Summer was in full swing and my schedule was bustling. I’d been ignoring a dull ache in my low back for several days, but it wasn't enough to slow me down.
Looking back, had I been honest with myself, I would have admitted I felt fatigued as I buzzed through my full schedule of chosen activities. I lifted the used linens from my last massage off my mat in one sweep and knelt to roll up my massage mat. I was stunned at how vacuous my lower back felt: it was as if someone had swiped my knees right out from under me.
I flipped through my mental Rolodex of massage practitioners: "Maybe I need some myofascial work… Ah, no, craniosacral will be the fix!... I’ve been wanting to see my Rolfer… I always feel better after that work… I’ll book a private with my yoga teacher… I began composing the email in my head. Yes; I’ll email her later... " I reached for my phone as my brain continued its conversation with no one: "No, I need to call and ask for a different herbal formu-", and my steady stream of mental babble was arrested by the sight I met in the mirror: a deep “number 11” furrowed between my eyebrows, lips tightly pursed, masseters in full clench creating a shadowy topography across my face and my shoulders hanging directly off my earlobes. "Well, wasn’t I the very picture of serenity?", I noted. "Stop it right there and follow your own advice, Ma’am." I laughed softly to myself as I unrolled the mat I had just rolled. Gripping my core to protect my aching low back, I dragged it toward the chest in which I kept my massage linens. Next, I firmly rolled up a towel and placed it just below the base of my skull. I lied down, bent my knees, and placed my feet on the wooden chest.
As I exhaled, I realized the enormity of relief and spaciousness that began to spread throughout my back. I directed my next inhale into the area of discomfort (you know, Johanna, just as you guide your clients to do). I practically heard my spine swell and fill in such a delicious, nourishing way. My sacrum and surrounding muscles quivered, and eventually floated to resting flat on the mat. It took focused attention to keep my awareness there, in my back, without letting that awareness become a desire to “be rid” of the pain or “to fix” anything, as nothing “needed fixing”. I just needed to pay attention. Overall, I must have stayed there, simply breathing into my mid- and low back while gently working in some self-massage with a lacrosse ball, for about forty minutes. When I was done, I rolled my knees into my chest and began to rock gently from side to side, gradually increasing each tilt to a full twist. A bubbly laugh escaped my face. I “cured” my own back pain. I didn’t need to call anybody, receive any kind of treatment or herbal formula. I just needed to stop, slow down and replenish. Myself. I rolled to my side then pushed up to sitting. I wondered how long the relief would last. I carefully moved to put my massage mat away. Still, no pain. I went about the rest of my day. The following morning, as I got out of bed, I wondered what my body would teach me today. As I stepped off my bed to pour weight into my foot, I was awed by the freedom and spring with which my body moved. The relief held. “Pain” did the message of communicating to me to slow down enough to listen to my own body. This is available to all of us. And it is free.