So, I had surgery. It was unexpected, unplanned, and unwanted, but necessary if I hope to conceive. Anne-Marie and I have been trying since January only to find out that I was full of fibroids and one especially large one that matched the size of my uterus itself. These past 9 months have tested me and my will while also bringing some pretty amazing and selfless people into my life. Yes, I’ve had physical pain, but I never contributed it to anything with my lady parts since my periods were fine and never painful. Anyway, I was a candidate for a robotic myomectomy because of the size and number of fibroids. I ended up with four holes instead of the three which left my insides rattled and shredded from my ribs down and my recovery way more painful than I expected based on a previous laproscopic procedure I had had years ago. This much longer than expected forced time off and alone, still and quiet, has given me time to rest and truly reflect. That sounds so hokey and weird, but after the first 4 days or so of lying in bed drugged and unable to do much more than sleep and watch TV, I was then faced with forced time at home – not sick per say, so still able to think and feel and functional basically which over the next 7 days has really been something I realized that I truly needed.
This is my “the drugs are working” face pre-surgery. I need this much relaxation more often! LOL!
For those of you that don’t know, I work for myself as a massage therapist taking clients for bodywork and I am a Crossfit coach (but currently on a hiatus from coaching to refocus my energies on things that are more financially lucrative. it pains me to admit it, but i do need to put food in my fridge and coaching although fed my passion for fitness and helping people, it was causing me to suffer in other ways.) I’ve switched over to working privately with athletes and the general public on how to move more efficiently for their life or their sport. I also own a yoga studio and teach several asana classes.
Owning a yoga studio is a bittersweet reality – it is a business that I give most of my attention to and receive no salary from – for 7 years. It fills my heart to provide the space to the community and at the same time it strips away at my ability to provide for myself and my family. All of this leaves me hanging on the razor’s edge of a cliff of anxiety at all times hustling to fill my book, keep my classes full, and keep the doors open at the studio. That low tremor of anxiety has been so bad that yoga couldn’t even bring ease and I had to be medicated for awhile – ironic for a yogi of almost 20 years. The hum of the worry and the tension is always there and only from this forced house arrest have I been able to step away from it and really feel how bad it was and how much better it is. Even at about day 4 or 5 of this when I was starting to get my wits about me, I could feel the tension, anxiety and sick-to-my-stomach feelings rise up a bit as I thought about what was needing to be done and what wasn’t getting tended to. Thank Ganesha I have the most amazing studio manager, mother, and wife who were all there and all in in easing my mind! I would have to say to myself, out freaking loud, that it is all taken care of and I didn’t even have to think twice about it or rush into Norfolk or drive all over town to meet the needs of my clients. I had no choice but to stay put and trust my support system – and they were rock stars! Now, the sensation is tangible of that ever-present knot slowly unraveled.
So, here I am with almost 2 weeks at home, relearning new movement patterns, retraining my brain to be present, reminding myself to move slower. In relearning how to move again, I had to go back to square one on how to get out of bed, stand up, sit down (oh, the toilet), go up and down the stairs. Every single breathe I took for almost 7 days felt calculated to be sure that I didn’t cough or laugh since my diaphragm just couldn’t fully expand – even talking was a mindful and sometimes labored process. In retraining my brain, I chose to reform thought patterns and create practices that gave me some headspace. I rekindled my meditation practice and made a promise to myself to write more often. I’ve had to slow way down and take my time which may mean I work less and make less when I’m back which terrifies me, but I really have to find the balance.
All of this being said, Anne-Marie and I are also going to make a concerted effort to get back to posting on Brute Yogi WOD for you all. If you don’t have a blog of your own, let me tell you that this rodeo of writing and editing and organizing and re-reading and re-writing and then finding images, is no friggin’ joke! There are many in my life that make it look effortless and they are my heroes.
Stay tuned and Namaste Strong (see what we did there!?)
Lisa and Tina are taking their hip mobility seriously!
Some friends called me directly on the brute yogi hotline with some very specific questions about my first ever video on releasing the hips to help soothe back pain. After I finally went live with this website (and almost threw up several times in the process) and (with anxiety that I thought would swallow me up) posted my first blog post, they scoured my site like any beloved friends would, to peek at what little information I’ve put out there so far, and found the video. They both started doing the simple mobility movements right away with high hopes of relieving their back pain and they were sold! They even wrote the sequence on their white board in their kitchen!
What really made me struck me was how they improvised props with what they had around the house – they had one yoga block, the tie for a robe, and couch cushions. I was so proud of them! They wouldn’t let anything stop them from moving in a new way to feel better!
Only got one block and two pillows
You can use anything as a yoga strap!
Their excitement was contagious! It literally makes my day to know that I’ve helped someone, especially when they get so pumped about the idea of being empowered to take care of themselves! Their one burning question though was about the “killer penguin” (my yoga buddy, Amber , gets the credit for this pet name.)
In the interest of full disclosure, this is not technically a yogasana – it is a mobility exercise and it goes by many names – the frog, the penguin, the baby maker, groin sprawl, or just simply a groin stretch. My friends decided to call it the sex pose (LOL?!) Here is a picture of another lovely friend and fellow yoga teacher, Gayle, demonstrating the killer penguin for us.
Gayle in killler penguin – dead or resting?
Get those hips down, Gayle! No-ass up poses!
Let me take a moment to describe *why* this can be such an effective hip opener for back pain relief. The adductor muscles on the inner thighs play a major role in the position and the stability of your pelvis. If there is extra tension and gripping in the groin muscles, the pelvis can tilt too far forward and put unhealthy strain on the lumbar spine, especially if you are lacking in core stability.
**Be sure you have some padding under your knees before you get going on this groin opener**
~ Start on your hands and knees.
~ Turn the feet out 90 degrees and flex them to protect the inner knee.
~ Gradually spread your knees apart keeping the knees and thighs line with the pelvis. In this first variation, the feet are apart and the ankles are in line with the knees – so that there is a 90 degree angle behind the knee.
~ While sliding your hips back to line up with the knees, keep the spine long (this isn’t Penthouse, asses down people) by either propping under the torso with blocks, pillows, a bolster, blankets, or just simply hold yourself up on your forearms.
~Now, WAIT…hold…pause…be still…be like a killer ninja penguin…breathe and await the opening…
Moving dynamically here can also be effective. In Yoga for Athletes, we like to laugh at ourselves as we awkwardly “saw the groin open” or “hump the penguin.” Basically, just carefully shift your body back and forth to change the angle and depth of the stretch in your hip socket and in the groin. As you do this, and your adductor muscles loosen up, be sure to spread your knees wider…and wider…and wider…
Now, Tina and Lisa were wondering more specifically if there were other ways to get the same release in the adductors without so much weight on the inner knees. There sure are!
Praying to the Frogs
Just simply bring the feet towards each other – then it is technically more of a yogasana (adho mukha baddha konasana) and in the movement and exercise world, this is usually called, “frog.”
Seated Butterfly – Baddha Konasana
* pressing down gently on inner thighs or using weights on the inner things* Siamese cat not required.
These versions of this groin opener aren’t quite as effective at getting to the inner groin and adductors. There is more torque placed on the femurs in the hip socket when there is a right angle at the pelvis and knee (like in the killer penguin) which creates more lengthening and stretch in the tendon attachments around the inner bowl of the pelvis. And, as a bonus, gives the femur a rotation that it rarely gets deep in the hip socket and at its gluteal attachments. But these will do if they don’t “kill” your knees as much!
Here are some versions that create that more effective torque that penguin gives (for some reason, I love that word, “torque!)
Reclined Butterfly with or without weight on the inner thighs- whoah
Supta Malasana – Squat on the wall – Dead Penguin – Baby maker?
Seated with legs in penguin position. Seated with legs in same position as “killer penguin.”
Half-Kneeling Groin Stretch – so good!
One leg up on edge of couch or chair or box in same position/angle
Flex that foot! Protect the knee and you open and torque that hip/femur!
In conclusion…not sure how to end this whirlwind of hip opening ideas being tossed your way…
There is always a way – to make changes – to ease discomfort – to open the hips. Excuses cannot be excused. A few years ago, I had a rare opportunity to work with nationally recognized yoga teacher, author, public speaker, and paraplegic (yes, a paraplegic yoga teacher!) Matthew Sanford who said, “You cannot overcome your life.” I imagine that what he meant is that there are circumstances of our lives and our physical makeup that we cannot ever change, but we have the creative will, the fortitude, and the CHOICE to work with what we were given. He cannot “overcome” his disability and he doesn’t make excuses – he finds a way to work with his physical karma, he has the courage to go for what he knows is possible for him and his physical vehicle.
So, go forth and take care of your vehicle – post any questions below and epiphanies below!
Let me get personal with you. I am an introvert (so this isn’t easy.) I break into a cold sweat when I have to speak in front of a group. I’m sensitive and I cry a lot. I don’t easily forgive narcism, ignorance, and selfishness. Anatomy and biomechanics turn me on. I love espresso, dogs, and gangster rap. My temper gets the best of me often and is one of the many reasons I practice yoga and lift heavy things. When I do lift, I tend to make this yelping grunt sound every time single time and it feels so good to emote like that. I am not naturally brave and I now know it is time to stop being such a scaredy cat and make shit happen in my life. I can tell you from experience that it really is painful to stay in a place that feels like I am playing small and allowing myself to fall victim to circumstance.
Getting some quality coaching from Jordan at Diablo Crossfit. (he’s legally blind and amazing!)
One of my dearest friends has been on my case for over four years now to grow my brand, cultivate a following and finally get the recognition I deserve. Amber Karnes is of those people that lifts me up. She is colorful and creative. She lives out loud and without apology in spite of her own fears. You can see her in just some of her awesomeness on her blog, Body Positive Yoga, or on her other blog (she’s that awesome that she has two,) My Aim is True.
Me and my very own creative genius, Amber.
On the flip side, there are several specific people throughout my life that have knowingly or unknowingly forced their insecurities, weakness of character, sense of lack, and fear of not being good enough on me to the point that I allowed them to influence me and trigger my own unhealthy way of care-taking and fixing and rescuing at my own expense. Matryr, you say? No, more like a learned codependence. I sacrificed and hid and squashed my own light and power in order to protect their feelings. I did allow it, yes. I take full responsibility for giving someone else the floor and hiding in the shadows so that they could fully shine. Well, no fucking more! (you will find that “fuck” is one of my favorite words – deal with it!)
15 years as a massage therapist and working my ass off for myself and by myself, almost 12 years teaching yoga, 5 years as a coach and personal trainer, and 6 long, hard years co-owning a yoga studio (the completely unglamorous life of a yoga studio owner is another blog post for another day – oh boy) brings me here to this blog and this fork in the road of saying, “fuck it, it is my time now and you can’t take it from me!” These past few years have been the most difficult. I allowed my own sparkle to dull. I allowed myself to be bullied in to being quiet or believing that I wasn’t capable and that there was someone else that was always more so. Most would say that that doesn’t make any sense – I agree! But again, I got coerced into believing that I had no right to put my own career and financial security first, to share my knowledge and my skills to make a difference in people’s health and well-being. I was bouncing along sincerely believing that my growth and my expansion in my offerings to my community would only serve to bolster the communities I was working with energetically and vice versus – I saw it all as symbiotic and then was told in so many words, “how dare me” – “it isn’t about me” – “it is about the greater good of the ‘fill in the blank.’
I no longer believe the lies. I no longer concede the floor for someone’s else’s lack of belief in themselves. I no longer allow anyone to steal from me. I am awake. I am alive and I have a fierce burning in my heart that needs to fucking shine!
Recently I participated in a group process on the web with my teacher of 14 years, Anna Pittman. We all gathered around our computers on a chilly Sunday for an online sharing experience. For most of the group, it was the first time we had ever done something like this before. It was awkward and clunky at first as we all navigated how to hear each other, see each other and feel connected in spirit (and while my cat kept walking in front of the screen!) The intention of the virtual gathering was to explore the resolution of limitations and resistance in my life. In the first inquiry, Anna led us through a visualization culminating in our listening to our own voice – here is what my voice had to say without any restraint – just free flowin’ thought straight from my heart (something I rarely let myself do and promised myself I would during this time with the group.) Oh, good gawd…here I go…being brave…
Directly from my notebook – “I am ready to unleash my spirit. I am ready to embrace my true spirit and let it be free and wild and mobile and dynamic and alive. I no longer want to feel stifled and squashed and pushed down for the sake of others. Although it is not part of my personality up until this point, I want to shine so fucking brightly. I want to grow and share and receive and exchange without withholding. I want to dance. I want to love and glow. I want to be heard and not talked at. I want to be seen. I want to be tenacious and tender with a fierce grace that I know is a truer me.”
So, here it is folks – my blog. I’m taking risks and being vulnerable all in the hopes of sharing what I’ve learned in my 41 years from my therapist eye, my coach view, my own mat, my barbell and from my own trials and tribulations with my body. There will be videos and posts with a lot of my opinions being thrown in. Hopefully, it will be helpful shit that will put you on the road to being a more connected and efficient version of you in this kinetic machine you’ve been given. This gives my inner introvert the cold sweats, but she needs to step the fuck aside and make room for this beautiful force about to step into the light.
There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela
Check out Lisa’s video on extra back pain relief that was featured on Yoga With Nadine, in her article, Down Dog Problems (solved) Part Two: Stretching Your Hammies. While it may not seem related, as you know…it’s all related! And, as Nadine says, “muscles work together in opposing pairs (known rather painfully as agonists and antagonists) so it’s useful to release front AND back of your hips when you are trying to increase hip mobility. Which is exactly what you are trying to do for a comfy down dog. Also, less back pain? Win.”
Meet Johanna Quaas, who holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the Oldest Gymnast in the world! Johanna is proof that strong is sexy at any age and further proof that if you treat your body like the temple that it is, it will return the favor for years to come. No matter what you do for exercise and physical activity just keep doing it! Johanna Quaas does!
The hips continue to get weaker and more immobile, and the spine continues to pick up the slack to compensate. Then you have pain. We must learn to move from the hips and not the lower spine. The first step in this process is to find mobility and full range of motion in each of the six directions the hip moves.
Try these six no-nonsense yoga moves to help your back pain go away for good.
How did it work for you?
Did these stretches help your back pain? Do you have any questions or need modifications for these poses? Leave a comment and let me know.