Did You Hear The Joke About the Yoga Teacher Who Hurt Her Back?

Via Jennifer Williams-Fields
on Oct 12, 2011
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It’s not funny.

Day 2 of lying on ice packs and taking muscle relaxers.

The jokes about ‘how does a yoga teacher hurt her back’ and the ‘you must be getting old comments’ are on my last painfully inflamed nerves. I am not having fun.

This all started yesterday morning when I simply bent over to pick something up and felt a pain like I’ve never felt before. Now understand, when I say pain, I mean PAIN. I have a high tolerance for pain – heck I gave birth naturally six times with no drugs! So for me to admit to pain is really saying something.

My first thought was “oh my god I’m paralyzed”.  My second thought was “get yourself in downdog”.

I took the excruciating two steps over to my car and put myself into a half downdog. And I felt OK. A little tightness along my back but not bad. So I stood up. And took one step. And almost collapsed.

This was not good. Kid #1 came to my rescue and initially helped me into the house. As the pain worsened a bit of panic set in and I became very upset. The more upset I got the worse the pain got. Forget yoga breathing to calm me. This hurt like a *#*$***!  Kid #1 helped me into the car and drove me to the doctor.

Thankfully the x-rays showed what my doctor called “a very healthy spine” and she said I was just having muscle spasms and a sciatica flare up.

Just having muscle spasms? And sciatica pain? I never even had sciatic issues with those six pregnancies.

I’ve also never before stood in front of a doctor crying and wailing.

“But I’m a yoga teacher.” Boo hoo. “I can’t have back problems.” Boo hoo. “This isn’t supposed to happen to me.” Boo hoo hoo.

In hindsight though, this was totally about to happen to me.

The four days previous I had been in yoga teacher training sitting on the floor for 10 hours a day listening to lectures and demos.  I kept thinking that my back didn’t feel right. The only way I could describe it was it felt out of alignment. Yet I kept sitting on the floor, propping myself up as much as possible.

I’d also had some unexpected stresses at home. Over the course of the weekend I had two conversations that both ended with me saying “I can’t do this alone. I need your support.”

I’ve written many blogs recently about feeling overwhelmed and unable to be everything to everyone all the time. I’ve felt weighted down by the burdens and responsibilities both imposed upon me and imposed upon myself.

I was ready to break. And break I did.

I’m a big believer in the evidence of psycho/emotional issues manifesting physically in the body. And, ironically, the teacher training I had just finished was all about somatic wellness and subtle energy healing.

One of my favorite go-to yoga therapy books is Your Body Speaks Your Mind by Deb Shapiro. I knew what it would say, but I got the book out anyway and read the chapter on back issues.

The spine is the pillar of your being, giving you support and strength, uprightness and dignity. It contains the central nervous system and the central blood supply, and therefore your every thought, feeling, experience, response, and impression is registered here.

The lower back expresses all the weight and responsibility of being human. It supports the weight from above, just as you carry the weight of responsibility of your world. If there is no one to help with the load, no sense of being supported, this part of the back may give way.

— Your Body Speaks Your Mind pgs 116-118

 Yep, that sounds about right.

As a yoga teacher, I teach we should always listen to our bodies. Our bodies give us plenty of notice when something is wrong. We just have to listen.

Because when we don’t listen, when we just keep going and going, we break.



About Jennifer Williams-Fields

Jennifer Williams-Fields is passionate about writing, yoga, traveling, public speaking and being a fabulous single momma to six super kids. Doing it all at one time, however, is her great struggle. She has been teaching yoga since 2005 and writing since she first picked up a crayon. Although her life is a sort of organized chaos, she loves every minute of the craziness and is grateful for all she’s learned along the way. Jennifer was a featured speaker at the 2015 inaugural CourageMakers Conference and is a regular guest speaker for local media outlets. Her motivational talks on gratitude, addiction and self care have been called “inspiring and life changing.” She has had her essays featured on Yahoo!, Dr. Oz The Good Life and Scary Mommy. She is a regular writer for Parent.co, YourTango and YogaUOnline. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, her blog or website.


12 Responses to “Did You Hear The Joke About the Yoga Teacher Who Hurt Her Back?”

  1. "Because when we don’t listen, when we just keep going and going, we break."

    So true Jennifer! Our bodies tell us so much if we are willing to listen.

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Ah! Hope you feel better soon!!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  3. catnipkiss says:

    ANYONE can hurt themselves! Your yoga body will help you heal faster, though. – Alexa Maxwell

  4. neshobayoga says:

    Get well soon Jen, a great piece at your expense- unfortunately!

  5. Tony says:

    Seems fitting that I'm reading this in the waiting room at Kaiser. Slipped a disc this morning while going into a gentle forward bend.

  6. Oh no! Hope everything turns out well for you Tony. I feel your pain – literally!

  7. Yes, the doctor did say that my back being so healthy to begin with will help it bounce back quicker. I'm feeling a bit better today and was able to do some very very gentle stretches.

  8. Sunil Sharma says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    Hope now you are feeling quite well. Yoga is a middle way to get happiness where you should do neither less nor much stretching during yoga poses even if a person is not capable to lie in Shavasana (Corpse pose), he/ she should not do corpse pose. In such cases doctors can’t help you as they are not aware about how yoga works, sometimes excess stretching of muscles causes unbalancing in nerves which may be resulted in pain. That time you should consult with an experienced yoga teacher, acupressure/ acupuncture specialist or Indian massage specialists to balancing the stretch. Mostly you can cure it by doing some yoga poses too but before that you should consult with experienced yoga teachers too.

  9. […] my way to Acme I passed a chiropractor that asked if I had sciatica. Yes! I thought – how did they know? Or, at least, I’ve self-diagnosed myself with sciatica. I […]

  10. kelly says:

    I suffered a major back injury 16months ago. I was doing a 2 yr old shoot at a local pumpkin patch at the end I began feeling a searing burning pain in my low back & made it to my car & could hardly catch my breath the pain was so intense. I went to the doc that week as the pain was radiating down both legs to my toes & had numbness. I went for 4 months with bilateral sciatica, till I woke up one morning numb from the waist down, entire saddle area, intense pain in low back. I was given a MRI . I had more than 85% of my L4/5 herniated & squashing all the root nerves of the Cauda Equina, I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. I required immediate emergency surgery & woke up with no feeling in Left leg, I had severe foot drop. The last 16 months have been a major roller coaster, I began PT by simply contracting what muscles I could feel & have slowly regaind use of my left leg but I have severe neuropathy pain in saddle area & legs. I am slowly learning yoga & meditation, which I've done just not everyday life. if you ever have RED flag symptoms of extreme pain, saddle numbness, B&B issues of retention or other, PLEASE seek emergency consultation for Cauda Equina. Namaste~ _

  11. @ExcelFrome says:

    Thank you for sharing this article Jennifer, it reminds me how I hurt my lower back in much the same way as you, shortly after my father died.
    14 years on I'm a complimentary therapist and tai chi teacher, sometimes wondering if I'd ever have taken this route if I hadn't ignored my body that time – what a lesson it has been.

  12. jonathan says:

    Thanks. This article really spoke to me. Here’s to a seepdy recovery.