Deciding what to practice can be difficult. It’s not unusual to put your mat on the floor and sit there without knowing what it is you should do. When that happens let your intuition guide you.
I’ve been doing quite a lot of physical work over the last few weeks, putting up a fence. I never thought it was going to be easy, but I never imagined that 6 inches under the top soil would be dense, solid clay that need breaking up with a metal pole and scraping out by hand. I had to dig 28 holes which were 18 inches deep. I also had to dig out a few old, concrete fence posts that had been cemented in very well indeed and were stubbornly resistant to being moved. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hard work. But my enthusiasm was beginning to wane a little by the end.
At the same time, I was teaching at school and teaching yoga classes, so at the end of the fencing project I put my feet up, literally, and enjoyed a well-earned rest. And then my back went. Where it normally does – lower back, around the sacroiliac joint (mostly on the right-hand side) and around my right hip. Not badly at first, but what started as a twinge developed into an embuggerance which I’ve been trying to deal with ever since. My intuition guided me to the solution.
I decided to do some yoga so I put my mat on the floor and just sat there without much conscious thought of what I was going to do, beyond “something that will help my back”.
I sat in Sukhasana (cross-legged) and did a gentle forward bend. At the first hint of tension I stopped and focussed on relaxing the tension. I would normally go straight past this point and try to stretch to a ‘comfortable’ maximum, but that didn’t feel like the right thing to do. What felt right next was a gentle twist to each side. I changed the cross of my legs and repeated the sequence. My intuition then guided me into Setu Bhanda, moving up and down with inhalation and exhalation rather than holding the pose. After that Apanasana, alternating knees to chest. I was beginning to feel some relief.
I then went into the cat/cow sequence. To be honest, I was really surprised at how little movement there was on the cat stretch (shoulders up, chin in towards chest). When I started to bring my chin in towards my chest I could feel the familiar twinges in my lower back, a result of the stretch on the longissimus thoracis muscle which attaches to the lumbar vertebrae. Intuition said, “Stop at the twinge”, I stopped. I repeated this for 8 breaths.
From cat/cow I moved into Adho Mukha Virasana, which stretches out large muscles of the back (Latissimus dorsi). Although there was some initial discomfort moving into the pose, intuition said to persevere, hold the pose, and allow time to relax. The discomfort eased and I found I could relax. I carried on into Adho Mukha Svanasana, trying to keep the pose as easy and relaxing as possible, and then into supported Cobra (Salambha Bhunjangasana). I moved between the poses 3 times, holding each for about 30 seconds.
I turned over to lie flat on my back and with a belt I did Padangustasana. First the right leg straight up, then the left, followed by the right and left leg out to the side. Next I did Jathara Parivritti, which was a really nice way to massage the lower back and release the abdominals and helped to calm my mind down before Savasana.
I’ve repeated this sequence most days for about 2 weeks now, and it is definitely helping. It’s a sequence borne out of necessity and provided by intuition. If you don’t know what to practice the next time you put your mat down, see where your intuition guides you.