Friday, January 15, 2010

The Yoga Dork

It is now more than two months since my back injury, and I am still far from recovered. I keep going to yoga when the pain lessens, and the yoga keeps inflaming it. I'm such a dork when it comes to yoga. I feel better when I take time off, but guilty for not going. So I go, innocently enough, but end up paying later. It's hard because my upper body feels better after class. What kicks off the low back pain are all the poses requiring extension - cobra, locust, full locust, camel... I never thought the floor series would be more challenging than the standing series!

I really need to be better about icing it, drinking water, eating my fruits & veggies. Hopefully doing those will bring the inflammation down for good. I said a prayer of gratitude for my credit cards the other day and bought a Vitamix. Healthy slurpees, here I come!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Scar tissue

Recently in my cyber-meanderings, I found a wonderful forum for Bikram devotees: Hot Yoga Doctor. I've spent the last few hours reading post after post - q&a regarding this marvelous exercise. In response to a poster's dilemma about what to do when you try to modify a pose and the instructor gives you the unhelpful "Bikram's way or the highway," edict, Gabrielle (the doctor) states: 

"It really annoys me that sound physiological principles are completely thrown out the window in favor of dogmatic teaching."

I'm going to memorize this quote. Even though I practice at a great studio and introduce myself to all the teachers to inform them of my back issues & lack of balance, to which their response has been nothing short of amazingly compassionate, I have a mental wound from a previous studio that was way more rigid. A few teachers stick out in my mind - those who criticized me when I attempted to modify a pose due to pain or inability to do it at all (such as the balancing postures) or when they gave me a modification that provided absolutely no stretch at all. All while saying, "This is YOUR 90-minute moving meditation....take care of yourself..." Blah blah blah. Like, I would have taken care of myself if you hadn't come over here and hissed at me for taking care of myself.

I never confronted the two teachers in particular, and after a while, I found I lost the motivation to go to class at all. I was so worried about getting bored with the same sequence day after day, but what killed my pratice was lack of courage - not garnering the assertiveness to address my feelings and needs with these teachers. I felt that it didn't matter what I'd say, that they would just repeat the dogma and hope I'd either go, "Wow, you're so right!" or just go away. At this studio there were so many invalidating words tossed at me, like when I wrote on the intake form that I have brain damage and need to use the wall for balance, instead of saying, "Sure, do whatever you need," they'd go, "Oh, you'd be surprised [to find how yoga can cure you of that]" or, "Well, you want to work to where you don't need the wall." Like, are you neurologists? PTs? Do you understand cerebellar or vestibular dysfunctions? Are you even listening to me? Just say no.

Even though in my mind these instructors acted very non-yogi-like, the trigger points that have resulted from this have been because of my refusal to speak my mind. How do you heal this kind of scar tissue?

I do know from a number of the posts on HYD that I'm not alone. I can only hope that one day some of those dogmatic teachers experience an increase in consciousness, that they turn around and remember some of the unfeeling things they've said to students, and gone, "Damn, I was such a douchebag."  

The house always wins

Oh, Christmas. A day filled with tasty deelights that normally I am fairly able to resist. However. A whole day in the kitchen spent creating foods I could eat netted: a rather dry gluten-free banana bread lost in the valley between savory and sweet, a raw chocolate cheesecake that tasted like it had collided with a truck of raisins, and as a last desperate attempt to unite whatever contents in my fridge I could turn into a palatable dessert, chocolate-covered bacon.

Mercury retrograde has arrived.

I showed up at the holiday potluck with my dish of pig candy not really cognizant of the fact that I'd probably want real food within the next few hours. Yet when I put the dish down on the buffet table, my eyes landed on a crockpot of a childhood favorite: Stovetop stuffing. And instantly, I was starving.

Fast forward to yesterday, laying on my yoga mat. I was stiff as a board. All my back pain returned. I could barely turn over, and had to skip a few of the savasanas in the floor series. I hobbled home, took a shower, and swore off food from my childhood.

I don't know why I thought I had immunity from gluten on Christmas. I certainly don't have it any other day. But this was the first time I saw how clearly my food allergies are connected to my musculoskeletal issues. Time to dust off the ol' juicer and get my house in order. It's a new year comin'.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

This is why I love yoga

So my low back has continued to hurt, and got even worse after a chiropractic treatment. Some of the tingling in my feet is gone, thankfully, but I was in a very crappy mood after my appointment. The doc had told me that yoga would probably irritate my low back, so his suggestion was to take a break from it. Since I didn't seem to be improving with it, I took his advice.

I know that yoga purists would say, "Don't listen to him," but this doc has great diagnostic skills. Upon meeting me, he told me to walk down the hall in his office, and barely had I taken a step when he said, "Ahhh. Your pelvis is torqued - your right PSIS is pulled down, the right ASIS is pulled up, making you have a short right leg." Bingo. And even though his treatment lasted only a few minutes, I felt better afterward. This second treatment I felt worse, but that's the reason that I'm blogging.

I went home and did a teeny yoga session: 2 poses. First, the pranayama breathing, and then the half-moon side stretches. And for the first time since I restarted my practice, I stretched "beyond my flexibility" - as far as I could go and then some, without pain. And 80% of my low back pain disappeared.

Now that my pelvis is slipping back into place, the yoga can do its job again. The studio is closed tomorrow for the holiday, but mark my words - my butt will be on a mat on Saturday morning. Thanks, doc, and thanks Bikram. You rock.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Laid up

When I originally began Bikram, soon after the first class, my back went out in a major way. I had to take some time off from yoga because stretching proved terribly irritating to the sciatic nerve. I was distraught then, and the same thing has happened again now. This time it is much worse; I can barely turn over in bed, and lying prone is excruciating. I hear tales about people showing up to class in full-body braces and casts and what have you, and I just have to say: I am not that macho. I hope to return in a few days. A chiropractic adjustment today realigned my pelvis somewhat; the doc said I did quite a number on it. I could lie and say it's a sex sprain, but really I was just moving a couch. After falling off the Empire State Building. Damn those margaritas.

The last class I attended, a few days ago, was (despite the pain) one of those hallmark classes you remember when you tell your grandkids about walking a mile in the snow to get to a hot yoga class. Since I began yoga a year ago, the locust pose was my most challenging pose. Trying to get my palms on the floor under me was impossible. I could get one arm at a time, but my elbows screamed every time I tried. This last time I still can't believe it. I got both arms underneath me, with pinkies almost touching! And there was no screaming!

I couldn't raise my legs up at all because my back winced at the mere intention, but this was such a victory. And I hear that happens, all of a sudden - tout a coup - you can do a pose you never thought you could.

I can't WAIT to go back for more.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hooked on Heat

The other night, I happened upon the blog Japanese Ham Sandwiches, and a world opened up. I had no idea people were blogging about their Bikram experiences. Furthermore, its author, Cirita, keeps going, with Bikram and with blogging. Too many bloggers poop out after a few posts; at least, that's what a number of google searches netted when I went about finding Bikram bloggers. And a completed 60-day yoga challenge? Wowza.

My journey began last year. I had heard about hot yoga before, and had immediately turned my nose up at the thought. I don't ski, I don't bungee jump, I don't eat fruitcake...if I'm going to torture myself, I want to pick something I actually enjoy to exact punishment. Like, you must eat this gallon of cookies & cream within one hour. That kind of torture. Exercising in 105° heat did not sound appealing at all.

So I'm not sure what made my mind do a 180° - perhaps it was boredom, perhaps it was an adrenal/thyroid deficiency that left me increasingly cold all the time, or perhaps it was the cute neighbor boy who was into it, but one day last year I decided to try hot yoga.

The instructor was great, the people were friendly and comprised many levels of experience...not just freakishly bendy ghouls I thought might only frequent such a place. Yes, it was difficult - many poses outright impossible - but hell. Even the crushing headache the next day did not dissuade me. The euphoria I experienced after class was stunning. Even though it would be a while before I got into it on a regular basis, I knew that I had found something that spoke to the very core of me. I was hooked.