At first I thought it was a regular strain or my body was complaining because I tend to over train. But really, it never occurred to me that I might have hurt my back badly.
Having spent most of my life on the squash court, at the gym and a year on the rugby field, I realized I was putting a lot of pressure on my back. It wasn’t the sport – it was me not watching my form, not preparing my spine for such intense exercises and underestimating the importance of safely strengthening the back muscles.
I visited several doctors and was finally diagnosed with a lumbar herniated disc. Each doctor suggested a different treatment method. Some thought I shouldn’t do anything at all. Eventually I decided to rest until the tingling in my legs was better and I could start exercising again.
I read somewhere online that yoga was really good for the spine, so I looked up a few videos and gave them a try. At first it felt like a body scan to me. I was discovering new areas and muscles in my body that I never knew existed. I’d do 15 minutes and collapse on the mat, staying sore for at least a couple of days. The poses looked so simple but I was using a whole lot of effort to hold them.
Many poses in yoga work on strengthening the core muscles, which are essential to help the body maintain proper upright posture and reduce injuries. I was beginning to safely build strength and flexibility in my whole body while improving my posture from practicing consistently, and I could slowly begin to feel my leg recovering back to normal. I felt this sense of balance. Each part of my body, head to toe, externally and internally felt like it was, for the first time, in proper alignment.
All these reasons are why yoga, unlike many other forms of exercise, helps stretch and strengthen both sides of the body equally. Standing poses like Vrksasana (Tree pose) and Garudasana (Eagle pose) improved the balance and stability in my bad leg so much that I barely felt any difference between the two. Before I knew it, I was back to running and cross training as good as new.
I was growing stronger not only on the outside but on the inside, too. I understood my body and learned how to listen to it. I learned to focus on what it’s capable of doing rather than what it looks like. I learned when to push myself further and when to stop. Yoga was becoming more than just a daily workout, and it gradually turned into a way of life. Committing to my practice, meditating, finding my balance on and off the mat did not only help me recover but flipped my life upside down.
Today, I barely feel any of the symptoms, and when I do I know how to handle myself. I’m so grateful for this lesson. Although I hurt myself pretty badly, my injury has taught me so much, made me stronger and introduced me to yoga. I guess you could say, everything happens for a reason. Always.