This past Saturday, I went to yoga at my temple. It was an unconventional way to spend Shabbat morning. Growing up in a conservative congregation, my parents and I were not habitual Saturday morning service-goers. And though my parents were not religious, they were terribly traditional. We always wore our very best clothes for services and always dresses or skirts. As a feminist, it’s strange to abide by largely patriarchal standards around modesty, but it’s also oddly comfortable to preserve them.
So even as an adult, I can count on one hand the number of times I have worn pants to temple, and you can imagine my feeling of rebellion as I walked into temple in not just pants, but clingy pants. Over thirty people, many of whom were also not typical Saturday morning service-goers, gathered together all drawn by the mystique of a Yoga Shabbat. There were women, men, younger and older folks. It was a really lovely cross-section of our temple membership.
In a sun-filled room looking out at snow-covered trees, we joined together in an easy-going yoga practice. I was not looking for an intense work out. I was just happy to be at temple and at yoga. My amazing rabbi (and friend) led the group in some singing and chanting of melodies for prayers that I knew and for some songs that I did not know. The chanting and wordless melodies brought me back to my earliest yoga days at the Jivamukti studio in New York where I loved being surrounded by folks chanting in Sanskrit. I felt like an outsider because I was still new to yoga and knew no chants or songs. But on this Shabbat morning, though it had the potential to feel foolish or silly, I was an insider who could sing or chant in Hebrew and it felt really comfortable.
My rabbi offered us a reflection while we stood in mountain pose. She encouraged us to give thanks for our physical ability, for the ease of movement we all (mostly) gracefully displayed that morning. I often think about how lucky I am that I have had very few physical challenges in my life. Any physical setbacks are due largely to clumsiness, and most days, I am lucky that nothing gets in my way.
Until yesterday when I threw out my back.
I get periodic back spasms or neck spasms. I used to get charley horses in my sleep and would wake up silently screaming in agony. As these issues are largely out of my control, I have never seen a doctor about them. This spasm, though, was probably the worst I have ever felt. I was doing something ordinary, picking up toys or something off the ground one moment, and the next moment, I felt like someone had shot me in the back. I hit the floor and stayed on my hands and knees while I collected myself. My younger daughter was bound to wake up any minute and my husband was out of the house. There was no way I could lift my baby girl out of bed after her nap and I was in a panic.
Resting on hands and knees was usually a soothing position for me during a back spasm but today it felt excruciating. I lowered my stomach to the ground and that felt far worse. I slithered on the floor over to the couch and hoisted myself to a seated position so I could snatch my phone off of the coffee table and call my husband. And then I lay in the fetal position, waiting for him to get home.
My back eventually eased up and within an hour I could even stand and sit on my own. My children were very concerned because they so rarely see me in pain. My little daughter pawed at me, asking for cuddles and I suspect she was nervous that something was really wrong. Kids have a sixth sense about their parents sometimes.
I should be thanking my lucky stars that I was home. I could have been ice skating with my older daughter or at the grocery store or running other errands. I think of all of the things that require my ability to get around my house–from schlepping the laundry to prepping meals to cleaning up toys to cuddling kids. And this week brings a host of winter activities like shoveling or playing in the snow. I take it for granted that I can just do these things.
It’s an excuse to slow down–something I so rarely do–and take care of myself. I should be thankful that in a day or so, I will likely be fine. This is truly a blessing. I have friends and family who suffer chronic pain or have suffered terrible post-operative pain. It may seem trite, but we take these things for granted. And being able to bounce back–that’s another thing for which I am eternally grateful.