How Yoga and Instagram may spoil your back

Picture by Richard Giles

Picture by Richard Giles

...Or at least how it spoiled mine. Yes, I always thought this kind of injuries only happened to other people so I would have laughed at an article titled like this some months ago. Then the pain came. Of course, it must be muscular, right? Nothing difficult to fix. That's what I thought until I visited my best I-fix-everything physioterapist and ostheopat and the pain was still there. After the MRI scan result came: poestrocentral disc protrusion at T6-T7 with associated breakage of the fibrous ring. Wait...What?? A disc proplapse? And thoracic? Not even 5% of the disc prolapses happen at the protected thoracic level! How can that be possible?!!

But let's go back some months in time. I was doing my Surya Namashkars (Sun Salutations), a nowaday´s Yoga staple. Because...how to be a good Yoga instructor if you don't do your rounds of Sun Salutations, right? So I was backward-bending my spine. Sometimes there was some disconfort but then after that there is forward-bending. Oh!, this feels good!. Just go easier next round!, I was thinking. Then some more rounds, getting warmed up, but hey!, look at the teacher, he is going backwards. Actually everybody is going backwards and I am just going up! This doesn't look proper, maybe I am going too easy, let's put a little bit of more effort next round...

Then you look at Instagram and the "supermarket" of headstands, handstands, "nosestands", extreme backward-bendings, extreme-forward bendings, extreme twistings and extreme "mariner knots" is served. And it looks soooooo nice...

The tricky thing with Yoga compared to the, for some yoga practicioners, "demonized" gim culture is the perception. And I mean that if you enter the gim and you see someone who is triple your size benchpressing all the weight plates available in the room you are not likely to think "Yeah, I guess that's what I am doing...Today!". The differences in the body types are more evident and the risk of getting "smashed" by an excess of pounds more obvious. You will be more likely interested in the effects of weight training in your body (by the way is what you probably will be posting on social media) that in showing pictures or videos of you lifting huge amounts of weight (there is people for everything, though)

But in Yoga many times we fall in the trap of being focused in the looks more than the feel. We are supposed to be connected with the good effects in our body and mind but we are too busy connecting with the stetical part. That may lead us to mistakes that repeated over time (or even many times during a single practice) can call for trouble.

I cannot blame you, I did the mistake myself. After all we live in a very visual world nowadays. Now that I have to rest my spine for a period of time I am still doing my asanas practice. I am quite sure that my lying down hastapadangusthasana doesn't look very beautiful and will not get me likes in Instagram but it feels soooo right. And that is what matters, right?

Note: As I am writing this post on a terrace in Mumbai, I stopped to tallk with a group of friends. We spoke about several topics including nutrition, health and physical exercise. Withouth any mention of this article from my side, one of them told us that she has recovered from a disc prolapse in the lumbar spine (L4-L5) . How did you get injured? I ask. “I was doing Yoga asanas”, she answers. “Surya Namasakar”.

Jose Manuel Gonzalez