My first acupuncture trip (and I do mean trip)!

My chronic lower back pain has been bothering me more than usual lately. My lack of yoga over the holidays combined with a few extra pounds are surely the culprits. I’m now back at my yoga full gung-ho but the back pain is putting a damper on my bikram practice.

Looking for alternative relief, I decided to give acupuncture a try for the very first time. I rang up a local studio and today was my first appointment.

I met with the acupuncturist briefly to give her a run down of what ails me and then it was needle time. Fortunately, the needles didn’t hurt as she placed them strategically around my body. I did feel one small prick on my foot but that was it. I relaxed on a recliner as she expertly placed needles in both my hands, both feet, the  inside of both knees and about six on the crown of my head. Once she was done she quietly whispered “have a good dream”.

I was positive I wouldn’t be able to nap with all of these needles sticking out of me. I glanced at my watch and noted it was exactly 5:30pm. The acupuncturist had advised me it was common to nap and relax for 45 minutes to an hour per visit but as it was my first time she suggested I try to hang out for at least 20 minutes.

So I dutifully closed my eyes and challenged myself to relax for 20 minutes. What occurred next was quite literally the trippiest thing that’s ever happened to me minus any  type of alcohol or other mood enhancer.

As I relaxed I began to feel as if I was floating above the recliner. I think I laughed at one point. Then I saw an amazing palette of the most vivid colors flashing behind my closed eyes. I’m sure at some point I was sleeping but it felt like I was in and out of this dream state. When I opened my eyes I looked at my watch and it was 6:10pm. It felt like 5 minutes.

As I left I was a little groggy but by the time I arrived home I was feeling quite refreshed. As I bent over to take off my shoes I was amazed to find no back pain whatsoever!

Needless to say, I’m going to stick with the acupuncture treatments.

Bikram 30 day challenge benifits

Here are some of the benefits I enjoyed from my Bikram 30 day challenge: Weight loss of 7 pounds, I wanted to lose 10 but the challenge definitely gave me the jump-start I needed and now I know I will be able to keep going and loose those last few pesky pounds of belly fat. I feel better and have more energy. My digestive system is working better and I’m sure that’s a combination of all the yoga and cutting out junk food as well. I definitely advanced my practice; I’m going deeper in many postures and I’m often able to hold the balancing postures for the entire posture. This is the most progress I’ve made since my first year. During my first year of Bikram I learned a lot and progress came in leaps and bounds but during my second year I feel like my practice plateaued and that’s part of why I wanted to do this challenge. Well, I wasn’t disappointed; the challenge has propelled my practice through any imaginary ceiling! Here are some random things that I discovered during my Bikram 30 day challenge: I enjoy starting my day with yoga at 6am because I feel great all day! I can sleep like a kid again. I can control my sweet tooth. I am finally able to do Pranayama breathing without sounding like an old man snoring (that only took two years!). Doing a double is enjoyable and can lead to a breakthrough. Bikram yoga really is amazing and whatever you put into it you get back 100 fold. If you’re considering doing the Bikram 30 day challenge I highly recommend it, you will definitely advance your practice, gain a sense of achievement and learn a thing or two about yourself along the journey. It truly is a journey, filled with ups and downs and challenges along the way but worth every minute (and every drop of sweat)!! So what’s next for me? My biggest fear about doing the challenge was that I would get burned out on yoga. Well that definitely didn’t happen. If anything the opposite happened, I think I’m more addicted to yoga than ever and that’s a good thing. Going forward I’m going to aim for 5 classes per week instead of my old average of 3 classes per week. I think that’s the sweet spot. I also want to thank all of you for your support, advice and encouragement over the last 30 days, it really means a lot to me and I feel like I’ve made some new friends along the way! I’m going to keep my blog going and continue giving updates on my yoga journey. ~Yoga Dad

Day 22

6am class

Today was better than yesterday. Back was less sore, felt focused mentally. Happy about losing 7 pounds and happy my back is letting me continue on.

I got this great piece of advice in a comment from Views from the Podium, who is a Bikram teacher and it really helped me today with the hands to feet pose, which is the posture I hurt my back in:

Just curious – when you start to pull in Hands to Feet Pose are your knees together or bowed apart? Sometimes I find that people that may have a tightness in their lower back or hips can’t keep the knees together. If this is the case slowly try to bring them back together and then pull, but always keep the front side compression (stomach on the thighs, chest on the knees, face on the legs below the knees). Maybe this will help, maybe not – I love reading about your challenge – you are almost there!

Turns out my knees were bowing apart so I guess this was putting undue stress on my lower back. Thanks Views!

I also got this little gem from Steven:

Have you ever tried rolling around on a lacross ball, particularly in the hip areas? That’s really helped me loosen up my lower back.

So….I’m off to Sports Authority to buy a lacross ball! Thanks Steven, I’ll let you know how it works!

Oh, by the way, I got a compliment from my wife today (which is rare!). This morning when I arrived home from yoga she looked at me and said, “You look skinnier”. Made my day!

Day 21, crisis averted

6 am class

Started class worried about my back injury from yesterday. I’ve come so far and don’t want to bow out now with 10 days to go. I gingerly go through the opening postures and take it easy with hands to feet as this was the posture that tweeked my back yesterday. I can feel the pain in my lower left back during standing head to knee on the left side. However, after this I am able to make it through the rest of class with very little discomfort. I live to fight for one more day!

Iceburg, straight ahead!

iceburg

Day 20

As luck would have it, I went from 4 classes of smooth sailing to a great big iceburg. 6am class and I’m in one of the first poses, hands to feet.

hands to feet pose

As I’m pulling (Bikram says pulling is the object of stretching) I feel a tweek in my lower left back and by tweek I mean it made me grimace and possibly grunt. It hurt. Like “oh sh*t, I just threw out my back” hurt. The thought instantly flashes through my mind that I won’t be able to finish the challenge, much less this class because I just threw out my back. I try not to panic.

My back and I have a lot of history. Bad history. I suffered from a bad back from my early thirties up until two years ago when I started Bikram. I think it resulted from lifting weights in my garage as a kid, unsupervised. Not good. This is what drove me to Bikram two years ago. Within weeks of starting Bikram my back pain subsided. I went from being in constant daily pain and being a candidate for back surgery to only experiencing occasional, very infrequent pain- often times after pushing myself too hard in yoga class but this was part of the process of healing my back.

This feels different though, this feels like the old days when I would throw my back out and be in horrible pain for a week or longer. The I need a doctor and medicine kind of pain. The I can’t get out of bed kind of pain. That hasn’t happened at all since I started Bikram. So, I press on today, having faith in the yoga. I gingerly continue through the next few postures. Luckily, the pain doesn’t stop me. After the initial jolt, the pain rapidly subsides to a manageable dull discomfort. I make it to the end of class. Hopefully I will be ok for tomorrow’s class. Hopefully I’ve dodged the iceburg!