Denver Bar Association
September 2002
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Tree, Cobra, Plank Positions Set You Straight

by Lindsay Packard

How Yoga helped a Denver attorney manage pain;

You’ve been working on the same brief for hours. Neck stiff, back sore, head pounding. To walk around the office would be a short respite; to lie down on the floor and assume the "Cobra" position would be, for someone like Denver lawyer Chris Little, the ultimate rejuvenation. Before you wrack your brain thinking of what the "cobra" position might be, open your mind to yoga, the newest trend in office relaxation.

Mike Decker—Tree Pose

Last year, over 15 million Americans included some yoga as part of their workout. According to TIME magazine, at New York Presbyterian Hospital, all heart patients undergoing cardiac procedures are offered yoga as part of their recovery. In Washington, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and at least 15 others head from the court offices to the gym of the Supreme Court each Tuesday for a yoga class. In his Denver office at Montgomery Little & McGrew, Chris Little takes time out of his busy day to contort himself in such a way that he soon relaxes and some of his pain is reduced.

Six years ago, Little was involved in a serious car accident that left him with a number of ruptured disks in his neck and one in his lower back, along with a spinal injury. Because the injury forced Little to deal with chronic pain (and also because a series of doctors/HMOs failed to recognize the source of his pain for a number of years) one of his physicians recommended a regimen of "conservative" therapy, which included physical therapy and therapeutic massage to help mend his body.

Little says, "My doctor goaded me into yoga. He said that it was a great way to strengthen my ‘core’ muscles in my abdomen and back. I thought, ‘yeah right, yoga is for skinny women that like to touch their toes to their nose." However, Little followed his doctor’s orders and soon signed up for a basic yoga class.

Marshall Snider—The Cobra

Little credits much of his success in yoga to his instructor.

"You have to have a teacher you like. The key to staying with yoga is making sure that you are comfortable with your instructor. I went through a few instructors until I came across a friendly "yoga drill Sergeant." She would help me get into positions and say ‘stay there.’ I stayed, and some of my pain left."


Liz Starrs—Warrior Pose

Yoga helped liberate Little. The headaches and shoulder pain Chris experienced daily have lessened their painful grip. He began to walk longer distances and resume full time work at his firm, two feats he thought he might never accomplish.

"I took yoga classes for about a year. As I began to improve, I started to go into yoga positions in my office when I would start to feel pain. Twenty minutes of yoga can make such a difference. It has really given so much back to me."



He’s Not Dead; He’s Just Doing Yoga

Dennis Walker demonstrates a full-body twist.

Little thinks that yoga works for the average overstressed lawyer just as well as it does for those in chronic pain.

"So many of us sit in our stupid chairs, at our stupid desks, for hours at a time. Yoga is a time where one can focus, stretch and clear all the junk from the mind. It’s a great way to relax and rejuvenate yourself."

This almost-monthly column is running at the request of members who want balance in their lives. We hope these stories inspire you. We're open to your ideas!

Try This at Home or the Office

With the door shut. Do you want to scare people?

Liz Starrs’ Warrior Pose:
  • Raise your arms to the side with your fingers pointed.
  • Take a big step to the side, with your right foot turned out and knee bent.
  • Keep your left foot planted, your leg straight.
  • Your upper body should be straight, your shoulders relaxed.
  • Don’t hold your breath! Relax and release the pose.
  • Return to a standing position, switch sides, and repeat.
Marshall Snider’s Cobra Pose (for beginners)
  • Lie on your stomach, your forearms on the ground.
  • Keep your elbows beneath your shoulders, slightly sup- porting your raised upper body.
  • Keep your hips on the ground and your buttocks tight to support your lower back.
  • Gently lift your head and chest.
  • Breathe and stretch—let the tight areas relax.
  • Hold and breathe.
  • Gently lower yourself to the ground.
  • Repeat as necessary.
Dennis Walker’s Full Body Twist
  • Lie on your back.
  • Pull your right knee to your chest.
  • Take a deep breath and gently bend your right knee over your left leg.
  • Hold your right knee down with your left hand resting over the knee.
  • Turn your head in the opposite direction.
  • Take deep breaths and relax your whole body. Remember to keep your shoulders down.
  • Gently release and switch legs.
Mike Decker’s Tree Pose
  • Raise your right foot up against the inside of your thigh.
  • Place your right hand on your foot if it slides down.
  • Place hands by chest in prayer position.
  • Feel the standing foot rooted to the ground.
  • Relax and breathe.
  • Stand straight and balance.
  • Switch legs slowly.

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