How I Saved Myself from Awful Back Pain During Pregnancy and Raising a Young Child
I feel like one of the lucky and rare people who don’t suffer from back pain. Maybe it’s genetic? But then I look at my family, who all have a history of all kinds of chronic back and hip problems, alongside many much-needed interventions. Maybe it’s what I eat? That’s pretty simple for the most part, but my diet is far from picture-perfect. Maybe it’s luck, and that might have a whole lot to do with it. But my intuition, along with both science and common sense, all tell me there must be something I do every day, pretty much all day long, that’s the leading factor in keeping my back working and feeling good, when so much of life steers in the other direction.
The good news is, this big Something isn’t too complicated or out-of-reach. If it was, I wouldn’t have managed to keep doing it all these years, through work, pregnancy, raising my now 6-year-old daughter, and all that life brings along. It’s something all of us can do, right in the middle of our too-busy schedules. And it gives the full-time help and support we need for our backs, plus a bonus here. It helps with our whole health and everything else, too.
I’m going to be sharing about all this starting in June with an updated special online course to help with back pain, including through live zooms. You can begin any time now, go all at your own pace, and keep it as a resource forever – so you have this support right when you need it. I’ll give a link to info for you here, and I’ll also share some more of the whole story below.
Yoga is a wonderful practice for wellbeing. We all know this. But I have a little bit of a big secret. It’s in how I practice yoga, that makes all the difference for my back. It’s tai chi. When I tell people this, they usually think I’m doing the tai chi sequence we see older groups of people doing in a park, or they ask, with a careful, almost precious attention, if it’s something I study, thinking this might be a good thing for them too. And it is. But how I practice, during some separate special practice time, isn’t what comes to mind when you think tai chi.
I started learning tai chi over a decade ago, when Mike began leading workshops as part of our Strala Trainings. First they were focused on moving better while practicing and leading yoga. But then the door opened into how you move in every moment, as a way to help with everything you do all day long. Everything opened up from here.
Tai Chi teaches that softness isn’t the opposite of strength. It’s a state of being, both physical and emotional, that makes really hard things – like big challenges, as well as healing – possible. Softness supports long-lasting mobility, real strength, prevention of injury, and healing when things get hurt. Physically it’s a relaxed bend in your joints, alongside a relationship between your breath and body that releases stress, and powers your movement. Emotionally, it’s a readiness to move, without tension that inhibits your movement. Softness creates the ground for possibility.
Tai chi also teaches how to move your whole body in harmony. This means every part of you is helping every other part of you. You’re all together with all of you, nothing isolated, no part of you left out.
It’s a practice that lets you accomplish so much more than you could with the tension and force we habitually attach to our feeling of success, and doing a good job. Stress doesn’t equal success. Stress leads to more stress, tension, injury, and pain. Moving with softness, ease, harmony, leads to a healthy balance of strength, flexibility, mobility, and stability. There’s a lot that happens from here. One of the big things – it leads to a life that can be free from back pain. And when those times happen that back pain comes along, you have the support you need, to help your way out of pain, back to doing what you want to do, feeling good along the way.
This is just the beginning. It turns out that tai chi, together with the even-more-ancient foundations of qigong, gives us a huge variety of short, simple, easy-to-learn practices, that you can do wherever you are, right in the middle of whatever you’re up to, as a way to support both prevention and healing of back pain.
I practice this in my yoga, so I have an opportunity daily, whether it’s for 5 minutes, 10 minutes or longer, to remind myself this is how I want to be. I practice it in all of the other moments of my day too, when I’m on a zoom call, talking with someone face to face, making dinner, or together with Daisy or Mike. Softness. Breath-body connection. Harmony. Moving from Center. Releasing and replenishing in each moment and movement, so what I’m doing is powerful, sustainable, and healing, all at the same time. These are actions I’ve learned I can take all the time, whenever I remember they’re here for me.
You might be thinking it must look really odd to be around someone practicing tai chi, all the time. I must look like I’m retreating on a mountain and about to slip into a deep meditation. But it’s not that at all. Being around me, or anyone doing this practice, is like being around a tree, gently swaying when the breeze comes, resting with calm attention when the breeze is still. It’s like being around the best version of yourself, taking care of yourself all the time, whether you’re alone, or with others. People often tell me now that I have great energy. It kind of cracks me up, because I know why they feel that. It’s working! And it’s all right here for all of us.
We all can do this. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. It takes practice to change habits from tension to ease. It took a lot of practice for me too. I used to rush through life with my tension and my agenda, and I got a lot done and I felt ok. But just ok. Sometimes I got tired, really tired, like the kind of tired you feel like you need a year to rest by a beach somewhere. I don’t feel like that anymore. I have energy in the morning and I rest well at night. I am able to be fully present with myself and with others. I accomplish my goals and enjoy the moments of each day as a gift.
This way of being isn’t because of genetics, but turns out it can re-wire your genetic expression and become the new you, that you physically pass onto your next generations. This way of being isn’t because of food choices, but my food choices improve and my desire to create community around nourishment has improved. This has helped me, my family, and my community loads. And for luck, I think it’s increased that quite a bit too. For now, I’ll leave you with a testimony of my back. I’m healthy, happy, free of pain, and would love for you to have this too. Please join me here, I’ll give a link you can use to register below.
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