Truth: A couple months after I started practicing yoga in 2013, my low back started to give me problems. Second truth: it took me up until last year to finally admit and accept that fact. Third truth: yoga injuries happen but people DON'T like to talk about them.

Well I'm done being quiet, which is why I'm writing this and why I recorded a podcast episode all about it too with Steph Birch, which has been wildly well received, thank you!

Low back pain is not cute. It sucks. Really sucks. And what sucked even more was knowing that the way I was practicing yoga was not conducive to a healthy, happy back for MY body. I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 11 and wore a cool brace and all, but I never wanted that to hold me back in my practice. But here's the thing, it doesn't hold me back, but it does mean that I have to be mindful of how my body works and what it needs, not what my ego needs. But ya wanna know something else? That's true for ALL of us!

Last year when I was finally fucking DONE with being in on again off again pain, sometimes debilitating couldn't walk up the stairs pain, which sucked because ya know, I'm a yoga teacher, I decided to take my healing into my own hands rather than listen to doctor after doctor tell me that everything looked "normal." Despite MRIs and X-rays telling me that I was fine, I knew that something seriously needed to change in my practice and my mindset. 

After years of no one being able to tell me what it was, while at Wanderlust Festival Snowshoe and being in excruciating pain pretty much the entire time, as I was sitting in the back of Seane Corne's class waiting for it to finish so my friends and I could head home, a holistic doctor who I had heard speak the day before, came up to me and said, "You look like an old lady over here, what's going on?" I explained and he declared, "It's your SI Joint, I'm fairly certain. You need some help." 

I took his advice, went home, and found a chiropractor who would LISTEN to me. Who wouldn't crack my back (that never felt good for me), but rather was willing to try an older technique called "blocking" that requires time, 10-12 min, of laying on some blocks to realign my pelvis which desperately needed to learn to stay put and stop shifting (hello sacral chakra needing some work!)

In the beginning when I was in really bad pain, I was dropping copays and going twice a week to the chiro to fix my unstable pelvis, which was actually the culprit to my unhappy SI joint flaring up (it's like a tiny shock absorber that connects your sacrum and your pelvis and sits right by your touchy sciatic nerve).

This was my recipe for a healthy, happy low back that we came up with:

  • Finding a chiropractor that listened to me and creating a schedule to go weekly, biweekly, then monthly. I'm happy to say that I weaned off of it!
  • Blocking Technique over adjusting the spine. 
  • Laser Therapy while using blocking technique to heal the muscular cells. 
  • Icing daily, 3x a day in the beginning.
  • SI Joint/Pelvic Stabilizer Belt (basically a training bra for your pelvis- MAGIC!) 
    • I learned that the pelvis is often the culprit behind back pain in women! 
  • CBD oil (aka magic oil)
  • Work on your posture
    • I learned that I have a tendency towards an anterior pelvic tilt (booty poppin') versus posterior pelvic tilt (the no butt look). 
    • Learn what your posture is doing, take photos of yourself standing natural and become mindful of it at all times. 

And this is how I changed my yoga practice:

  • Laying off deep back-bending, intense hip openers, and the splits until it calmed down and then slowly reintroducing more mindfully.
  • Micro-bending my knees in poses like down dog, high lunge, forward folds, etc. (less pulling on the muscles of your low back and hammies)
  • Using more props, like my "block friends." I keep 2 with me at all times on the mat. You really don't have to touch the ground.
  • No more flat savasana
    • Yep, I said it. I'm not all about savasana, at least not flat on my back. It hurts. So either bend your knees OR I like to lay on my side.
    • A bolster under the knees also feels amazing to take pressure off the low back.
  • Stop sitting in sukhasana ALL the time.
    • If you have pelvis/low back issues, easy pose might not feel good if you sit in it too long or all the time. Try virasana aka hero pose to keep the pelvis in one level pla
  • Practiced over posed
    • Basically, no more of that no more warm up shit to look pretty in a picture, fucking stupid, I know, oh brother...
  • Slow can be strong
    • I turned in faster movement for all breath connected movement.
    • I found strength in the transitional movements. How slow and steady like butta' can you move into the next pose with control, not momentum? Can you feel the muscles working? Activating? 
    • Soft AND fierce became my new slogan, along with my obsession with Grace. How graceful can you be? Aka how fluid, yet strong. Being moment by moment in the pose. 
  • Forget about the pretzel. It's not about advanced asana.
    •  Basically I don't care if I ever can put my foot behind my head any more. Again #smh
      • You don't have to build to any fancy pose. Move however feels good.
      • Yoga is not about handstands and pretzels poses.
      • Yoga is union of mind, body, and breath.
  • Work on strengthening and isolating the glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Learn how to turn them on! 
  • It's not always about stretch, sometimes your body wants strength! You'll learn when it wants what if you listen. Stop over-freaking stretching! 
  • Turn on your core. Like almost always.
  • Have fun on your mat! I break out a dance regularly with a good beat. 

And my mindset shifts?

  • Believing that living without pain could and should be my normal.
  • Releasing the embarrassment and fraudy feelings around being a yoga teacher with back pain; after all, I'm human too.
  • Acknowledging that my former ways of practicing which involved more ego than I'd like to admit, had contributed to my pain. (hello Instagram yoga pics)
  • Accepting that my beloved yoga had in some way contributed. 
  • That I could heal my life. 
  • Realizing that living in fear of being in pain, keeps pain around.
  • Using and viewing props as friends, not crutches or a symbol of weakness. For example, I now call blocks my "block friends" and know they want to support me. Ex. in half-way lifts and balancing half moon. 
  • Realizing that just because you can't nail a handstand, put your foot behind your head, or needing to bend your knees a bit, doesn't make you less of a yogi. 
  • You do you.
  • You are the best student of your own body,

This might sound like a lot reading it, but again, like I said in the podcast, I didn't make these shifts overnight and I sure as hell didn't learn them overnight. Take it one day at a time. Implement slowly. See what works. 

And if you're in pain, I want you to know that you CAN heal your life, as Louise Hays says. You were not born to feel like this. You were born to feel amazing, and the Universe wants you to feel your best so that you can bring your best to the world!

LISTEN NOW

Want more? Listen to my most recent podcast episode with Cali Yoga Teacher Steph Birch aka @stephynow for some truth-talking!