Some years ago, at the height of my catering career I woke up one morning, after a particularly grueling event the night before, in absolute pain. Every small movement caused a sharp pain to shoot down from my lower back right into my legs. I couldn’t even bend to put on my own underwear, I had to lay flat on my bed or sit just to dress myself. I felt old. Like a used car whose pedal was to the metal way too often, brake pads worn out and nuts and bolts a’creaking. After a few tests, thankfully it wasn’t a slip disk but a bad case of sciatica – a pinched nerve. I spent weeks in traditional therapy, being pulled and stretched and some sort of electro something therapy that made me feel like frakenstein with wires attached to me. Nothing really worked. I was on strong meds and was desperate. I had always been wary of the chiropractor, the idea of someone cracking my back and twisting me up just didn’t sound appealing but then again desperate times called for desperate measures. I went on to try Dr. Martin Camara, a good friend of mine who I had gone scuba diving with on several occasions and whose calm underwater manner was already a good sign for me. Go figure. I suppose you hang on to whatever little bit of comfort you can get. After several sessions of chiropractic readjustment and myotherapy at his clinic on Kalayaan, Intercare, I was good as new! But it had been made clear to me that due to an unfortunate fact that one leg was longer than the other, I had to keep up good maintenance of my back, continuously stretch my muscles and above all strengthen my core.
I had always practiced yoga on and off since the age of 16 but really got into it perhaps 5 or 6 years ago. Like with many things, such as a good chiropractor, its important to cultivate a relationship with someone you trust. Someone who can read your energy and push you when you can and ease up when you need to. Yoga when not practiced properly can in fact do more harm than good. It is crucial to learn how to do the poses properly and just like a good golf swing, you know that when its done right – it feels absolutely divine and you can stay in that pose for eternity. Sen Sanchez of Echoyoga has been my yoga teacher for the past 5 years. Through a regular Ashtanga practice, she has helped me stay fit, stay focused and achieve my goals. It’s only while working closely with her that I was finally able to do a headstand! Above all she has helped me immensely with my lower back pain and sciatica, her adapted practice was an integral part of my therapy. She also helped me get through my first pregnancy and is doing the same now. I swear by all the hip openers we did and all the core exercises, I really think it was one of the main reasons why I only pushed my baby for 15 minutes! My gynecologist even mentioned how strong my muscles were and it really made delivery a lot easier. I’m extremely grateful for her positive energy, warmth and kindness.
Starting with the Baddha Konasana, I would really like to share a few of my favorite yoga poses that are great for relieving lower back tension and on the plus side if you are pregnant, also great for hip opening. Baddha Konasana is fairly easy but if you are tight to begin with can be a struggle. The key is to breathe and allow gravity to assist you into sinking deeper into the pose. It is the only kind of stretch for me that relieves those super tight muscles right at the tailbone. For women wearing high heels, there is a lot of tension that’s built up here and I really recommend it.
Start by sitting down and bringing your feet together as close to your groin as possible. Open your feet up like a book. Hold your feet while keeping your elbows to the side slowly bend over your feet trying to move forward rather than just down. Keep your chin up and out so as not to curve your spine. Stay for as long as you’d like but try at least 10 breaths. Breathe deeply into all the tight spaces and sink slowly with every breath. Eventually you’ll have your chin on the floor. Slowly come up. Trust me, it’s the best feeling when you can finally stretch those hard to reach muscles! I do this when ever I’m feeling tight or my back is tense.
photos by Chyvin Reyes