Friday, May 27, 2011
I had the unfortunate circumstance of experiencing a minor back injury last week which limited some of my regular activities like working out at the gym and my personal yoga practice. I found that it was a challenge to stand up straight, sit down for a long time without experiencing pain in my back, or moving quickly from a lying position to a standing position. It made me greatly appreciate and admire those that live daily in chronic pain. They have to live and work with bodily pain everyday of their lives. I know my circumstance is temporary, but even after a few days, it became, not only a physical challenge, but an emotional, one, too.
Because of my limited ability, I had to call on friends for help. Again, I am grateful for the friends who were willing to step up and help me; to give me support when I needed it most. The Back is associated with Community. The Back represents your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and all those you consider close to you. I'm sure you've heard the expression, "I've got your back!" It's those member in your inner circle you rely on - they are there for you whenever you need assistance or a shoulder to cry on. Not only can we rely on our Community for support, but we can also rely on ourselves. We can "have our own backs" when we may not have that strong circle of friends. By building a strong back-body, we also build a greater sense of self-support. This yoga practice will focus on a particular pose that will begin to build that greater connection to self.
Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
This is a lower back strengthen posture. I wanted to share this particular pose, as opposed to other backbends, since my personal back injury occurred in my lower back. Start by lying on your stomach on your yoga mat. Your arms will be alongside your body with your palms on the floor. Let your body remain completely relaxed before you begin. While relaxed, set your personal intention for your practice. Perhaps it will focus on building inner strength and self-confidence. Know that by having a strong spinal base, you also build a stronger core of self-support.
Position your head so you're looking directly downward at the yoga mat. Your forehead will rest on the mat. With an inhale, simply lift your shoulders off the yoga mat by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Exhale and begin to engage your core. This is important because you are creating a backbend in which you need proper support, strength, and space to be in the pose safely. When you exhale, push your pelvis more firmly in the floor. Another way to describe this is to lift your navel away from the floor and up toward your spine. (Your navel may never leave the floor in this posture, but just experience the sensation of lifting your bellybutton toward your spine.) The effort in this breath activates your core body: it strengthens the abdominal muscles as well as creates space in your low back so you can complete the backbend.
Continue to squeeze the shoulder blades together and allow this action to lift you higher. Keep your neck and head neutral. Try not to lift your upper body off the map with your neck muscles. Instead, use your back muscles to lift your body. Remember to exhale to be sure your core body remains engaged. As you are able, lift your feet and legs off the floor. Lengthen you legs by reaching toward the wall behind you with your toes. Meanwhile, the crown, or very top of your head, is extending forward toward the wall in front of you. Next, lift your hands off the floor and reach your fingers toward the back wall. You are now in Locust Pose. Hold the posture for 5-10 breaths. By holding the posture, your low back muscles are engaged in a supportive fashion. Also, your low back muscles are growing stronger. After your round of breaths, relax your entire body and turn your head to one side. Feel free to perform this pose once again with a final relaxation of turning your head in the other direction.
So, whenever you are in need of support, but your regular circle of friends is not available, remember that you can rely on yourself. You can become your own Community. "You've got your own back!"