About two years ago I was rushing to get to the theatre with my two children. We were a little bit late and I had managed to leave the buggy at home. My 4 year old was not impressed and refused ‘point blank’ to walk, preferring to sit down on the pavement in protest.
Even though my arms were loaded with bags, snack boxes and drinks I felt I had no choice but to carry him. Looking back, maybe it would have been a better idea to have missed the pantomime altogether, as on that day I pushed my back one step too far and woke up the next morning to major aches and pains in my shoulders and arms and a shooting sciatic nerve pain down my left leg.
I knew this was a bad injury, and I knew my body would heal over time. All I needed was a bit of downtime, a massage ... that should do it, right? Wrong. After repeated trips to the physio I was going downhill. I felt like my whole body was out of balance. It was a vicious circle - the longer the injury went on unaided, the less exercise I could manage. My fitness was deteriorating. Before, I was a very fit and active person, now I was unable to even walk for 10 minute without being in terrible pain. I finally was offered an MRI scan which showed a slipped disc pressing again my sciatic nerve and after an epidural injection and a course of strong pain killers I finally regained health.
Two years later I am here at the Samsara studio with Laura Gaspar learning about the spine. We learn how the spine needs the protection from a strong core and we practice some exercises to give movement and fluidity to the spine. The movements are small and trying to move the spine vertebrae by vertebrae takes a lot of conscious thought. “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything” somebody says behind me. I feel the same. But Laura reassures as that these tiny movements are working the small areas which we need to work on and which often the body will ignore whilst compensating with another muscle which is stronger.
Laura explains how the curve of the spine is essential to it’s function and that movement of the spine retains it’s health. Sitting for long periods at a desk or in a car can put too much weight on certain areas of the spine and the spongey disks in between each vertebrae can dry out resulting in stiffness and inflammation. When the back is in pain, the whole body is affected.
At the end of the session we ask Laura, if we could only do one exercise to help our backs, which one would it be. The answer: the Pelvic tilt. ‘Every day for the rest of your life!’ She says with a laugh. But she is deadly serious. Looking after your body takes dedication and if you injure your back it’s even more important to protect from it happening again.
The workshop did me wonders. I came home and felt a warmth within my lower back that I’ve never felt before. I slept like a baby and woke up the next morning with a new spring in my step and a sense of new found positivity. One thing I have learnt about how we treat our bodies: We take them for granted when they are functioning well, we don’t think to appreciate them and we then neglect them. We don’t exercise regularly or feed our bodies the food and water they deserve to function at their best. Then when we get an injury we suddenly realise what we an amazing body we had!
I’m going to try to be gentler on my body and take time to do the small movements that can make so much difference to the health of my spine and maybe the next time I book tickets to the panto I won’t carry quite so many bags (or grumpy children!)
About Laura Gaspar:
Laura has been practicing different types of yoga (Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Yin Yoga, Rocket Yoga and Dharma Mittra) for many years. She approached yoga for the physical reasons, but very soon with a regular practice she discovered how yoga gives much more than a simple workout. In 2012 Laura went to India to become a certified Yoga teacher and share the benefits of yoga. She is now certified 500hrs in Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Rocket, Yin, Tripishore techniques and Mandala Yoga. Laura's philosophy is that everybody is capable of practicing yoga, but not necessarily in the same way (different expectations, different bodies, injuries, etc.). With this in mind, she makes sure to adapt her classes to each group and to the individuals. Her aim is to put a smile on each student’s face and a nice feeling of well-being.
Laura teaches at Samsara on:
Thursdays 10.45 – 12:00 Vinyasa Flow
Mondays 12:30 – 01:30 Yin Yoga
Wednesdays 05:30 – 06:45 Yin and Yang