I used to do yoga religiously. Often, six or seven times a week. Sundays, I practiced with a group of similarly-minded yoga nerds for two and a half hours. Fridays, I practiced with a group of yoga teachers who met to talk yoga and move. I went to friends’ houses to practice yoga with them. Yoga, for years, shaped my social and athletic life in Los Angeles, and before I moved to Los Angeles, I used to take yoga with me “on the road” when I toured, either via dvds or podcasts or even audio recordings of the dvds.
In other words, yoga was everything.
But then my low back started to hurt.
Luckily for me, I had so many yoga teachers to count as friends, so I had plenty of people to talk to about it. Everyone had a theory. I tried them all. Inner spiral, outer spiral, more backbends, fewer backbends. Stretch this, don’t stretch this. I started to wrack up quite a bill at my shiatsu massage place. I paid attention to how I stood and how I bent over and how I went upside down, but nothing fixed it. My low back, which had never hurt before, kept hurting. Shiatsu massage helped but was expensive and was clearly not solving the problem, just alleviating the symptoms.
Finally I did what might have seemed so obvious to others but myself — I stopped doing yoga. I started doing Cardio Barre. It was scary at first. It was distressing to give up what I loved and to step away from the community I had formed, but my low back hurt. There was no way around it. And Cardio Barre helped, so what else could I do?
In fact, Cardio Barre, combined with no yoga, made the problem go away.
I consulted with my former body worker from New York, who has been treating me and my body for over a decade now. She said, yes, it was true. I needed to focus more on strength (especially for my mid-region) and less on flexibility. Cardio Barre was in, yoga was out. Well, almost out. Once a week, she said, would be good. But no more two and a half hour advanced practices. A solid mixed-level class would be just fine for me, and I could check the ego at the door. Basic poses were all I needed.
So that’s my life now. Cardio Barre has filled my exercise requirements, and I have a once-a-week yoga practice that helps keep me grounded. But even sometimes that once-a-week practice can tweak my neck and back if I’m not careful, so I have to proceed with caution. And Cardio Barre gave me new friends and a new community.
It was a tricky adjustment, and a bit lonely to give up that social circle, but, again, my low back hurt — and at 38, that’s not something worth messing with. I have a friend who loves her workout routine, despite the fact that it’s dangerous and has already caused permanent damage to her body. But she loves it and says it’s good for her and won’t give it up.
Sometimes things that seem to be good for us are, in fact, the opposite. Sometimes things that bring us pleasure may, actually, be weakening us. Sometimes things that were good for us once are no longer the right choice. And when your body starts to hurt, when it starts to fail, precisely because of that thing that is supposed to be good for you, that’s a sign that maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s time for a change.
And the strongest thing we can do is walk away from them and find something new, something that stabilizes us from the inside out. Because we’ve only got one body.
And your low back might be just the beginning.