Twice in the past month, back pain has brought me low. Both times, the trigger was an extended board game with the boys, lying on the floor in an awkward position. I only refer to it as the ‘trigger’ because I refuse to believe I’ve arrived at the age where Monopoly and Settlers of Catan classify as a contact sport. With each painful onset, Miska has been kind enough to guide me through a series of yoga stretches (sun salutation, downward dog, cobra, baby cobra, camel, etc.), an exercise which brings some relief to my back but brings a whole new assault on my self-image. Miska’s too kind to laugh at a man in pain, but I know it’s all she can do to keep a straight face as I contort and grimace and massacre all the free-flowing easiness yoga seeks to create.
One minuscule suggestion, however, has stuck. “You need to protect your back,” Miska said. “Rotate your pelvis.” I’m slow on these sorts of things, so I asked clarifying questions and then made awkward attempts to implement her instructions. Miska patiently coached me through varying iterations: stiff as a board; sucking air, like Houdini bracing for a punch; finally landing on some oddly robotic waddle. “I don’t get it,” I exclaimed. “How do I rotate my pelvis?”
“Winn,” Miska said, “tighten your butt.” Amazing. That small tilt really does work wonders. We’re not going for a clinched bum, but, as Miska says, a subtle movement.
I’ve learned two things from this. The first is that being a tight ass is not, in every way, a bad thing. The second is that often it’s the slightest of movements, the smallest of gestures, the plain words and simple postures, that often bring the greatest relief and offer the most help. This is true in matters of the body but surely just as so in matters of the soul. The world may not be made new today, but a new kind of word spoken in a new kind of way can transform a moment. And if lots of moments in various spaces give birth to bursts of life, then who knows what kind of wonderful madness might happen.