The next thing I knew I was appealing for other instructors to cover the classes I was supposed to be covering, as well as my own. I even had to take a short time off work, and as far as the menu at home was concerned it was just as well we had some prepared items in the freezer. My birthday was spent leaving work early, having a hot shower and going straight to bed without dinner.
What happened? I had hurt my back. It was so painful that it hurt to burp. I could only sleep in one position, and then for only a few hours at a time before I had to get out of bed and walk up and down the corridor for half an hour to relieve the discomfort.
To add to the misery I felt freezing cold all the time and needed extra clothing layers, but putting anything on was a slow and painful process requiring ingenuity to figure out how to do it without setting off spasms. Luckily my regular exercise meant that my leg muscles were in good condition; retrieving anything from below hip level required a deep knee bend while keeping my back perfectly straight.
Convinced I had prolapsed a disc or similar, I sought diagnosis from an appropriate professional, and I was enormously relieved to be advised it was just a decent strain of a couple of large back muscles. Relieved at one level that is; good to know there was nothing structural or complicated but I still couldn’t sleep or take a deep breath.
And what on earth had I done to cause this muscle overstrain? It would be great to say I did it lifting a car off someone pinned underneath it, thus saving their life and making a hero of myself. Or perhaps heaving a prize foal out of a muddy dam, saving its life and causing its owner to make me a part-owner of a future Melbourne Cup winner.
No, the truth is I must have tweaked something in the process of flipping from Down Dog through Three-legged Dog into Wild Thing and thence into Back Bend, though I’ve done that several times before, quite recently and without incident. But I didn’t hear anything snap or feel anything give, didn’t notice anything untoward the next morning and so went off to my usual weights class. I got into it with my customary enthusiasm and was confident enough to add extra weights for the clean and press sequence, but did the whole class standing in a cold draught and could have pulled something then.
Or possibly it was a combination of the two. I’m sure readers have heard of people “doing their back” after a movement as simple as tying their shoelaces or picking up the laundry basket.
But as a naturopath I know that injuries like this are rarely just because of the single isolated incident. This view was reinforced by the excellent acupuncture practitioners I rushed to for help once I found out what it was that needed fixing.
During those consultations I was asked whether I had been sleeping well before the injury happened, how had my digestion been, what had been occupying my mind, had I been enjoying the sunshine still gracing us. The integrity of my pulse was assessed, the appearance of my tongue scrutinised.
All was revealed, and in addition to the careful placement of the needles and a generous period of time resting while they did their work, I was instructed to contribute to the healing process by going home, applying a hot water bottle and having a good cry.
We sometimes imagine we can go on indefinitely, juggling all our responsibilities and taking on a few extra as well, either because we think we have no choice, or because we think we’re unbreakable. We think we can skip meals or pay insufficient attention to the nutritional value of what we are eating. We think we can function despite interrupted sleep. We think we can manage without help.
Well, we can’t. Fortunately I was able to access excellent treatment and could make the space for that good cry, so I’m up and about and teaching again already. But I have received a sharp reminder to stop and smell the roses, soak up some sunshine when it’s available, and forgive myself for only being human.