Cat’s Pose

Cat’s Pose

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Back Pain!

Cat’s Pose

When I was thirty, the only person I knew my age who had a back problem was a friend who had been in a bad boating accident. And she had a real back problem. She had suffered for years in pain. I had no idea how bad it was for her despite her phone calls and the days that she lay on her back unable to move. My health issue had always been migraines. If she wanted to talk pain, my head was where pain lived in my body.

One day when I was thirty-three I was toting around my young, but large, toddler on my hip and I bent down to pick up a toy. Suddenly pain shot through my back. Grasping my side, I put my daughter down and winced. I lowered myself slowly into a chair. And while she toddled off, I worried. How was I going to get through the rest of the day with a small child? What about the next day and the next week?

I knew my body was weak — especially my stomach and back. During pregnancy, and after the baby was born, I hadn’t worked out like I had before I was pregnant. But I didn’t have the energy, much less the time, to work out. I was so tired all the time.

As I sat there in pain, looking at my daughter, who had fortunately found something to play with, I realized — officially — that I was in terrible shape.

I called my mom, who is a nurse and is married to a man who has had his share of back issues. Her suggestion was to take ibuprofen, try to rest (I rolled my eyes), and limit the time I spent picking up and holding my daughter (eye roll again). After a few days of consistent ibuprofen I was much improved. I went back into the nice cozy land of denial and went on my merry way.

A year later, I was pregnant with my second child and I started having back pain again — this time sciatica. I went into a tailspin again. I had actually gotten back in shape again before this pregnancy, but then I found that I simply couldn’t muster any strength while pregnant and chasing my two-and-a-half-year-old around.

My desperation was increasing and the acetaminophen (no more ibuprofen) I could take was doing little to help ease my pain and discomfort.

I called my boating-accident friend and explained my back pain.

She told me to stretch, and suggested a few exercises. “Yeah, right,” I replied. “I’ll just stretch and everything will be fine again.”

Fortunately, she didn’t hang up on me.

She walked me through the stretches. Most I recognized from yoga classes and general exercise classes. They seemed so wimpy and simple that I didn’t really think they would work, but I was willing to give them a try.

For five to ten minutes a day, I went through a series of very simple stretches like lying on my back, legs straight and pulling one leg to my chest and holding it. Then I switched to the other leg. I also held both knees to my chest and rocked gently from side to side.

My all time favorite, and where I spent most of my time, was doing what they call in yoga the “cat’s pose.” On all fours, I would “tuck in” my enormous stomach, round my back, look down at the floor, and suck up my belly as far as I could. Then I would do the opposite, look up, push my belly toward the floor and arch my back. After a few times I could feel my back relax. Sometimes I would stay on all fours in a neutral position — I was just so glad not to be on my feet!

After a week, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt and how simple the exercises were. I simply had to be disciplined enough to stay with it and do them. But they were so simple, and the repercussions of not doing them were so much worse, that I did them regularly.

Since then I have worked those exercises into my regular workout regime, pregnant or not, and so far, so good with the back pain. I have always been an animal lover, but now I have a whole new respect for the cat. Perhaps its healthy back is why it has nine lives.

~ Jennifer Quasha ~

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