The first time my back went out was when I was 19. I was bending over to pick up some clothes at a boutique I worked at and stayed that way for a few days. At the time I was an enthusiastic new group fitness instructor, teaching step and slide (remember that craze?) at the UCLA John Wooden Center. I remember feeling embarrassed as I called instructors to sub out my classes while I shuffled around my apartment like an “old lady”.
Over the past 20 years these maddening back episodes have come and gone. Each time I felt like I was in jail unable to teach classes and do what I loved. The pain was not only in my back. It was also painfully demoralizing because I put pressure on myself to be the example of perfect health for my clients. As one of my family members pointed out with obvious sarcasm “Well, aren’t you an advertisement for fitness!”
Ouch! She didn’t have to say this. It was exactly what I was thinking. How could someone who has dedicated her entire professional career to physical fitness have this happen? What is wrong with me? Was it the car accident? All those snow boarding spills? Back labor with both children? Hormones? Is it genetic? Is it a food allergy? Is it too much exercise or too little exercise? For many of us with back pain we are frustrated by the answers. There are no clear answers. And, there are no clear fixes. Believe me I know. I have seen many doctors Eastern and Western searching for answers and a solution.
One thing we all agree on is that life takes us out of a healthy posture—no matter how fit we are. How we sit, stand, lean, breathe, hold our children, and type our emails all impact posture and any pre-existing conditions we have.
I realized recently that by looking at my back injury as something to hide or be embarrassed about, I was not being real and this was a disservice to the entire barre3 community. As soon as this realization hit me, I stopped looking at my back injury as a flaw or something that would hurt my image as the founder of barre3. Instead I accepted it as a very real part of who I am and what motivates me. The whole reason I created barre3 after all was to improve posture and find balance. My back actually led me to this amazing career and to the many clients I am honored to know. According to the article Looking Back in the November 2010 Vogue issue, 1 in 4 of you reading this likely have similar low back pain as I do. I am here to tell you, I got your back! And because of this, I am more motivated than ever to make sure that each and every barre3 class is safe, smart, and balanced (and exciting so we don’t get bored). My goal is to help all of us stand tall together as we age rather than shrink like that “old lady” image I had in my head at the age of 19.
It is important to note that barre3 is not a place to come when you are in crisis or pain. We are not doctors or physical therapists. I don’t teach or take when I am in pain. I go to people who can help me. For me, my chiropractor Jenni Cunha and my acupuncturist, Sarah Hayes, are who I turn to for help. They are both incredibly bright, supportive, and intuitive. They recognize that there is not a clear and quick solution. We talk about how being well is a lifelong practice and not something you can put a giant one-size-fits-all bandaid on. I now go to both of them for regular tune-ups when I am not in pain. This along with a regular barre3 practice, lots of walking, and chasing my kids is the best and most balanced wellness routine for me.
Pick up your November issue of Vogue and read Looking Back. It inspired me to tell my story. I will post it here when it is available online.