Monday, February 21, 2011

Broken Pretzel

I was getting ready to deliver a pretty euphoric post about the beneficial effects that yoga was having on my bod and, yes, even my mind. I had shifted my focus from going to class at the health club to doing video-guided classes at I wasn't getting any individual guidance at the club anyway, and doing yoga in the guest bedroom meant greater scheduling flexibility as well as greater freedom of attire. (No bra! yay!)

I had really started to feel the benefits of doing yoga two or three times a week. I could feel my core tightening up and my gait improving. My hips felt less tight, which I noticed every time I put on my socks. My downward dogs were easier, and I was even spending more time in the balancing poses without falling out.

On Weds 2/9 I did my usual bike commute and felt fine. On Thursday 2/10 I did my yoga. My low back felt slightly tight at the end so I did some extra stretching it at the end. Friday I thought I was getting a cold so I didn't ride. I curled up in a ball on the train home and read a children's book (the Magic Thief) until the ride was over. Late that evening I felt a twinge in the low back, in the sacroiliac joint, such as I have felt dozens of times before.

That night, I woke up a few times. As I turned over, the back hurt. Hmmm. The next morning, I was crying out in pain as I tried to brush my teeth. I could hardly move. I slipped on a convenient brown velour dress as pants were not going to be happening. Tim brought me some food, water, and Advil. I made my way downstairs and tried to sit down. Oh, no. I remained standing for the next four hours, pacing around slowly, taking deep breaths, trying to find some position that didn't hurt. Without success. I found some Tramodol from the last round of back pain, and once that took effect I was able to make it into the Big Poofy Chair and get it reclined.

It took me three hours to reach a doctor on the phone, partly because the phone people wrote my number down wrong. D'oh. Finally I got a prescription for pain meds and muscle relaxants, and Tim took off to get them.

I thought that this round of back distress would take the usual course - pain, then pain meds and muscle relaxants, then a few rounds of exercises and rapid progress to recovery. Not this time. On Monday I went for a tortuous round of doctor visits, an anti-inflammatory shot, and an x-ray by an inept technician (she forgot to close a key door or drawer or something so the machine wouldn't work). The anti-inflammatory shot had no effect whatsoever, and I was shouting and cussing every time I had to get in and out of the car.

I'm now on day 10 of this. It's a little better, but I still have to take a ton of meds to be able to walk around at all. I haven't been to the office for over a week, though I can work pretty well in the BPC. Getting ready to call the doc again.

Was it the yoga? Was it the bike? Was it a long-delayed sequela of the fender-bender of January 19th? Was it my curled up position on the train? Maybe all of the above. One of my friends wondered if I was "not listening to my body." Hard to say. Maybe not. I thought I had listened to it and it told me to do yoga. Maybe my body has multiple personality disorder.

When I can move again I'm going to have to find a super great chiropractor here in Sactown and get back to regular visits. I used to have an awesome spine and soft tissue guru in Cupertino, and she helped me with more injuries than I can shake a stick at. Clearly I need some help in that department now. Oh, yeah, and I should probably lose 50-75 pounds too.

Anyway, this is a very clear signal that I need to get very, very serious about building a better back.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pretzel Logic

I have long taken a dim view of New Year’s resolutions. Even before Shape Up with the Slow Fat Triathlete was described to me by my publisher as a “New Year, New You,” book (argh), I always felt that it was a tedious cliche to make January 1 the start date for some sort of self-improvement scheme. Yeah, sure the indulgence, stress, football viewing, and sloth of the Thanksgiving to New Year bingeathon are behind you, but isn’t it just more interesting to start your new project on St. David’s Day (March 1) or the summer solstice or Halloween? Well, ok, Halloween may not be a good day for resolve. But why not All Saints?

However. I reached New Year’s Day 2011 feeling more stiff, sore, tired, and old than a person my age would really want to feel. Granted, I had just flown 5623 miles to attend my uncle’s funeral in Wales, and I was sleeping in a strange bed and driving on the wrong side of the road. But still, it wasn’t right. When I got back, I resolved that I would endure 30 sessions of yoga by March 31. It may not sound like much, but for me, yoga is a massive ordeal. I really have to force myself to do it. Especially since I haven’t done any regular “practice” for about six years.

I’ve posted before about my preference for Not Doing Yoga. But then I found myself sweating profusely on a purple mat, listening to Sierra - yes, really - instructing me to press my pelvic bones into the earth. I just didn’t want my neck and lower back and knee to suck any more. I actively wanted them to suck less.

Yup, the process itself sucked. But, predictably, after only five sessions I could actually feel my balance improving, making it easier for me to get my shoes on in the morning. I could feel a little more flexibility in some areas. Yeah, I am still tottering like an octogenarian after any long drive, and my downward dog is a bit of an elderly Rottweiler, but I know it does me good. I know it does.

And then in the last 10 days, I lost my groove. I crashed my car while driving to see my folks. (“Welcome home from Wales, and oh, could you give me a ride?”) All people involved were fine; car wasn’t. I got a nasty runny cold. I had to deal with insurance and forms and new car shopping every spare moment. And when I finally got a new car, I had to drive 240 miles round trip to return my rental. Long story. But that drive convinced me that I’m back in Sierra’s class on Tuesday morning, pressing my pelvic bones into the earth. Even if the “earth” is the second floor of a monster health club.

It feels like twisted logic: staying in one place for an hour, standing, kneeling, and twisting is going to enable me to move better? But yeah, I think it is.

Hey, we made it to 2011, most of us.

P.S. If you can't or won't make it to the yoga studio/gym etc., try - one free video class per week or a bunch of videos online for a super reasonable price.