The 2-for-1 Back & Mind Hack

(That Saves Me $1,000 a Year)

King of Pain

Like most people, I spend most of my waking hours chained to a computer. I used to commute 2–3 hours a day, too. Add it all up and that's a lot of sitting! Lucky for me and my back, I figured out a way to neutralize the detrimental effects of so much sitting.

My back problems began about 7 years ago when I was living in Moscow. First, there was the excruciating bout of sciatica that flared up the day after I misjudged the height of a step during a business trip to St. Petersburg. That led to months of therapy from an old school osteopath a few metro stops from my apartment.

My Do-It-Yourself Failures in Back Therapy

By carefully observing the osteopath at work, I was able to reverse engineer some of his moves. However, since I was interested in performing the adjustments on myself, I would have to rely upon stationary objects for leverage (e.g., a corner wall, a couch, or a door). Unfortunately, sometimes my back would start to go out when I was away from home, so would resort to doing my exercises in public places like some eccentric health nut.

Soon after moving back home to California, my back problems flared up again. I hadn't had enough time to secure health care coverage in the US and didn't know who to call for help. In my desperation I found a pdf version of a chiropractic text book online and tried to figure out what adjustments I might need. Laid out like a slab of meat on our dining room table, I instructed my poor wife how to find my L2 vertebra and sacroiliac joint while I frantically motioned to the diagrams on my laptop.

Good news! Our marriage survived.

Eventually I hobbled my way (picture a really tall Quasimodo) to a local chiropractor who gave me a "special volume discount" of 40 visits for a $1,000. Fast forward a year, and I had secured health insurance and was again in need of that chiropractor's services. My jaw dropped when he tried to charge me fees so high that I would end up paying him the same $1,000 out of my own pocket despite also having to pay monthly insurance premiums on top of it. We parted ways, and in his place I found an excellent chiropractor, Dr. Mark Daly of Belmont, California, who I heartily recommend to anyone in Silicon Valley with back pain in need of quick relief.

An Accidental Discovery

As good as Dr. Daly was, about two years ago I made a discovery for myself that solved all my back problems. Strangely enough, it came to me as a byproduct of meditation. Meditating always seems to involve sitting on the ground in a lotus position. I have never found this to be comfortable, especially first thing in the morning. Don't I already do enough sitting?!!
It occurred to me that I could instead try meditating while standing in an upright position. After a couple of months of incorporating a 10-minute standing meditation into my morning routine, I noticed some benefits:

  • I became even-keeled and less moody
  • My posture improved
  • My back felt stronger

As the months went by, I realized that my intermittent back problems had vanished. True, there were a few instances when I felt my back starting to go out of kilter as a result of a sudden move, but those 10 minutes every morning soon put everything back in its proper place.

Clear the Mind, Fix the Back

For me, the standing meditation kills two birds with one stone: I strengthen my back while rebooting my mind. This gives me twice the incentive to be consistent with my morning routine. And come to find out, my consistency is off the charts!

I was told about this when I was interviewed by a startup team working on a meditation app. They asked me about my meditation practice, what I do, and how often I go about it. They were flabbergasted to learn I never miss a day. They kept coming back with more questions until they got to the bottom of it and uncovered my standing meditations. It turns out I'm on the part of the bell curve way over to the right — pretty much in black swan territory!

So if you think you may have back trouble as a result of too much sitting, try a standing meditation first thing in the morning. It might just keep your back healthy and help you save on chiropractic bills, too!
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