Backbends and more backbends... Wow.
I was so stiff and sore from yesterday's standing twists practice I didn't think there was any way I would make it through today's... I had to take quite a few breaks because my legs were trembling. I think this has been my hardest weekend since inversion weekend.
We went through Salambhasana (Locust), Dhanurasana (Bow), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog), Salambhasana with variations, Ustrasana (Camel) at the wall, and Salamba Setu Bandha (Supported Bridge). That's a lot of backbends! (You'd likely never do that many in a regular class, but this is teacher training and we are hard core. LOL) Ustrasana at the wall is fantastic for learning the legs work for the pose, but it was so hard because I felt as if I were going to fall backwards. The wall was just a little too close for comfort!
More fascinating information this weekend too about my back injury: I need to be doing backbends to help heal my posterior slipped disc. I have avoided backbends for years because I thought they would do more damage than good. Little did I realize that I was doing precisely the wrong thing for my particular injury. I have long had a love affair with forward folds, especially Utanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Prasarita Padottasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend). As it turns out, forward folds are likely to exacerbate a posteriorly slipped disc.
So let me explain the disc. Check out this picture from Wikipedia contributor Edave. (This is where my injury is, but this is NOT my spine. My herniation is not this large, but it works nicely for my explanation.) Look at the third disc down. It's herniated out the back of the disc (i.e., posterior). If it were out the front of the disc, the herniation would be anterior.
So, as it turns out, for those of us with posterior slipped discs (herniated is technically the correct medical term), backbends help to encourage the protruding disc material to reenter the disc - and forward folds have the potential to squish more fluid out of the disc. It's the opposite for someone with an anterior slipped disc: forward folds help the fluid back in, backbends would push more out. That's not to say that someone with a posteriorly slipped disc can't do a forward fold - BUT, it should be done slowly, with caution, body awareness and ideally, guidance from a teacher.
I no longer do the seated forward folds the way I used to... I would get into a position and just hang out there for minutes, working on lengthening my hamstrings. Never realizing I was at the very least, irritating my back injury, and at worst, making it worse. I don't hold seated forward folds for a long period of time now, though I will hold the standing folds for a while because they feel amazing on my neck (which is a whole different story of injury...). I am very careful to ensure I have more extension in my spine than "bend" when I do them, because I want to increase the space between my vertebrae in an even manner, and stretch the intercostal muscles (tiny muscles between your ribs). Oh, and another thing I avoid now, which I did for years and years... If you are in a standing forward fold and the teacher instructs you to "roll up, one vertebra at a time)... ick. This is not a good thing to do for anyone with a posteriorly slipped disc. It hurts. For me, it's much better to press down into my feet as if I am pushing the floor away and come up with a flat back. It might sound silly, but just give it a try.