Pop! The sound was both felt inside my body and heard by my ears. Then numbness shot down my lower leg and buttocks. I knew I had done something harmful, but what?
The next few hours were filled with pain and numbness, a feeling of having injured myself deeply. Walking, sitting, standing in any position brought no relief from pain, only a continual deep throbbing of numbness from my lower back to my big toe.
I had injured myself by ignoring my body’s own wisdom, by pushing deeper into my seated forward fold. It was a perfect example of ego yoga. By refusing to listen to my own body, I had created this pain.
Living with — and learning from — pain
As hours moved into days and weeks, pain of such a deep level was a daily, constant reminder of ignoring my own body. Nothing calmed the intense pain and numbness. Yoga poses were quickly dropped as any bending, sitting, or stretching brought deeper levels of anguish and pain. I tried to release my pain in the heat of a sauna, hoping that would allow my body to relax.
The day after my sauna session was the deepest amount of pain I could bear. The sauna’s heat made the pain worse. I could not walk forward, only backward. What had I done to myself?
Lying on my back, knees bent, was the only position I could be in without making the pain worse. From an active, dynamic yoga practitioner I became a bug on my back.
I realized that heat made the pain worse, so I began thinking of the opposite of heat: cold and ice. From my days of playing organized sports I knew ice was a good remedy for reducing swelling, inflammation, and pain.
Still in the bug pose, I began to ice the affected lower back, and down the back of my leg. Icing for 10 to 12 minutes brought a glimmer of pain relief that was joyously received. Finally, something helped my pain!
Daily icing began to have a positive effect on my numbing pain. On my back after each round of icing, I began to explore moving my body. I explored different yoga poses and exercises that helped to stretch and strengthen my painfully constricted body. This process took weeks and months for me to figure out what my body needed to do to heal itself. Pain is a great teacher.
After several months of moving cautiously and deeply listening to the responses of my body, I was able to find a series of poses and exercises that brought pain relief and strength back into my body. I also was able to name my pain. In my ego yoga moment, I had compressed my sciatic nerve, causing the pain and numbness known by many people as sciatica.
Developing the 10 Principles of Gabriel’s Yoga Therapy
From that time forward my yoga practice was simple. On my back or stomach I learned new ways of doing yoga poses that brought great pain relief. Moving slowly, paying attention to and listening to my body enabled me to move without pain.
As time moved forward I completed my training at Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy and began working with individual clients on a daily basis. Seeing different bodies in varying amounts of physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, I began to notice an important aspect.
I observed several clients who, after releasing years of pain and suffering in the body, still had muscle or joint weakness in those areas. The underlying muscle, tendon, and ligament structure was weak and needed to be strengthened.
These two factors — my own pain, and my clients’ weaknesses — began to offer me insight into what best served people’s bodies to be both strong and functional. Traditional yoga today emphasizes flexibility and offers little to strengthen structural integrity. My system of yoga therapy created structural strength and integrity first, providing a strong and stable base for functional range of motion.
I began to offer my clients this therapeutic approach to yoga poses and movement. Over time, I developed the 10 principles that now guide all sessions of Gabriel’s Yoga Therapy.
Have a question? Ready to sign up? Email Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org.