“What do machines really do? They increase the number of things we can do without thinking. Things we do without thinking - there's the real danger.”
Frank Herbert

God Emperor of Dune

Straining my back


We had just completed the first two days of work of renovation of the summer kitchen. It was the morning after and the excavator arrived for a few tasks we bundled together. I had already done a few tasks to clear the way for the excavator and felt a bit of discomfort in my lower back. I then bent down to move a couple of roof tiles, a sudden pain gripped my back and I collapsed to the ground … squirming in pain, trying to catch my breath and find a physical position in which the pain would stop. That was 3.5 weeks ago.

I have experienced this kind of pain twice before. Since my spine and back are in great shape (thanks to Yoga practice) I was confident it wasn’t a structural problem. The pain seemed to originate in muscles and not in the spine itself. Iulia was not so convinced and immediately suggested we call an ambulance, I declined.

We sent the excavator away. Alin, Iulia’s friend, stuck around a bit longer to see if he could be of assistance. I felt that given enough time I’d be able to into the house on my own (walking or crawling …). So we sent Alin home too.

I found a “comfortable” position, but I was face down. Very gradually I explored movement and eventually found a way to lie down on my back. But not more then that. I found a bit more comfort by rolling into a slight indentation in the soil … only to find that I was trapped in it. On the other side, Litza and Una, the puppies, started digging a hole together … I refused to take the hint.

Iulia pointed out, rightfully, that this was the longest time I spent lying down on the ground. There were some clouds in the sky and a delicate potential of rain that made me a bit anxious. I wanted to get inside the house. After 4 hours, and twice peeing in a bottle (a first for me!) I came to realize that I wasn’t going to make it in the house on my own (Iulia tried dragging me, and that got me out of the ditch, but not much further).

That was when Iulia brought up the ambulance again. I still rejected it … but then realized (I had nothing but time to reflect as I was lying on my back staring at the cloudy sky) that two guys and a stretcher may be helpful in getting me inside. So I approved the ambulance call. Iulia called, after some time we saw the ambulance trying to navigate down to us through the fields … and failing. They turned around, I think they were able to connect with Iulia and then arrived using the road.

The paramedics were patient. They offered to take me to the hospital. One of them explained that I am entitled to 3 free days of hospitalization if I am brought in by an ambulance. I’m guessing this is because it is common that people do not have medical insurance. I do not have any medical insurance. But regardless, I did not want to go anywhere near a hospital.

We asked for help carrying me in and I braced myself for that transition. It was painful rolling on to the stretcher and being moved around. They were able to get me onto the bed … and I was delighted to discover that the stretcher could be pulled apart into two long halves and pulled out effortlessly and painlessly from under me. They took my blood pressure, offered to test my blood sugar level (I refused), and had me sign a paper that they were on the scene and that I declined to be taken to hospital. We were not charged anything for this assistance (for which I was very grateful).


I was stuck in bed for two days. I got used to peeing in a bottle. Fortunately by the time I needed to poop I was able to sit-up. One of the benefits of simple composting toilet is that it isn’t anchored to the ground. Iulia was able to move it to the bedroom and I was able to get myself on it. That was quite a relief.

Initially inhaling triggered pains so I wasn’t able to do much with breath. I was able to move gently, mostly on my back. When I regained access to breathing I found my full breathing capacity available to me. That caused a deep refinement in the physical movements I was able to do.

A week before this happened, Iulia had a session with a sacral-cranial therapist. Iulia inquired about her coming out to a treatment session at home but she was not available. She did refer us to another therapist who was available to come out.

By this time I was able to get up, move around, lie down (though going all the way down to the floor was a challenge). He spread out a large mat and had me lie down on it. He was able to precisely locate a specific strained muscle (I could tell by the pain). I was glad (mostly for Iulia) that he could confirm this was a muscle and not a structural issue. Though as the minutes passed I realized that this is not a sacral-cranial session. This is some kind of massage therapy … and it was torture.

After 20+ years of Yoga, I have come to deeply know and trust my breathing. If during practice, I THINK I can go no further but my BREATH is steady and collected, I KNOW I can go on. If I THINK I can do more, but there is effort in my BREATH, I KNOW I can not go further. I trust my breath more than I trust my own thinking. This massage so painful that it was taking my breath away … and that is not a strategy I can embrace. I did hold out for this one session, but refused (the therapist offered 2 or 3 more sessions) further “assistance”.

There was a slight improvement from this. Though I believe it was equal to one or two days of natural healing. I believe this intervention had a sudden effect on my apana and for the next couple of days my stomach felt like a mess and my appetite was disrupted.

At around 10 days into this adventure, I was feeling better. I was walking more and more, I was even able to slowly and caringly do light work (I am not used not comfortable staying in bed for so long). However I was not sleeping well due to an overall sense of agitation coupled with the need to physically shift my body (and the challenge of doing so).

We then planned a city day that included a session with the sacra-cranial therapist. I agreed to this, and was a bit curious about it, because I understand it to be an approach that, through gentle touch that signals the body, invites the body to discover its own path of healing. I trust this approach much more than interventions that heal or fix. The session was delicate and embracing. I felt that the therapist made a space to hold and care for me – numerous times during the session I felt cradled.

The rest of the day in the city was longer than planned and very tiring for me. By the time we made it home, I was tired and agitated. I was surprised, under these circumstances, to find good sleep (which I felt was related to the therapy). During the next few days, I also felt my apana settle (a typical pattern in my healing is that illness passes through my digestion and is finally eliminated from the body).

In the following days I was able to start building up an intentional morning practice that gradually developed every day. I found increased mobility, full breathing, regained confidence and got acquainted with rigidity that was left behind from the strain. I was even able to immerse myself in a couple of kumiko workshop sessions where I lost track of time.

Then things turned again … and things got worst. I found myself back in bed most of the time. I was still able to get up and walk around, but with more effort and attention. The nature of the pain changed in this iteration. Initially it was a very specific pain that was on the left side of my lower back. Now it is a wider symmetrical area (with more “glow” on the left side) that is slightly higher. I feel that it may be an area that tightened up during the initial weeks to compensate for the pain I was experiencing. Now that area is loosening up again … I believe that is the pain I was (still am) feeling (I cannot move in cakravakasana).

I am now recovering from that second dip. I still spend most of my day lying down. I continue to be guided by my breath.


I believe that this injury is speaking from (and to) a core tension that exists in me (and has been building up over recent years). It is a tension between a vital life-force I feel is present in me alongside a diminishing desire to live.

I realize that in a western mindset it may not make sense that I say that my back is in great shape and that my life has been on pause for almost 4 weeks because of back pain. But that duality echoes what is inside me. I feel deeply established in well-being (spiritual and physical) and I also feel that it does not matter because I have not been able to find a place in this world. I feel like I am merely passing time, I am trying to pass my time well … but I also feel saturated … I’ve had enough.

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  • By Sensitive & Rigorous on August 22, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    […] my recent month of back pain a massage therapist came over to help / torture me. I decided to give him a chance, to accept […]

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