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Find your boundaries

Last time I wrote this blog, I added an afterword, and then deleted it. The blog was about finding stillness in asanas, and I extrapolated from that to wondering if I could find stillness in my busyness. Looking back, the blog, as my life, was more about the busyness than the stillness, but we can only yearn for our own success. The unpublished postscript went something like this:

Afterword, six hours later: When I got up from writing this blog, I found myself in acute back pain that has since increased. I’ve had to abandon all plans for the rest of the day, and possibly the next few. A message from the universe? 

That was ten weeks ago.  As it turned out, an inflamed L5 disc has significantly changed my plans for most days since. Don’t get me wrong, this was no permanent injury (I hope). A couple of housebound weeks, take it easy, get some treatment and I’d be back.

That’s pretty much gone to plan.  Only my new “back” is not a lot like the old one. Some of my old favourite activities, including walking, are all but out of the question. My yoga practice has become limited to a handful of poses – mostly lying poses. Forward bends, once my delight, are now little more than an intention.

I do still roll out my yoga mat, if only for a few minutes, on more than a couple of days in the week, and I have relegated myself down to a less advanced class once a week. But I look with envy on others doing inversions, or even standing poses, and wonder if I will ever feel that strength and flexibility again.

The pain comes in bursts now, not constant as before, so I am improving. I can drive, carry small bags of shopping and do most of the day-to-day things that life demands. I can walk, at a calm pace, for about 15 minutes. If I push beyond that I am literally hobbling back to my car. It can be scary. Once the pain grabbed me when I was half-way through crossing a quiet street, slowing me down so much that a distant car had caught up and had to stop to let me pass.

Then someone said something that made me think. It was an osteopath, who happens also to be a yoga student. He was sitting beside the table I was lying on with his hand holding my sacrum, allowing it, I think to rest and let go of the tension, and I was complaining about my continued restrictions. “Disk injuries teach you where your boundaries are,” he said. “You know the instant you hit them. You have to learn to live within your boundaries”.

Boundaries? I looked around my life and saw few. My work has too often bled into my home-life. I haven’t been good at saying no to bad relationship behaviour, nor opening my self up to positive friendship. My conscious awareness of my own body is so limited that I often bump into corners as I pass through doorways. These are things I have been aware of for some time, and have been slowly doing something about improving upon. But the problem with vague boundaries, is they are, well vague.

The injury is my new gift. It tells me where my edge is. Within that limit, however, I can explore as much as I like. My regular yoga teacher is only too happy to assist. Last week he made me stand on my knees, and told me to work activate my psoas muscle all the way from my lesser trochanter, over my front hip and back to my spine beside my L5. I can’t even pretend that I succeeded. But I concentrated on the action for about half the yoga class. When I couldn’t stay on my knees, I lay flat on the floor and worked on the same action. It was physically and mentally exhausting.

Well within my boundaries, but a massive stretch as well.


Kimina Lyall with Clara the Cardigan Corgi