This was a night I will never forget. And not in a good way...
An evening several years ago when my back was not in great shape. I was feeling particularly tired, physically and mentally as I got ready for bed looking forward to a good night’s sleep. I lay down on my back, positioned a supportive pillow under my head and shoulders, and placed my big yoga bolster horizontally under my knees for support.
I am a back sleeper and on a good night I can go to sleep and wake up in exactly the same position! However on days when my lower back or hip is screaming at me, it is difficult to get comfortable and relax let alone fall asleep for more than a couple of consecutive hours.
On this particular night, the pain was so intense I wanted to jump out of my skin! I changed position often to find the right angle and no pain zone. Anytime I thought I could let go and relax, I would get jabbing pains in my SI joint and hip along with a burning sensation in my lower back. As a result of the sustained pain, my agitation levels were through the roof and my breathing pattern was shaky and shallow.
I finally found a position that worked, I turned onto my right side with my knees bent and my bolster and cushions placed between my knees and ankles for support which removed the strain off my back.
How I managed the tension
I had a flash of an image go through my mind of when I was a kid. My step mother used to have a poster on the bedroom door of an ostrich looking straight ahead with big bulging eyes and a long tense neck. The caption read “don’t tell me to relax, it’s only my tension holding me together!” I felt like that ostrich. The pain was so intense that I had difficulty breathing well and the entire area around my pelvis was gripping tightly. I knew it was a vicious cycle, if I didn’t breathe well, the tension would increase. I took a Tylenol and an Advil to help reduce the pain and inflammation, I turned onto my right side with the long yoga bolster positioned lengthwise between my knees and ankles then decided to apply a yogic technique of present moment awareness along with deep breathing as best as I could.
While I calmed my mind down, I realized the more I resisted the pain and got frustrated with my current condition, the worse the pain got. So, instead of getting more agitated about the fact that I didn’t want to be in pain anymore, I took a journey into my body. I started regulating my breathing rhythm as deeply and slowly as I could into my abdomen. After several minutes, I paced my breath so that my inhalations and exhalations were longer, slower and even. I then directed all of my awareness towards what I was feeling in my low back and left side sacro-iliac joint. I became a witness to the experience like a curious explorer to simply see things as they were without trying to change anything.
With present-moment awareness, I journeyed inward to fully feel what was happening there and described what I felt; I evaluated my pain on a scale of 1-10, sensed the texture of it- was it aching or stabbing? I imagined it had a colour too, was it localized or did it radiate elsewhere? Did the circulation feel stagnant or flowing? Was the area stiff or could I move it in some way? I became suddenly aware that my breath naturally had become more calm and the feeling of gripping began to release bit by bit naturally, the intensity of the pain dropped down from a 10 to a 4 which seemed more manageable and somewhere in that journey I finally fell asleep...
Mindfulness practice was the technique the worked best that night. Combined with supporting my body in bed with cushions and a bit of medication to take the edge off. I got the rest I so desperately needed when I decided to surrender, to be present and give my body the attention and caring it was seeking.
I have included a guided meditation for your back in our Mend my Back program. If you are looking for a bit of guidance to journey into your own body, cultivating awareness through mindfulness practice can help. Proper rest and a good night’s sleep is where our body naturally restores itself. Set yourself up for success to get the recovery you need to feel well again.
We’ve got your back,