I’m a yoga instructor with scoliosis. For those unaware of what scoliosis is, basically my spine is curved - visualise a drunk driver swerving sideways momentarily then realise that the road is a metaphor for my spine. Luckily, the curvature is not extreme but still, it’s freaky; many masseuses have curiously prodded my spine and even giggled because of it. That’s not the problem though as I can’t afford to visit massage parlours frequently, the problem is that a curved spine equates back aches.
Prior to physiotherapy (shoutout to Carol my therapist) and yoga, I was constantly suffering from everything and anything - migraines, shoulder aches, back aches, just a generally underperforming immune system. Physiotherapy was immensely beneficial but obviously rehabilitation entails an expiration date so after welcoming a healthy body, I was determined to maintain a healthy body. Honestly, as a species, we can accept any type of living condition and it’s only after you switch living conditions that you can compare and realise the difference - and I really realised the difference in how I felt. Trust me, it’s not only through exercise, just a month or less of eating healthy can make you embody the mind-blown Jackie Chan meme.
You know what? Forget practicing the poses I’m about to share with you daily or even eating healthy for a month. I’ll make it simpler. Start treating yourself with the love and respect that you deserve right now because then you’ll genuinely start wanting to exercise or to eat clean. Even simpler? Every time you think or say something negative, re-think and re-word your sentence. Every time you notice that you’re complaining, express gratitude instead, for your health, your family etc. Every time you think you can’t, that’s when you need to push yourself the most.
So I guess we can use the poses below to start this practice of self-love and self-respect. If you notice an ache within your back, lower or upper back, instead of thinking ‘whatever, it’s normal’ say ‘no, it’s not normal and I’m going to give my body the love it deserves’. Ok, maybe you don’t have to say exactly that but you get the gist of it.
Stop ignoring your aches. Your body is constantly talking to you and trying to tell you where you’re over or under working it - I always say this while teaching yoga (if you’ve attended my classes, thanks for listening to me repeat this a million times now) and can’t stress it enough.
Use your body to learn more about yourself so without further ado, use the following poses to start practicing self-love and self-respect.
Benefits: This pose stimulates circulation to the nerves and muscles of the spine while massaging the entire abdominal and pelvic region, like the adrenal glands, liver, pancreas, and more.
How To: Sit with your legs outstretched and visualise that your back is pressed against a wall then hold your hips and slowly bring your forehead as close as possible to your knees - note that if your forehead is nowhere near your knees, that’s completely fine but maintain straightened knees. You can also simultaneously attempt to touch your toes with your hands or pulse up and down. Hold for at least five breaths or even longer.
Benefits: This pose separates the individual vertebrae from each other, releasing pressure on the discs and even encouraging the discs to resume their correct position. It also stretches and strengthens the back muscles.
How To: Sit atop your shins so the thigh presses against the calf then bend forward so the chest is pressing against the thighs. Bring your forehead to touch the ground, with your hands either by your side or pulling towards the front of you. I always recommend rolling the forehead side to side so you can also give yourself a little self-loving forehead massage. Hold for at least seven breaths because it’s such a feel-good pose.
Benefits: This pose stimulates and tones the spinal nerves. It’s known for increasing blood circulation, especially to the brain, while also increasing flexibility in the hamstrings.
How To: Visualise a rag doll because that’s exactly what you’re going to embody by standing upright then bending forward from the hips. Literally just let yourself hang here, attempting to touch the toes. If you want, you can sway side to side as to also stretch the side-body. Hold for at least five breaths or even longer.
Benefits: This pose affects the muscles on the sides of the waist and trunk. It alleviates nervous depression while also stimulating the nervous system.
How To: Assume Padahastasana and bring the right hand in between the feet then bend only the right knee (I repeat: left knee is straight). From here, you can choose to bring your left hand to hold your left hip or to reach skywards, as if you’re reaching to grab someone's hand. Hold for at least five breaths or even longer.
Benefits: This pose is especially effective for those suffering from sciatica, slipped disc, or lower back-pain in general. It releases compression of the spinal nerves and encourages the vertebral column to resume its natural shape.
How To: Assume cobra but instead of extending your arms, keep your arms firmly planted against the ground and point your chin either forward or upward. You can stay here or cup your chin with both of your palms, elbows touching in front of you, center - if you’re here, experiment with distance and sensation. If you want, you can also kick your legs up and down in an attempt to hit your back. Hold for at least five breaths or even longer.
Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati (2002)