I feel pain, I avoid it. For instance utthita parsvasahita comes with pain. So I do the form while lying on the floor.

My practice is unbalanced. I focus now on back bending. Another 2 years passed away. Back bending improved, but I'm convinced it could be better. But how should it improve? 80% of my time I practice primary, that is forward bending asanas. 20% of my time is dedicated to back bending.
Back bending comes after more than one hour of practice. By then I'm usually tired and exhausted. On one very good day I checked if I could repeat laghu vajrasana. I couldn't. I was exhausted and had no will power anymore to do a tiny extra exercise.
It must be the other way round: 
The challenging asanas must come first.
80% of my time should be spent on the asanas that I want to learn and not on those I do since 12 years.

I started slowly today with focus on the breath. I was weak and stiff. I couldn't be more relaxed about this fact. Sometimes the practice must feel good, just this. The joy that I'm back on my mat overweights the discomfort from the back.

The series are not written in stone. They serve as a guide. I hope that I'll be back to the practice as usual soon. Till then, I'm creative.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Back pain - what to do?

Yesterday I read a book, that helped me a lot to understand the spine and what can cause back pain. Alone because of the simple yet profound description of the anatomy the book is valuable. Yet it has also other great tips.

Here I summarize everything that I learned from all different sources:
1. Observe yourself in daily life. How do you stand, sit? How do you pick up heavy or not so heavy things from the floor. How do you get out of bed?
- I found out that I need a desk chair. I remember when we moved I used to say: I cannot sit here. My chair has no little wheels and it has not the right height for me. To buy a new chair has now priority.
- It's a bit difficult for me to get out of bed without turning and twisting the body as we sleep under the roof. I have to find a way to get up that is not that awkward as it is now.

2. Weight: I don't only talk about the body weight here. Some times ago I bought a little shopping wagon. Since then I don't carry heavy bags anymore when I do grocery shopping. Very consequently I'll use this wagon from now on. It could also be a good idea to hang my camera over my left shoulder every other day.

3. Sean recommended to write a journal to find out what are the triggers for the pain. In my case it's when I sit too long. Perhaps I can find out more when I write a journal. That is I have to stand up and move after 30 min. And as already mentioned I need an appropriate chair.

4. The clerk of the drug store recommended Magnesium (400mg).

5. I also bought and use French brandy for my back.

6. Hot baths can relieve the pain. Next week I'll go swimming and I'll go to the sauna. Wet heat is better than dry heat.

7. I learned a lot of exercises to relief the pain. Good is to know a few of them and to apply them several times of the day as a routine for life.

8. Many recommended exercises resemble asanas. So I see no reason to stop with my yoga practice. Sean warned to do cobra pose. Perhaps I should omit the back bending asanas when in pain. But I'll surely get back to practice back bending.

9. There are different sorts of pain. The stretching discomfort how I prefer to call it is good pain. Also the burning of the muscles when working on gaining strength, yet the back pain is a bad pain that I try to avoid. That is I omit asanas that come with this pain.

10. Staying optimistic supports healing. Many people have a much more unhealthy life style than me and they got rid of the back pain, why not me? It's important to make the life style changes that I described and it's important to stick to them. Correct movement in daily life is so important.

11. To have strong abdomen is useful. I'll engage my bandhas. From now on I'll never forget this during my practice.

Please note: all the above tips are life style changes. It's OK to take pain killers to avoid that the pain becomes chronic. Yet pain killers are not a solution for long as they have side effects. One must eliminate the causes for the pain, not only the pain.

Time to step on my mat. Primary today. I'll omit sun salutations B.

Picture: My mother-in-law, 91 years old, practicing hasta padangusthasana. She rocks.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

(3) Advanced A Ashtanga Yoga practice, Kealakekua, HI with Sri K. Pattab...

Interesting video. 
It motivates me NOT to give up my goal to learn all the Ashtanga series, despite my current back pain.

Aiming for perfection is such a trap. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How to Release the Psoas Muscles

This exercise looks so simple, yet it is really helpful. It does miracles. Might it help you, too. 

Your Sacroiliac Joint does not need clicking back into place

Another view...... Interesting are the comments here. 

One wrong movement and I'm on my way......

One wrong movement and I'm on my way to become an expert at psoas muscle and sacroiliac joint.

When I described the back pain the doctor, he knew at once what it was. This facilitated a lot. I could search the web in more detail. 

The doctor gave me pain killer. The pills should  eliminate the soreness in the joint. Usually when the pain disappear people relax and with this relaxation the body repositions. In my case the pills helped me as long as I took them plus one day. 

Now the pain is back. The cause is still there. This sacrioliac joint is still not in the correct position. This is why the muscle (psoas muscles) is strained. My friend sent me videos especially to this topic. The sacrioliac joint must find back to it's original position. Exercises shall help to reposition it. It helps. 

This morning I practiced primary as I realized that forward bending asanas feel good. Between the poses I added the special exercises I found online.

I omitted sun salutation B - the hero pose is painful. The trikonasana asanas were difficult on the one side. Yet the forward bending asanas and even the vinyasas could be performed very well, that is without pain at all. I practice what feels good. 

I've found a sitting position that is comfortable right now.

In the evening the discomfort is worse than in the morning. Yesterday when I was in bed I put my legs behind my head. Feet not crossed. This relieved the pain. It felt so good. We laughed. It's impossible to stay in this position all day long. 

Mood is optimistic. I've something to work on. This cannot last for an eternity. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pain free is something else

Pain free is something else. But I practice again since 2 days. It was hard to start again after a break of about 3 weeks, but I have other organs, too and not only my back and they scream for yoga.
I find it very relaxing to focus on the breath. I exercise concentration. A yoga practice has so much aspects. It's not only the performance of the asanas that is important.

My practice is modified. I practice the sun salutations, the standing asanas and then I start with second series till the leg behind head poses. I try yoga nidrasana, I leave out all the primary forward bending asanas, not only because of my back. I got feed-back that my practice is unbalanced and this is so true. My forward banding asanas are so much better than my back bending asanas. This is so because I practice much much more forward bending asanas.
When I finally come to the back bending asanas after 1 hour of practice I'm already sort of exhausted. What is difficult must come first and not last.

Today is my first day without pills. The pills should eliminate the soreness. Yet when this little sacroiliac joint is still blocked, soreness will come back. I hope that my attentive yoga practice will adjust my body again.

My short-term goals are again to do a daily practice. That's all. I'll add pranayama and meditation. When my back is OK again (hope dies last), I'll get back to an ambitious asana and vinyasa practice.

During the last 12 years of daily Ashtanga yoga practice I made few mistakes.
Here they are:
1. The asanas were more important than the vinyasas.
2. I started too late with second series. 'Too much primary', I heard from advanced yoginis. I didn't know what they mean. Now I know. My practice, that is my body is exercised unevenly. Forward bending is very good, back bending is lousy therefore.
3. I used props and straps the wrong way. A strap around the legs when exercising back bending is rather a danger for the back than a support. I lost strength in my legs that is so important.  Practicing pincha mayurasna against a wall all the time enlarges the fear to fall. One must learn to fall.

My strategy: 
1. The vinyasas get much more attention.
2. What is difficult must come first. This is back bending in my case. Repetition is a secret for success. I'll work on these asanas and not just trying it once. If I use props again (I use i.e. my magic wheel), I really examine if this is supportive or not. The goal is to practice without props.
3. Till my back is healed, the back is the boss. The practice must be adjusted from one minute to the next in case of pain.

I feel much much better. Most of the time I'm pain free. Yet I still can locate this little joint because discomfort tells me: hello here I am, take care. I will.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

On back pain - a summary

Back pain is not back pain. There are different causes why back pain occurs and in my opinion there are also different healing methods.

1. Lumbago: Lumbago can happen from one second to the other. One wrong movement and a nerve might not be at the usual place and the pain can begin. Lumbago is painful. There is no way to practice yoga or to do anything. I went to the hospital. There they gave me something to drink. It was a drug that shall relax the muscles. I slept on the aisle in a hotel bed soon after having taken this fluid. After a few hours I was OK again. It was all like a nightmare. I spoke with people who have this lumbago very often. 

2. Sacroiliac joint: The hips and the spine is connected via this joint that is rather a gristle. A wrong movement ,i.e. one lifts up a heavy suitcase or one turns around in an awkward manner and something can be blocked there. I got it when I practiced supta kurmasana. I remember when it happened. I thought: Damned, I pulled something. In difference to lumbago the pain can be located almost precisely. It's either on the left or right side of the lower spine. 
The recommendation here is to go to the doctor as soon as possible. I postponed this too long. Practicing yoga was not a good idea. But the pain was volatile. During the practice I felt good, but afterwards it was difficult to sit down or to stand up. I could scarcely turn around in bed at night. 
The joint got sore. The pills that I got are in general against rheumatic problems. It helped almost at once. After one day I felt so incredible much better. 
Today I was in the subway: I could stand up and sit down without pain. A miracle.
Tomorrow I feel ready for my first practice after a break of almost 3 weeks. 

3. Back pain in general: I can write only theoretically about it. I think people get back pain if they sit too long in the same position. People who have sedetary jobs might be prone to get back pain, when they don't exercise to balance this life style. Yoga might be very good here, also because it works prophylactic. All sorts of asanas are useful: Standing asanas, forward bending, back bending, twists, inversions .....

For the time being there is a gap between what I want and what is possible. I think it's good advice to start slowly and to focus on the breath. 

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Mr Iyengar and back pain

People went to yoga gurus because they faced challenges in their lives: Students had difficulties to concentrate during their studies. Others had illnesses. Practicing yoga was considered as a helpful method for many diseases. It helped to change the life style to a healthier one.

What recommends B.K.S Iyengar when having back pain?
I took his bible and analyzed the Asanas:
He recommends:

1. All standing positions. This would be the beginning of the Ashtanga series without the sun salutations.

2. Sirsasana plus variations. Sirsasana is an inversion asana. I practiced this yesterday and it felt good.
3. Sarvangasana plus variations. Also this is an inversion asana.

4. Jatara-Parivartanasana: This is a twist. One lies on the floor, the legs are in a 90% angle to the body and move to the left and the right side. I'll take a picture. This is not an asana that is part of the Ashtanga series.
5. Supta padangusthasana and supta parsvasahita:  It's easier to do this position than the same forms standing. I testes this yesterday.

6. Mahamudra: This is a position I have not seen so far. I must try it. It looks great.

7. Janu sirsasana: This position felt good, too. It's a forward bending asana. It relaxed my back.
8. Parivrta sirsasana: It's a variation, that is new to me. A soft twist is added.

9. Paschimottanasana: It feels good, this forward bending asana.
10.  Urdhva mukha paschimottanasana I and II: This is paschimottanasana sitting and lying.
11. parivritta paschimottanasana: This is twisting the upper body to one side and then the other side.

12. Marichyasana 1 and Marichyasana 2: Forward bending asana and twist.
13. Ardha matsyendrasana 1 and 2: Twist and forward bending asana

14. Pashasana: Twist. I wondered that Mr Iyengar even recommends such an intensive twist.

15. Malasana: A forward bending asana.
16. Adho Mukha-Svanasana:  Downdog always feels relaxing.

17. Ustrasana: What? Back bending asanas are also recommended? Yes, it is so.
18. Shalabhasana.
19. Dhanurasana.
20. Parsva dhanurasana.
21. Urdhva dhanurasana.

22. Viparita chakrasana: This is such an advanced asana. I don't even try it.
23. Dwi pada viparita dandasana. This is a back banding asana of the third Ashtanga series.

24. Mandalasana: Something for my next life.

Mr Iyengar recommends standing asanas, inversions, forward bending asanas, back bending asanas, twists.
In other words practice yoga.

There are no sun salutions and no jumping (how B.K.S Iyengar calls the vinyasas of the Ashtanga yoga series) in his list.
The order of the asanas is different than in Ashtanga yoga. This might not be of such an importance.

Yoga, the pills, Magnesium and a hot Epson bath shall finally bring me back to normal.
I'll try some asanas of this list that are new to me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

I went to the doctor

The day yesterday was perfect. I was busy, moved around. No pain at all. The more I move the better I feel, but also I have to sit from time to time. I'm learning Photoshop these days, At night I finally sat on my desk. Time passed away quickly and after a few hours I could scarcly stand up. My back hurt like hell. It's always the right side. The spot where it hurts most can be located. I don't know how I made it to the bed. There I did half yoga nidrasana, which was relaxing. I had enough.

This morning I went to the doctor. When I showed him where it hurts he said at once: Iliosakralgelenk (ISG). There is a cartilage between spine and hip that holds the both together. A wrong movement and this sublte organisation can get out of balance and this is painful. I swear it is.

I got pills. Warmth shall help. It will pass. This is good news.

On my way home I bought some vegetables. My fruit and vegetable dealer knew at once as well what I had when I described the pain. He suggested that it helps if someone pulls my legs, slowly. This can cause that the blockade goes away. Twists shall help, too. I felt at once that this could be another key to recovery.

At home I checked the Internet.
I read that often sportive people have this, too. After recovery one shall return slowly to the sportive activity.

Mr Iyengar listed a lot of asanas that shall be helpful when the back hurts. I'll exercise them. Slowly, attentively. I'm relieved to know now what it is. Quick recovery shouldn't be expected, yet with the pills I guess I'll be fully recovered in a week.
I consider a hot bath on a daily basis.

Just wonder if I gossip too much......but my experience is that one can get useful tips when sharing whatever.....

Might this post be helpful.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

October challenge

Kino has created a new challenge for October and I'm in again.

It's a good start for me. I took a break to see if my back pain gets better. It doesn't. The pattern that I could make out is that the pain gets worse when I don't move. For instance after a few hours at the desk in front of my computer the pain is awful. It's absent when I move. I cannot move all the time. But I think I can do yoga.

I'm at a turning point with my practice again. I'll do much more home practices again. Life is a huge experiment, so is my yoga.