Posted by: Yoga in Borve | December 12, 2017

Daily dose of yoga

You’d think I’d know – really, really know – by now that I need to keep up a very regular ‘healthy movement’ practice. I’m saying that, rather than yoga, because I know what works for me is the combination of daily yoga and walking, and ideally weekly pilates and swimming too. Earlier this year, when I wrote the post Why do yoga at home? the very first reason on my personal list was:

Yoga is the glue that holds me together and the WD40 which keeps me working as smoothly as possible. I have scoliosis and without yoga I’d probably be in chronic pain by now. I certainly wouldn’t be able to move as freely and comfortably as I do. For me, it is a no-brainer to have a regular, consistent yoga practice which I am confident to take responsibility for – it’s not dependent on any particular class, teacher, piece of equipment or locale.

Image result for before and after yoga cartoon

[Cartoon probably by Cris Parga – that’s the only attributed one I could find!]

However, we are all human and we all lapse, and a couple of months ago I had a nice little lesson in just how small a lapse could return me to back pain. One Wednesday, I had no yoga teaching, and a lot of deskwork to do before I headed out to a training course on the mainland. The weather was terrible, so I let the dogs out in the garden instead of taking them for the usual mile or so walk. I intended to do a short yoga practice, but I ran out of time answering work emails. After sitting nearly all morning, I got in the car and drove for an hour. Then I sat for two hours in a hot meeting room for my course. I’m rarely down at the south end of the island, so I took the chance to catch up with a friend on the way home…at least another hour’s sitting, as well as having overall the same length of drive home again, the last stretch of which was dark, windy, wet and generally tension-inducing.

Now, if I’d been WISE, once I’d had my dinner, I’d have made myself go out for a walk (in waterproofs and with a headtorch…) and then done even 10 minutes of stretching. BUT. At that point I was still feeling absolutely fine, just tired. And more inclined to check my emails then read a book than to do any exercise. So I just sat some more. I don’t even want to work it out, but I must have been sitting either in the car, on a sofa or at a table for at least 10 hours on that Wednesday.

Haha, you fool, said my body. And I woke up on the Thursday with a very stiff back.

As you can imagine, I was really careful from that moment on to resume frequent gentle walking and stretching. On the Sunday, my lower back and SI joints still felt achy and vulnerable. But I’d avoided a worse crisis, and by Tuesday my back had returned to its normal pain-free happy state.

It showed me I can’t afford to be complacent, ever…BUT. Only a few weeks later, I was away from home, worried about someone close to me who was having an operation, and once again sitting in the car for many more hours than normal. I skipped four days’ of yoga practice, but was still walking the usual amount…except for the last day, which was our drive home. And a muscle in my back went into spasm the very next day. I was pleasantly amazed to discover how quickly I could go from extreme pain and limited mobility to gently easing everything out (less than 24hrs) and back to normal (48hrs in terms of being able to work & move apparently normally, perhaps a week till I felt fully recovered), simply by using the healthy movement strategies I’ve learned in recent years – compared to ten years ago, when a similar spasm put me out of normal action for many weeks. Still, I’m hoping I’ll be smart enough in future not to get complacent about my health and neglect my daily practice until my back protests!

I’ve been talking in this post primarily about having a regular yoga practice to manage physical conditions and reduce or avoid physical pain, because that has been my personal priority. Of course, there’s plenty evidence that physical, emotional and mental health are closely interconnected. In fact, stress is often a factor in back pain – and I can see this in my own life, since my very first bout of back pain age 17. There’s growing evidence that a regular practice of yoga (which includes breathing exercises and meditation) helps maintain or promote mental and emotional wellbeing. I’ve been working on developing a more regular meditation practice as part of my yoga throughout 2017, but that’s a story for another post. If you want to know more about yoga in relation to e.g. stress, panic attacks, anxiety, depression or grief, have a search in the archives of Yoga for Healthy Aging. I’d also recommend Amy Weintraub’s book Yoga for Depression. I realised while I was writing this post that my title was inspired by something she said, so I went searching for the quote I was half-remembering, so I could share it with you here:

please practise every day in some way. You don’t take your antidepressant three times a week. Like medication, for Yoga to be effective, you need a daily dose.

Amy Weintraub (2004: 248).

It was not fun experiencing back pain again for the first time in ages, but it was a useful reminder of my need to ‘keep up the good work’. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but in 2018 I’ll be aiming for a daily dose of yoga and walking – whatever the weather, and whatever else is going on in my life.




  1. […] mentioned in my last post, Daily Dose of Yoga, that despite having scoliosis and a history of back pain problems, I’ve found I can pretty […]

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