05 August, 2013

Be what you need to be

Today was Power Vinyasa with Michel.

I am not really sure how I did it. It was a ninety minute class, and my low back is (I now know) certifiably screwed up. I had another MRI done on it. Last one was 2 years ago. This time, it showed that my back is much worse than it was two years ago. There's enough going on down there that I am actually concerned that I may need to have surgery. But strangely, I am not walking around in agony. In the past, that has happened, too. But right now, I feel a little bit more like someone who knows they have a tumor. There's not much pain, but I know something's wrong, and am not sure what they're going to have to do about it.

So I made it through the class. Michel had some segments that were more advanced "playtime" for people who like to do advanced poses, and I didn't do much of that. But I tried jumping up into handstand, and I tried doing "Donkey Kicks" too. In hindsight, it seems insane to think that I was doing that. Of course it's also possible that my MRI tells a story that is worse than what my body actually is experiencing. It's not like an image always tells you what's important.

But I have spent the past few days bouncing back and forth between thinking that I might have to have back surgery, and worrying will I be able to do yoga again? Ever? How long? Will I be better after surgery or worse? And the other end of the spectrum is that I probably don't need surgery because no doctor would operate on someone who is not in much pain. The truth is, I just don't know. And this is what life is offering right now. Everything has been going along great. New job. Working on music. Life is shiny and rosy and all that jazz. But there's this thing with my spine. It can be tempting to assert some magical malevolent forces or the universe that are there to smack us down any time things start to get to wonderful. But that's non-essential thinking, as Baron would say. It's a story I can choose to tell myself. But I can also choose not to tell myself that. This issue with my low back started about 22 years ago, with an injury. And that pretty much set me on a course where I would be needing to respect that part of my body for the rest of my life. By and large, I have not done so. I am starting to, now, with yoga. But still, I sometimes get way overzealous. I went to yoga every day in Hawaii, along with snorkeling three times a day, and I didn't back off the intensity of the practice. If anything, I have been escalating intensity, re-adding poses like all the twists (which I had previously avoided).

We often hear a mindset of "If you can, you must!" But I know there are lot of things I *can* do, that I should not do. The spirit is to not let oneself off the hook for reason of fear, laziness, habit. But there are things that we are best off not doing, and that's about "honoring the body" and the messages it sends us.

I have a special back. That's not a story. That's not drama. It's cold, hard fact. My spine is not "normal" anymore, and I cannot make my choices based on will alone, or on majority rules (i.e. "Everyone else is doing it!"). I need to respect this fragile situation, and show more caution than many other people. I am better off, when it comes to my low back, of erring on the side of letting myself off the hook than cans and musts. Because the consequences actually are life-threatening. Or at least life-altering, or livelihood-threatening. I've been told that if I am not careful, I could become paralyzed from waist down, lose control of bodily functions, lose sensation or, worse (!!), lose sexual function if I were to exacerbate what's going on down there.

So, while I am proud of myself for showing up and rocking Michel's awesome class, my practice may be to show up and modify Michel's awesome class instead.

And to be okay with that.

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