This isn't what it looks like. Unless it looks like yoga. A pro-active friend invited me and a bunch of other yogi pals to join her and a thousand others on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art a couple weeks ago to practice for an hour to raise money and awareness for an organization called Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. I had fun and made new friends. Well, obviously.
So what the hell is that up there? It's an assisted upavistha konasana of course. My partner helped me bend deeper. It's important to open your hips.
Especially when your back is closed up tight like a condemned building. My lumbar is still at it folks. Maybe a month ago I finally got an MRI—talk about a nauseating experience, I had to lie down for the rest of the day after that torture chamber. Amazing though, technology. And it's amazing to learn all the things I've got going on in my back. I'm trying not to say that things are "wrong" with my back. For one thing, believing that my back shouldn't hurt when it does just makes me feel worse. Plus I'm heavily vested in the possibly delusional thinking that treating this chronic pain as an opportunity will allow me grow and learn and heal, because if I don't, I might just cry myself crusty.
Receiving that glossy, chemical-stinking bundle of ghostly pics was like my very own black Christmas. My presents? We're talking scoliosis, though you don't need an MRI to see that. You can just see it when I bend over. Then there's the bulging and protruding discs, bone spurring and stenosis. And don't forget about the osteoarthritis (a.k.a. spondylosis) that finds me inching my way out of bed most mornings as if my spine were made of glass filigree.
I just about quit yoga altogether. But my doc said I should keep practicing, that she was most concerned with the spurring—the bony protrusions growing inside the holes of my vertebrae, squeezing my nerves. So I shouldn't bend backward, she told me, but the rest of it would help. I was relieved to hear this news and surprised at my relief because after all those mental gains I'd made from changing my eating habits, I thought I wouldn't miss yoga but I did. Proper nutrition and yoga are like my new adoptive parents. So it's good to be back on the mat, and I practice so that my constantly contracted muscles might one day sigh with relaxation, open the cell door and let me be on my way.
I still have my youthful hope. But.
Does it make me feel old? About ninety. What about the cause of all this aching and paining? Did I suffer an injury? Does childbirth count? Doc says it's cumulative, that it began twenty years ago. This pronouncement coincides with all I'm learning these days, because I have come to believe that poor nutrition can literally eat us alive, (maybe especially when we are growing babies inside our bellies.)
I grew up on TV Dinners and came of age in the skim milk and diet bagels era, smoked pot all through high school which led to orgies of candy-consumption with what else but a diet Coke chaser because I wanted to be thin-thin-thin! Then drank my way through college, washing down plastic cups of watery beer with buckets of fluorescent orange Buffalo wings, French fries, pizza, chips and whatever else was packed with partially hydrogenated oils, processed flour and sugar. Then the dozen meatless, soy- and pasta-filled years. From my present-day perch, it looks like a suicide mission.
But we think we are immortal when we are young, having no clue that the crap we are feeding ourselves can find us arthritic (or worse) at the age of thirty-six. That's how old I was when I had my first bout of pain so bad I called my mother-in-law to babysit because I couldn't lift my fifteen-pound daughter.
And yes I hope and pray that just one adolescent girl—anyone really, but adolescent girls are dear to my heart maybe because I still feel like one half the time—that just one person reading this experiences a light-bulb moment, because every bite she puts in her mouth is an investment in her future body, possibly her future fertility, her mental and physical health, just about everything that will mean so much to her one day.
Okay I didn't mean to get up on a soapbox. But it's my birthday in thirty minutes so I'm milking it.