January 31, 2011

Yoga…Good for Back Pain, Headaches, and Arthritis

Its 10am and I’m nearly always the first one in the office — such are work habits in the music & yoga business. After a one-hour train ride (eternal for New Yorkers, short for everyone else) I droop down Nassau Avenue, headphones in ear, to the Wanderlust office overlooking McCarren Park. We have one of those AeroPress coffee makers that make a great single cup, so I have 3 to wake myself up (milk, no sugar) and fight back the remaining effects of last night’s celebration.

On this particular day it’s frigid and snowing and my condition is worse than usual. Though I haven’t broken 30, I’ve got arthritis from too many surgeries on my ankle, giving me an occasional old-man limp, a backache and a cascading set of maladies exacerbated by a hangover. I settle in to do my job — looking for interesting content for Wanderlust’s Twitter and Facebook — but today I keep stumbling on websites that have to do with headaches, hangovers, back pain, and how yoga can help.

This past New Years Day, The New York Times made the good decision to blog in their Well section online about ‘Yoga for Hangovers.’ After reading their entry, I traipsed over to the section of our office we dub “yoga world” — a 6′ by 3′ fake bamboo section of floor tile where we occasionally strike a poses to shake off the thumping and aching. I don’t know I was too far gone, but none of these poses helped. The bound angle pose (or baddha konasana) did a real number on me. And not in a good way.

My co-worker and NY-based yoga instructor Greg Franklin came into the office with what seemed as a ridiculous solution for my troubles: AcroYoga, a potentially nausea-inducing combination of yoga and acrobatics. Here I was, in my jeans, t-shirt, and boots, about to be, umm, thrown up and down on a yoga mat. I hadn’t practiced AcroYoga (or any other form for that matter) before, but what could be so bad about being upside down, on your head, hands in the air, and legs over your head?

The results were fairly shocking. First, we embarked on the High Flying Whale, a heart opener. Not only did this open my heart, enabling me to forgive myself for last night’s transgressions, but it released my back, instantly improving my back pain. We later transitioned into Back Flying, working our way towards a Camel pose. The Camel pose is another deep heart opener, but it involves an unusual head position that I credit for getting rid of my headache. This pose also stimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck, and that had a systemic result — it felt as if the pain had disintegrated. After all of the bouncing, upside-down turns and maneuvers I felt good. Maybe even completely refreshed.

It’s now my opinion that yoga can help with both arthritis and hangovers. This is a rather unscientific study of the matter, but it’s one that has great personal resonance.

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