When I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis and told I would have to wear a back brace to correct my crooked spine. As you can imagine, as a teenager, I thought this was pretty much the most heinous thing that could ever happen. I was already a geeky, flat-chested, freckled, redheaded band fag, and now they wanted me to strap on a back brace and walk into public school. Can you say nightmare?!
The good news is that I made it through the back brace years and high school without too many lasting scars or the need for therapy. The back brace didn’t take the curvature away, but it did keep the curvature from getting worse. The bad news was that as I grew older, the daily effects of stress, sitting hunched over a computer all day, getting wiped out by a snowboarder on the ski slopes, and numerous other horrors, including lack of exercise, left me with a major pain in my back.
I always try to take the natural route to heal my back instead of resorting to painkillers, which just mask the problem. The chiropractors and physical therapists I’ve visited have prescribed numerous back-exercise routines to strengthen and stretch my back. Did they work? Yes. Did I continue to do them once I got better? No! Even though I had enough of those exercise instruction sheets to wallpaper an entire room in my house, like an idiot, I always pushed them aside as soon as my back started to feel better.
The first time I did yoga I knew immediately it was great for my back. I recognized most of my former exercise-routine stretches in the various yoga poses and asanas. Instead of following the boring exercise routines, I could practice yoga and get the same benefits. But, again, I fell off the yoga bandwagon. Not because I didn’t like it—I loved it—but I just couldn’t find the time in my day for a regular yoga practice.
So, I turned the corner into my 40s, lived with a lot of stress, and tolerated my back pain. My back hurt when I got up in the morning, I had trouble bending down to pick things up, and I started to avoid activities and sports that I knew would flare up the pain. Hello, I’m too young to start that kind of nonsense! I quickly got myself into physical therapy and signed up for a regular routine of yoga classes.
That was a few years ago, and I have never felt better. Yoga has helped to stretch my spine, make me more flexible, and my back pain is literally gone (and that’s just the physical side; wait ’til you hear about the benefits of the spiritual side!). Last year when I went to the doctor for a physical, I actually grew instead of shrinking! I wake up in the morning feeling great. I am convinced that yoga is the key to staying young, fit, and healthy, and I’m going to continue the practice for as long as I live.
If you want to learn more about the amazing benefits of yoga, I’ll keep a list here of the blogs I’ve written about yoga for back-pain relief and yoga for scoliosis: