You Are as Young as Your Spine

Ana Chidzoy, dancer, fitness instructor and international yoga teacher

People are often surprised when I say I am forty years old, I have always looked young but what they are referring to more is what I can do with my spine. To be honest no one is more surprised than I am; never would I have imagined that on my fortieth year I would be able to rest my feet on my head in a Yoga Pose called the Scorpion. It is an extreme back bend and requires (for me anyway) a lot of courage to do. When I am in that pose it seems strangely natural, I have to slow my breath down and be cool as a cucumber otherwise fear will take over and I would crumble to the floor! Its a pose I have built up to over the past 4 years gently opening up my joints and muscles through a regular Hot Yoga practice. Its not a pose I do every day, I have to respect my body and I can feel that it would not be healthy for me to that every day but I keep the mobility and strength there through less extreme back bends in my Yoga practice.​

So, I teach Yoga and have had many experiences of people with back issues. It is amazing how many of us are suffering from minor back issues that could be avoided. Sitting all day at a computer, bad diet, tight hips, no understanding of their own bodies and ignoring all the signs that the body give us that they are unhappy. People with no formal medical reason for their bad backs will usually feel a huge difference after the first class! Then, if they stick at it and make changes to their lifestyle it will stay away.

People with more serious issues- for example, one student had Prolapsed Lumbar Disc – this required the student to take it super slow, to look at everything they do in their lives from the weight of the bag they carry around with them, the type of shoes they are wearing (as should we all), however, to prevent the condition getting worse, a Yoga practice alone would struggle to counteract the damage they would be doing everyday…if they were able to move that is!

The student with the condition above had spent days in bed unable to move and pains going down his leg, he was having time off work and the only thing in sight was surgery. He came to me 3 times a week on a 121 basis where we worked out a Yoga practice that didn’t cause pain but stretched and strengthened. We did this for around 3 months until I felt he had learned about his body what felt good and where his limits were. He was back in work by now and feeling so much better, so he joined my regular Restorative class in the pod which is a class that is heated and is slow and gentle, he came 3 times a week and, all of a sudden a year had gone by and surgery is not on the horizon anymore; he speaks of springing out of bed rather than rolling out. Two years later he does not come to Restorative anymore but comes to the regular class and twists and turns his body in ways that even I am amazed at!

His dedication to turning his life around and determination to listen to his body and understand it has given him a second chance and I know his wife and kids much prefer this version of him!

I have had people with the same condition who have not succeeded because they don’t seem to want to change, they don’t want to change their lifestyle, their diet, their outlook and mostly they don’t want to make time in their lives for it.

We are all so busy, but sometimes we have to make time and that has to be the priority.

Yoga is not magic- It only works if you are committed to it.

A seed will not grow without water and care and buying a membership to a gym or a Yoga class is not all you have to do to feel some sort of benefit, you have to attend the class and think about your time outside of the class too

If I had any sort of power, I would enforce a Yoga practice in schools from an early age. I have two children and I watch them go into cross country races with very little or no stretching before or after the race. Can you imagine that they can no longer touch their toes and I am a Yoga Teacher! Even my own children scoff at my pleas to look into the future and see what I see has happened to people everyday from lack of care and understanding of their bodies- unfortunately I know the more I try to throw this upon them the further away they will go, so I throw bits in here and there to try to inspire them and I will be there for them when they finally realise, as we all do at some point…”Damn!!! Mummy was right!”

A Yoga practice works on many levels, it is physical and mental. Only the other day, a student who had just started her Yoga journey and was seduced by the physicality of it came to me and said she was experiencing a bad back and was directed to Yoga by her GP. I took one look at her and the problem sprang out at me, surely she could see the problem! I felt like I was pointing out the obvious that one shoulder was lower than the other! One Sports massage later and shoulders were level again, a couple of Yoga sessions later working with correct alignment and no more problems! Easy! Had she have been educated about her body and how to listen and look inside, as a Yoga practice teaches from an early age, she would have noticed that developing and been able to help herself.

In conclusion as a Yoga Teacher I see my role as one to inspire people to take up their own Yoga Journey to provide them with the tools to self heal, to pr

event injuries and to understand their bodies and minds. After teaching so many people over the last few years I know I can only do so much.The old saying “taking a horse to water but you cannot make it drink” springs to mind.

We as individuals are responsible for our own lives. If we are not willing to change or accept what is good for us then we do not deserve a happy healthy body, one that allows us to do something as simple as sit cross legged on the floor with our children or run after your dog on the beach!

I have a 55 year old tiler who comes to Yoga everyday after a hard days work and often speaks of young builders who cannot keep up with him and moaning about bad backs etc. The formula is obvious, be mindful and honest with yourself, eat well, move your body, hydrate and rest!