Yoga hurts my lower back

I have come to a sad conclusion. Yoga — which was my preferred workout for about 6 months a couple years ago, and which I still enjoy and work into my regular routine — hurts my back.

I do not say this lightly, and, I will readily admit, that, while I’ve been practicing yoga for more that 4 years now, the problem is surely with my technique. However, my technique is not likely to change, because I don’t see myself going to an actual yoga class, even though I’m sure that would help.

You may wonder how I figured out the connection between yoga and my back pain. I have several compelling pieces of evidence.

I never had back pain prior to starting yoga. However, at the time I started yoga, I also started other exercise, including lifting some weights and high-impact aerobics, so I was never able to isolate it.

When I have been able to isolate yoga, such as when I was doing a 21-day cleanse back in 2012 during which I only did yoga for exercise, my back pain continued. In fact, I remember thinking before the cleanse that “this will be a good opportunity to let my back heal” — and it didn’t.

My last such isolation of yoga was earlier this week.

After a visit with my doctor a couple of months ago, during which she tried to tell me that my back pain was arthritis (she thinks everything is arthritis, and, so far, it never is). She told me to continue exercising, because exercise helps arthritis pain. When she said that, it triggered a thought in my head — I’ve never tried not exercising to heal my back. After all, I had not had back pain prior to starting to exercise, so it only made sense to take away the exercise and see what would happen.

Guess what? After 5 weeks of only a bit of walking (if that) each day my back felt great! No pain, good as new!

I wanted to start exercising again, though, so I put in a T25 DVD and did it. Things went well. Back still felt fine.

I continued doing T25 routines for a few weeks, then took 5 days off. This past Monday I was supposed to start back up with T25, but I had already taken a shower (for an early morning meeting) and didn’t feel like taking another that day (the older I get, the less I like to shower — not sure why), so I thought I’d do a rather easy yoga routine as my exercise for the day.

And … the next day my back pain had returned. It’s the exact pain I’d been living with for 4+ years. Honestly, it’s not devastating by any means, but it’s annoying, and I’d like it gone.

Anyway, that’s how I’ve concluded that yoga hurts my back.

Again, I want to emphasize that this must be a technique problem on my part, not an actual problem with yoga (duh). I am guessing, based on the location of the pain, that I am hurting myself when I swing a single leg through to between my hands from having it raised in single-leg downward dog. I will probably experiment with this after my back fixes itself again, but until then, no yoga for me.

The Ultimate Reset – Day 10

Yes, I’m still doing The Ultimate Reset, but even I found the day-by-day posts boring. If you managed to slog through them, I think you get the idea.

I’m in Day 10, which is the middle of Phase 2: Release. There is an added supplement this week, which I take 3 times a day. It’s called Detox, and it mixes with water. It’s kinda chunky, but tastes like an earthy tea with a hint of citrus. Not bad.

So, yes, from the name “Release” you might think this is the week of the actual cleansing. So far, nothing irregular has happened, so that’s all good by me.

The food is now vegetarian and also moving away from grains. It’s still tasty. The Sweet Potato and Roasted Red Pepper Bisque last night was excellent.

I am so happy to be doing this for my body. I really needed a rest from all the working out — no strenuous exercise allowed during The Ultimate Reset, so I’m only doing Rodney Yee’s Flexibility Yoga — and it is serving as a transition for me from a meat-heavy low-carb diet to a modified vegetarian diet.

Why the change?

I feel pretty good all the time, but I want to feel better. I believe I’ve mentioned the burning in my eyes before. I don’t like it and I have no good idea why it happens. It’s not dry eyes, which seems like hogwash to me. Something causes dry eyes, and want to see if it’s my diet.

So, after The Ultimate Reset, I’m going to try out a modified vegetarian diet, which means:

  • Lots of fruit and veggies
  • Eggs
  • Whey protein
  • Fish

I really want to keep the animal protein in the diet, because it’s higher quality than what I can get from vegan sources. Plus, obviously, that adds more options for meals.

My post-Reset exercise plan will be:

  • Ashtanga Yoga
  • 2 Days of Insanity
  • 1 Day of resistance training

As I read through the Facebook pages for the 3 phases of The Ultimate Reset, I see a lot of people who are thrilled either by the weight loss or the great way they feel. I also see people who are disappointed with the results.

The Ultimate Reset is not about weight loss! It’s about cleaning out your body and resetting its chemistry as close to zero as possible so you can start over!

And that’s what I plan to do. Start over with a new diet and a new exercise plan as I continue on my quest for fitness!

I love me some yoga, but …

If you’ve been keeping up with my goings-on, you know I’ve been in a yoga zone for the past 3 or 4 months. That means I’ve been doing yoga almost exclusively. I fell into the yoga zone because of a back injury, but I stayed there because I enjoyed it so much.

A couple weeks ago I decided enough was enough — I need some cardio — so I added some Insanity workouts back into the mix.

Today, craving some more challenging resistance training, I decided to try Steve’s Chest & Back. I could feel that my chest and back were not what they used to be, so I wanted to test them out.

Wow.

Since the last time I did Steve’s Chest & Back, which was exactly 6 months ago, my pushups and pullups are down almost 50%. That means I can only do half as many now as before!

I knew I’d lost something, but I never figured it was that much.

To clarify, I am not trying to look like a puffed up gym rat. But it’s kinda like, “Hey, I used to be able to do 210 pushups interwoven with 75 pullups, both of varying types, in about 50 minutes. Now I can only do about half that.” I want to be able to do that again! (And, to be sure, even more pullups, which, as you can see by the numbers, I struggle with….)

This post is not meant to knock yoga, and I still love it and will use it as my primary workout. However, I could tell from the fit of my t-shirts that I was losing mass — and I didn’t have a lot of mass to start with, so I’d like to keep all I can get.

You know what that means, right? Right. Steve’s Chest & Back is back into the rotation. Wednesdays. Rotating that out with Tony Horton’s One on One 30/15 routine every 4 weeks (after a week of rest).

So, as it looks right now, here is my current weekly schedule:

It will be interesting to see how quickly I get back up to speed on my pushups and pullups, don’t you think? Well, I do.

 

Injured by Yoga?

Suddenly I could not touch my toes.

It’s not like I’m the most flexible guy in the world. Possibly I’m more flexible than most my age, but I think much of that perceived flexibility comes from the fact that my belly is flatter than most old guys, so I don’t have as much fat in my way when I bend over.

No matter.

I went to bed one day last week with some discomfort in my glutes. (That would be my ass, for those of you unfamiliar with the body’s major muscle groups.) It was just discomfort, nothing to think about.

When I woke up the next day, the discomfort had progressed to what I will call “tightness”, which is just discomfort times two. The only time I really felt it was when I tried to bend over, so I thought I’d test it out, and, sure enough, I could barely get my hands to my knees before my body told me to stop.

What the hell?!?!?!? Have I finally really done myself in? With yoga?

Yeah, yoga. I’ve pretty much been doing yoga exclusively for the past few months, and, while I have injured myself in the past with yoga, I’d experienced no trauma that I’d felt during the previous day’s workout, which was Rodney Yee: Yoga for Athletes.

Yet here I was with a problem.

I consulted my fitness expert friend Donna, and she mentioned piriformis syndrome, which is a compressed nerve thing, and that sounded pretty logical to me, because this pain didn’t seem muscular. It was too evenly distributed throughout my glutes, reaching down into the hamstrings.

She recommended some stretching, so I did that, then tried Rodney Yee: Flexibility, which is my go-to yoga routine when I don’t feel like doing anything. I got through it, but with not near the range of motion I usually have for forward bends. Everything else was fine.

The next day, I felt a bit better, but I thought it was time to kick it up a notch and break out the Max Cardio routine from Shaun T’s Insanity. (I really only meant to do the Pure Cardio routine, which is 10 minutes shorter, but I accidentally put Max Cardio in my pre-workout Facebook status update, so I held myself to it.)

During the workout, I noticed that I could only really feel the pain during high knees and jumping jacks, both of which jar the glutes. Outside that, no big deal.

The next day called for rest, then yoga, another Insanity workout, yoga again. Here we are at today, and I feel totally healed.

So, let’s see, what have I learned from this situation?

First, the body is a strange thing. I don’t know what caused the pain, and I may never know. What I did know, though, at the time, was that the injury was not muscular — I could feel that was true — so I felt I could push through it. I am not sure if my aggressive treatment with Insanity sped up recovery, but it sure didn’t hurt.

Second, there’s always a good reason not to do something, but some things are worth doing anyway. This applies to everything in life. You can always find a perfectly valid reason — not something weak enough to be called an “excuse”, but a sound rationalization — for not performing, not working out. The key to fitness success is pushing through and getting it done.

Third, and last, WTF? Maybe this has happened to you, too. But, seriously, what the hell is going on in my body to have that kind of pain just crop up and totally cramp my style? Maybe my body was telling me that yoga is fine, but I need to do a little more punishing work with Shaun T at least a couple times a week. Noted and workout schedule has been adapted!

By the way, I am very happy to report that even though I’ve been doing yoga almost exclusively for the past 3 months, I felt very little soreness after Max Cardio, and, while I don’t have a good way to gauge it except for the way I feel during the workout, my cardio fitness seemed fine, too.

All hail the power of yoga. I’ll need to go through that last pre-pain-in-the-ass Rodney Yee workout, though, and see what might have broken me. Then I’ll own it.

A Tale of Two Yoga DVDs

I have been collecting yoga DVDs. Some are better than others. Some are great. Some are not so great.

But recently, on successive days, I tried out two DVDs that each stood out to me for very different reasons, so I thought I’d share my thoughts about them with you.

FOR ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS:

I’ve only been doing yoga for a couple years now, and not daily, so I always do the beginner routines, and if I need to make the poses more advanced during the workout, I do that.

Power Yoga For Every Body is pretty nicely set up, because it allows you to select not only a level — Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced — but it also allows you to select how much time you have. I selected the 60-minute program for Beginners.

Okay. Wow. When they say “Beginner” during this program, they really mean “Beginner”.

If you are out of shape and have not done yoga before, this is the DVD for you! Many of the poses are demonstrated with a chair for modification, so you don’t need to bend as far. That’s a good thing, because you can hurt yourself doing yoga.

I only got halfway through this slow flow program, though, before I switched over to a Rodney Yee workout to finish up.

However, as I said, for out-of-shape people who have no idea about yoga and want to try it safely, this is the best DVD I’ve seen. Plus, it has Intermediate and Advanced programs, so you can move on up as you get more into it. I may try those out in the future.

FOR REAL POWER YOGA LOVERS:

Bob Harper introduces this workout as being like nothing we’ve ever done before, so tough we won’t believe it. Sorry, Bob. While I really like this workout, you are overstating the case for the Tony Horton yoga lovers out there. Tony Horton yoga (look for the One-on-One titles “Yoga – Fountain of Youth” and “Patience Hummingbird”) is tough.

Despite the hyperbole of this grown-up-Doogie-Howser-with-a-beard-looking dude, Yoga For The Warrior is definitely near the top of my list of yoga workouts.

It’s about 60 minutes long and includes, among all the standard yoga poses, pushups, shoulder presses, and ab work. Traditional yogis might not like adding pushups and shoulder presses into a yoga practice. Fine. They don’t need to buy this DVD. But for my money, Yoga For The Warrior does a pretty good job as a full body workout.

And, yeah, it’s tough. I had to take a break or two along the way, but that is exactly what will keep me coming back to this workout!

Other differences between Power Yoga For Every Body and Yoga For The Warrior:

  • Every Body has onscreen a single guy with a separate unseen narrator. Warrior included three attractive participants (2 women, 1 man) and Bob walking around coaching.
  • Every Body was in a pretty plain studio. I don’t recall hearing music, although it may have been there. Warrior was in a gym type setting and had a music track behind Bob.
  • Both are ranked 4+ (out of 5) stars at Amazon.

That is my tale of those two very different yoga DVDs. I recommend them both, but you should be sure to select the correct one for your fitness level and yoga goals.