But deep down inside we're coverin' up the pain. It's an old thing. It's a soul thing. But it's a real thing. ~ Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further, Elvis Costello
My back is better. The hurt is gone.
When I first started yoga, I feared for my back. I had sprained it years earlier, and sometimes it still gave me trouble. It wasn’t long before I realized that with every pose, there really wasn’t much that didn’t involve my back. So I was cautious, and it took a lot of encouragement and a lot of baby steps before I got brave enough to progress. I was grateful for the pace and the patience of a class that allowed for this.
Soon my core got stronger which strengthened my back. Not long after, there was a photographer in the studio, and I was given a photograph of myself in a handstand with my back reflected in the mirror.
I showed this photo to my father to let him in on what I’d been spending all my time doing, and he took one look and exclaimed, You’ve got muscles in your back!
I hadn't noticed! But once I looked closer, I saw them, too, and I felt suddenly stronger, as if I’d accomplished something big!
Today, my back is my barometer. For me, having a strong and healthy back (A) equates to having a strong and healthy spirit (B). And even though I invented this equation, I think A = B is what’s true for me.
Its just that sometimes I get a little thrown off when my back starts to hurt. When this happens I slide back to where I wasbefore I progressed, before I could twist and bend and all the rest. And when this old hurt shows up, others tend to join in. The old stories come back, and I suddenly can’t remember accomplishing anything big at all.
This can happen after the most wonderful times and after my best practices. Suddenly, there's pain beneath my sacrum in a place where it's hard for anyone to reach. It hurts to sit at work, in the house and even on my mat.
My yoga practice has its own set of A’s and B’s, but they don’t equate to each other. The B’s are always greater than the A’s, and we always add them together.
We start the practice with several Sun A’s, reaching up and folding over and moving through our vinyasas before landing in our Downward Facing Dogs. Then we move to the Sun B’s, doing the same but adding in Chair poses and Warrior I’s.
And then we rest in Down Dog for five breaths, and this is when one instructor always asks,See how the prana, or energy, has shifted after the Sun B’s?
And she’s right. I can feel how fast my heart is beating and how awake I am from head to toe.
Prana is the Sanskrit word for Life Force. When we twist and bend and all the rest, our Life Force gets activated, igniting our bodies and our spirits. Prana has an equation of its own. It equals A + B. When added together, both my back and my spirit are strengthened.
So whenever I start to hurt I know my prana is in the negative. And then it really doesn’t matter the order of my equation, whether my back hurts first and so the old stories creep in, or whether the old stories appear and so my back hurts.
I remember the first few months of my practice when I was starting to feel strong. I surprised myself in wanting to ask for a class so hard that I could feel the hurt. I wanted to flow to the point where it hurt all over.
I have no idea why I was looking to hurt when I was feeling so good, and of course I couldn’t bring myself to ever ask. How would I explain when I didn’t even know the answer myself?
But it’s never necessary to ask for hurt outright. It has a way of appearing on its own, no matter what’s come before. And I do my best to ignore it, but there’s no denying its arrival. Soon it hurts to sit at work or at home or on my mat.
And it’s hard to find the salve when this happens, and I wonder how I could ever have almost asked for it. It’s like the hurt is in my skin, and I’m the one who let it in. My back hurts and I ache with all the old stories, and I know that I must find my way back to A and B, so I can add them together and get things right again.
In this effort, I continue to practice. And I book an appointment with the sports medicine doctor who’s somehow privy to the prana equation without explanation. Somehow he knows the hurt in my back is the same as the one in my spirit. So he works on me and talks to me. And I rest at home when I usually don’t.
And slowly things start to add up again. I feel strong once more, and I can sit again at work and at home and on my mat. And I am finally able to put those old stories back to bed.
The hurt is gone and it’s as if it never were. And it suddenly doesn’t matter anymore that once I almost asked for it, or that I ever even felt any at all.
All that matters now is that A and B are back together again. And so am I.