This past summer I started to have lower back pain. Considering I’m the child of a doctor and my dad had spinal stenosis (arthritis of the spine), I was convinced I had bone cancer. I made a trip to my internist who declared me cancer free and told me to cut back on yoga. I was overdoing it. Um. Not an option.
I jumped off the Western medicine train and booked a one-on-one with one of my favorite yoga teachers, Jane Bahneman. This is Jane:
It’s Jane doing yoga on a labryinth. #amazing
Jane also has a degree in exercise physiology and really knowledgeable about anatomy and yoga. After observing me doing some sun salutations, she diagnosed my lower back pain as an SI joint issue.
We went to work on my alignment and how it is impacting my lower back.
Basically I was under-utilizing major muscles in my body, especially my legs, in an attempt to keep the pain at bay. I was throwing everything into my lower back and no body part can handle everything coming at it at once.
I hadn’t been using my hip flexors, quads, butt, and inner thighs. My whole body was being neglected.
Jane showed me how to work internally with my muscles, hugging “muscle to bone” as I’ve heard a million times (and finally ready to hear). I needed to squeeze, pull, lift, etc. my leg muscles in new ways especially in standing postures like Warrior 1.
Jane also noticed I “baby” my hamstrings.
Jane: “Do you think your hamstrings are flexible?” Me: ”Hell, no! Super tight.”
Jane’s response: “Not true.” She then configured my legs into all types of pretzel-like poses showing me, indeed, my hamstrings are open.
“You’ve made up this story your hamstrings are tight. You’ve been limiting yourself in your poses,” said O Wise Jane.
Because of the story I created, I’ve been hesitant and reluctant to use my hamstrings because I was literally afraid of them.
In that moment, Jane said, “you need to tell your friends a new story about your hamstrings.”
In her follow-up email, Jane went beyond the muscles and said, “tell yourself a new story or two about yourself, my friend!” Lord have mercy.
My dear friends Scott Ramsey and Laura Cunningham call these “rut” stories–the stories I hold on to about myself that are basically old, outdated, and, bottom line, bullshit. These stories hold me back, decrease my risk-taking, vulnerability, and connecting with my full self and, ultimately, others. River stories, proclaim Laura and Scott, let life flow within. [Insert scriptures on rivers, waters, justice here].
When I did my teacher training at Tranquil Space a few weeks ago, within the first hour I started to hear a rut story come up. “I can’t do this.” “Others will be so much better than me.” Thankfully a river flowed, I called bullshit, and shut the rut story down.
What rut stories are you holding on to? Can you imagine what part of your body is holding these rut stories? What opens you up and lets the river stories flow?