Pose, Counter-pose:It Takes Equal Opposites to Stay Healthy

Last May during my yoga therapy training I hurt my back doing a move with which was unfamiliar. As soon as I came out of the posture pain and weakness spread throughout my lower back. UGH!

With rest the general pain subsided in about a week. It was then I realized that the source of my pain was my left sacroiliac joint, the part of the pelvis that connects to the sacrum. Forward bends caused pain to shoot through my back and down my left leg.

As soon as I got over the initial anger over my injury, I relished using my knowledge of yoga to heal this injury. Proceeding with caution and care I returned to my reliable trio Cobra, Locust and Bow to help me heal. I practiced Cobra with no hand support, a standard form of Locust and Half Bows. The Half Bows from the right side sent a wonderful healing surge of prana down my left side right into the sacroiliac joint. Half bow is like a direct prana injection into the S.I. joint. Warrior III, Head-To-Knee Pose and Bridge Pose were also instrumental in restoring soundness to this joint and my lower back.

As I healed I continued to practice the above regimen with typical Pitta zeal and did very little forward bending. I was back to 80% function in about five months and have since returned to normal function with no pain and full mobility. What a joy to be able to heal myself with this simple, effective practice!

Recently though, neglect of forward bends has caught up with me. My necessary emphasis on the healing power of back bending without the gradual re-introduction of forward bends began to cause a bit of discomfort in a couple of disks in my lumbar spine. It took me awhile to figure out what had happened. My backbends had healed my injury. But then, without the forward bending counter poses, my back began to feel congested and stiff. Essentially, I’d created a repetitive motion condition with my unremitting back bending. It hadn’t dawned on me to re-integrate forward bending back into my daily practice. Duh! The stiffness then led to the tenderness I was feeling around L-3 and L4. What a great teacher the body is! With the realization that I had applied too much back bending energy without a countervailing force, I started to get back into forward bends.

Standing Forward Fold, Plough Pose, Seated Forward Fold and Head-to-Knee Pose were the perfect antidote to quickly restore my back to its normal, supple range of motion. Also, reaching across my body from left to right in Standing Forward Fold and Head-to-Knee pose continued to apply a wonderful stretch to the left sacroiliac joint as well.

My story is a classic example of how a cure can cause imbalance and pathology if it is taken too far. We must listen carefully to our bodies to know when to balance the forces applied by any physical regimen. When we listen the answer will present itself.

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