Off the Mat Yoga

“If you listen to your body when it whispers to you, you won’t have to hear it yell later”.

As a middle-aged man-yogi, I have different expectations of my body.

Mostly, I expect it to perform how I need it to, but I also try not to push it over the proverbial ledge. Unfortunately, I have to admit that the ledge is getting closer and closer the more birthdays I have.

Recently I attended a yoga-for-your-back-class. The whole class focused on the back: cervical, thoracic and lumbar areas. My instructor spoke about strengthening the back. She spoke about back injuries. Prevention of injury was a big topic. At some time during the class she used this quote: “If you listen to your body when it whispers to you, you won’t have to hear it yell later”. Wow, that really hit home. I wanted to tell myself that I was already practicing this sage advice. But when I thought about it, I really had to admit I usually ignored the whispers.  My hobbit body tends to whisper to me a lot. Sometimes it even whispers loudly to me. And sometimes it just flat out yells at me. The class was great. I left with this great feeling that I had a new mantra. A mantra that made sense and a mantra I could follow. I would from-now-on listen to the whispers.

Two days later it happened. It came on with no warning. It was a total surprise. It was debilitating. And by now you are wondering what the heck I am talking about. I’m talking about excruciating lower back pain: the kind that appears for no reason. No reason what so ever. You wonder what you did. You ask why your body why it didn’t whisper to you earlier (or you wonder if you just ignored the whispers that ere there). Well, this is one of those times that my body flat out yelled at me. There was no specific injury. I didn’t trip over my shoes in the morning. I didn’t lift anything unusual at work. I didn’t roughhouse with the dogs. I had no clue why I could not move without pain.

So what did I do when the screaming started? The same thing most middle-aged non-athletic guys do. I tried to ignore it. Did I take a pain reliever? Of course not. Did I rest or ice it? Nope. Did I try to keep up with all of life’s activities? You bet I did! And what did that accomplish? You guessed it. It made the pain worse!

So what now? Well, eventually there was no choice. My body screamed enough that I was forced to listen. Everything stopped. Walking came to a halt. Even sitting and standing even brought on pain. And unfortunately, very unfortunately, yoga was put on hold. And because I am the guy that needs yoga to survive, the absence of yoga made it difficult to quiet my screaming body.

“Difficult” is a minimalist term. Time away from yoga was more than that. I missed yoga. I really did. Two weeks of rest, a trip to the Chiropractor, and lots of patience finally allowed my screaming body to whisper to me again.

And when it whispered, all it said was “yoga… go practice yoga”. So I did. And all is well again.


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  1. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    May 24, 2016 at 10:14 am

    This is so important! Even for those 20-something-year-olds out there who are beginning to experience premature aches and pains because in those younger, high-school years we didn’t listen to the whispers and kept on practicing field hockey, baseball, tennis, cross country, etc. I’m in my mid 20’s and have had life long health issues, but even still, I ignored the whispers in high school and college as I pushed through the pain in my knees, hips, and back from field hockey, cheerleading, and excessive running. Three years ago my body decided to start screaming and I landed in the hospital many times before the pain stopped. When I started practicing yoga it was absolutely not for the pain. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I focused my yoga practice directly at those whispers that continue on as I near my 30s. In the past year I have felt less pain than I ever have. I have more strength and regained the flexibility I thought was gone forever. It is oh so important to listen to those whispers and to treat your body kindly! thank you for this message!

  2. Jennifer Pollio

    Jennifer Pollio

    May 24, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Wow! I love this. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Michael Duncan

    Michael Duncan

    May 28, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you so much for your comments. I’m glad you are listening so many years before I did. You are off to such am better start w/ your body than I had. You will thank yourself so much in the future.

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