Monday, November 21, 2011

My Story Part II: Yoga's Dirty Little Secret

When I found yoga I started to feel much better. My back and neck did not hurt so much, my mind felt brighter and I felt more in control of my emotions. I didn't have near as many monthly ups and downs.

But what was this new pain? What was this horrible, stabbing pain at the base of my spine that plagued me when I walked? Why did it hurt so much after shoveling snow or vacuuming the house? I was just done with a 4 year stint of working in Antarctica and traveling the world (where I shoveled and walked plenty). How could shoveling, vacuuming or walking be hurting me now? I didn't have this particular problem before. (Just all the other ones - ha ha.)

I continued practicing yoga. I even found a real, live class - not just yoga to a TV show. I got a lot of compliments on how flexible I was. My ego liked this so I pushed harder, stretched further, went deeper. And, no surprise, continued to have pain. I could not figure it out. I did not hurt while doing yoga; only while walking. I was pretty sure I was going to end up hunched before my time.

Fortunately, we moved and I had to switch studios. My new teacher, Ann Maxwell at Yoga North, was into teaching about the inner core, moving in a pain free range of motion, building awareness, and retraining forgotten muscle groups. She had been studying with Julie Gudmestad and Susi Hately Aldous and she shared what she learned with her students.

I learned that I did not have sciatica, I had SI joint dysfunction. I started to notice that the asymmetrical, hip-opening poses that I loved - triangle,  pigeon, easy seated forward fold - were not the best poses for my body. I was instinctively stretching the part that hurt (my hips and SI joints) but by stretching, I was pulling myself more and more out of whack.

I was starting to take pre-walk ibuprofen to mitigate the feeling of stabbing pain in my behind. Nothing ruins a walk more than feeling like you have a knife in your back. Finally, I saw a chiropractor. Even though yoga had been helping with my back and neck pain, I still had tons of misaligned bones. My neck curved the wrong way, my occiput was jammed, and my hips were uneven. I had good results with Chiropractic. I had fewer headaches and less pain walking. But my bones slid back out of alignment so quickly it was like they were greased.

I knew yoga was both helping and hurting me but I loved yoga. I didn't want to give it up. As a matter of fact, I wanted to learn more. I signed up for teacher training and started to learn how to strengthen my inner core from the arches up.

Previously: My Story Part I: 10 Years of Pain
Next up: Teacher Training, the Inner Core, Therapeutic Yoga and the concept of Less is More