Next week am leaving for an Ashtanga retreat with Tim Miller in the shadow of the formidable Mt. Shasta (above). The 7 days will certainly provide some answers (maybe more questions, too) about Ashtanga and an aging body via Tim, the group, and my body.

Slowly, slowly the back improves but usually not when and the way I want it to! I want to easily do forward bends and do Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana the way I used to 7 months ago! The chiropractor—yes, chiropractor! it's the one thing besides a regular MD I hadn't tried. Who knew? Thought they were all that sound made by ducks. That and the new bed have made noticeable changes, but  improvement feels glacial. 

More to come. 



The other day I was stretching out before running at a nearby lake. (Lately, I often alternate a long Ashtanga practice with a short one and a run.) A man came up to me and said something about how flexible I was and then that he had a pulled groin muscle and was getting old. He asked me what he should do about the groin muscle. I didn't know what to say, but felt our shared confusion about aging and replied, "Growing older is uncharted territory for all of us."  


Not sure about "all' of us, but that makes two.

Then there's this link people have been passing around about yogis in their 90's. I wonder what these women and Mr. Iyengar (the only male in the group) have to say about how their practice has changed over the years. 

Tried something new for my back—a chiropractor. Have had some bad experiences with these people in the past, but this guy came highly recommended. "He's a healer," said the acupuncturist who worked on my back. He might be. After several clunks in my spine and pelvis, I feel great. Will see how it goes after led First Series tomorrow. 

Below is a quote from Keno MacGregor from 12/02/10. She pretty much nails my ego this past 6 months.

"If find yourself faced with a debilitating injury one of the hardest things to face is your own ego. The egoic mind hates to feel like it is slipping from the front of the pack and will cringe and twist when you lighten your load to go easy on your body. Just let the ego bleed itself to death. This ample serving of humble pie will be just what you need to be free from that little whiny voice in your head that thinks your value is tied to your achievements. And this is the best type of pain to accept on the road to purification. If you find yourself caught in the quagmire of injury try to accept where you are and unroll your mat every day as a commitment to the devotional path of yoga while learning new techniques that keep your body healthy. As someone who has personally gone through a complete litany of painful injuries that have forced me to modify my practice for a period of time on the road to better alignment I really empathize with your egos pain. There is nothing fun about suddenly not being able to do what you could once do every day with ease and grace. It feels like a slap in the face and all sorts of nasty emotions arise. Everything including jealousy, anger, anxiety, depression and much more all arrive and try to knock the stuffing out of your yoga practice. But the only way out of the illusion of the ego is go straight through it. If you face a battle of ego when you modify your practice to be pain-free in your joints you can rest assured that you are absolutely doing the deep work of the spiritual path of yoga."



Here's some history: I've had a "bad" back for over 6 months. The issue first appeared acutely and suddenly—like a thunderbolt—over a year ago after a backbending adjustment (leaned on full weight). And at the time it felt so good! Minutes later, getting into my car I was in breath-sucking pain. The serious hurt went away after a week or so and returned briefly after another adjustment. Between those episodes, functional pain waxed and waned.

Anyway, now I experience pain in seated forward bends, as in the first half of the First Series. Back bends are fine, but going from back bend to forward bend has to be done very slowly.

For six months I've done the following:
  1. toughed it out in daily practice
  2. taken time off from daily practice
  3. taken lots of ibuprofen
  4. taken no ibuprofen 
  5. whined
  6. taken oil baths 
  7. had deep massage focusing on the area - left side quadratus lumborum
  8. whined
  9. had acupuncture treatment
  10. purchased a heat sensitive mattress
  11. whined 
  12. adapted my practice
  13. seen a chiropractor 
  14. accepted (on some days) what I can and cannot do
There has been improvement. In the first weeks of '12, I couldn't do any pose using back muscles (that means almost no poses.) Now I do an adapted "set" of First and Second, leaving out many or most of the forward bends. About once a week, I test recovery with a led First Series class.

Slept in the bed only 4 nights, so it's early to tell its effect. Do know this: I am not waking up with a hurting back (just stiff and sore.) So maybe...

The underlying question is what does age have to do with this? It's hard for me to know for sure since I've been a steady Ashtanga practitioner for about two years, not exactly a lifetime. 

Would I have been injured if I were younger? I'm thinking not. Thinking that—for me at least—age has brought fragility. But how can I know that for sure since I have no youth Ashtanga baseline.

Is fragility the difference between older and younger practitioners? 

Day by day, I am investigating the truth of my body.