Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Herniated Disk + Yoga

    Photos of my amazing friend Erin by the equally amazing Ty Mecham

Remember when a couple months ago I herniated a disk and I was down and out and had no idea how debilitating such a thing could be?  Well I thought I'd give you a little update and tell you how I've been managing the ol' back problems.  Does talking about my achin' back turn me into an old lady blogger?  It feels like it.

Quick recap:  Mid November I was doing a workout when I noticed that my back felt a little tweaked.   I finished my workout and thought I'd be fine, but within a couple hours I knew this was not fine and that I had done something kinda major to my back.  Having had a similar experience in college I assumed that I would be in a lot of pain for a few days and that I would mostly need to lay down and be off my feet, but then everything would quickly go back to normal. Wrong. Two days later B ended up having to leave work early and take me to the ER.  The pain I was in was second only to labor and natural childbirth. They gave me some medication right away, and confirmed via x-ray that I had a herniated disk.  Luckily we knew someone we could hire to help out with the kids because I was not going to be doing anything for a while. A couple days later I went and a specialist and he recommended getting some cortisone shots for my back.  I asked if I should do any physical therapy and he said no.

For some reason I didn't like his advice. I didn't want more steroids and if I could do some therapy myself I wanted to give it a shot. I talked with family friend who is also a doctor and one thing he suggested was yoga. (Honestly I probably would have done the shots if there hadn't been a bit of a fiasco with our insurance, by the time I got a referral my back was 90% better.) First, I looked up some videos on therapy for a herniated disk and found that for my particular disk the most effective pose was laying on your stomach and then lifting yourself up on your elbows, then hands--basically a cobra or up dog in yoga. So I started doing yoga.

I actually love yoga, having done it off and on back in college. I have always wanted to practice yoga more consistently, but felt like it was something I needed to do with an instructor in person, vs an at home video.  I tried a couple of videos and they just didn't do it for me which is strange because I don't mind repetition in regular workout videos, but for some reason yoga is a different story. That and I really appreciate the help from teachers about posture, hip alignment, etc. But going to a yoga studio has not been an option for reasons of time, money or both. So recently when I remembered a reader (I wish I could remember who!) suggesting a yoga channel called Fightmaster Yoga on youtube led by a woman named Leslie Fightmaster, I decided to check it out.  You guys I have been hooked!  I've been doing yoga almost daily and unlike most workout/fitness routines I actually love it and look forward to practicing.  Even in the short two months I've been doing it, my strength, balance and flexibility have improved tremendously.  Leslie's classes range in ability level, as well as all different types of yoga, and a variety of time frames.  Only have 20 minutes?  Great!  Want a longer class?  No problem!  She gives clear instruction with a lot of helpful tips along the way, it's the next best thing to attending a yoga class in person. Additionally, I really like that she is rather--I'm not sure of the proper term--but I would say traditional when it comes to yoga. She focuses on breathing, intention, and doing your personal best. "It's not about the pose," as she has said many times.


As far as my back is concerned it has been extremely helpful. In the beginning I was modifying quite a bit (as you should), but because inverted back bend positions are so helpful in treating herniated disks, and you do quite a lot in yoga, slowly my back started to get better.  Surprisingly, I can't say it's 100% better--some people say it will heal completely over time, others like to tell me I'll probably always have back pain--because I can still feel a slight ache in my lower right back, but there are a lot of days when I don't feel it at all and I attribute that to my yoga practice. The past couple of days it has been a little worse than usual in fact and I think I may have over extended myself in some yoga moves.  That being said, it's made me realize that for now I'm not willing to gamble with a more strenuous workout routine.  At first I was worried because I wasn't sure yoga would be enough, but I've read a lot of articles that say otherwise. So for now, it's sticking.  Of course there are plenty of benefits to yoga besides the physical and I really appreciate those as well. I especially find myself more accepting of my body the way it is and more grateful for all the wonderful things it can do.  Anyway, I just wanted to pass on my experience with lower back pain and yoga as well as this wonderful source for free yoga classes--Fightmaster yoga.

I know yoga is one of those things that is both timeless and trendy--for me I plan to make it something that sticks around for a long time.  Any other yoga enthusiasts out there?  Any other great yoga sources to share? I'm one of those people who tends to think yoga is for everyone, have you ever tried yoga, but didn't think it was for you? Also, Mara linked to this article about an NFL player who's touchdown celebration is a namaste pose--I loved it!


9 comments:

  1. Yogaglo.com has a reasonable monthly charge and TONS of amazing classes with incredible teachers. Meditation too! It covers every type of yoga practice and every level. My favorite is the short in depth instructional videos for some of the more difficult poses.

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    1. Melissa--Thank you! I'm going to have to check it out.

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  2. Anonymous12:16 PM

    I comment periodically. I love your blog and all your DIY projects. This makes total sense. The gym I go to is like CrossFit but not mainly because most all the instructors have extensive training in physical therapy or are PTs so they make sure you are working out but mostly importantly not going to hurt yourself. The owner of the gym recovered from a major back injury just by doing the correct exercises! Yay for exercise and yoga!

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    1. Oh man, I would LOVE to go to some place like that. A place where instructors really kicked your butt while also knowing how to keep you from injury.

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    2. Anonymous6:38 PM

      It really is and it doesn't feel like I'm working out as much as I'm on a jungle gym so I like that ... it's just too bad because this gym is only in Portland, OR. I wish everyone could go there!

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    3. Thanks for this post. I love yoga as well and am a teacher but I got a herniated disk from falling awkwardly on a downhill hike. Your pain sounds similar to mine. Are there any particular Leslie Fightmaster classes that were most helpful? I'd love to try them!

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  3. Might've been me who suggested it! I'm just happy more people have found Lesley. :) I've been a huge fan for the last year, ever since I was snowbound and needed something I could do in my living room. I appreciate just what you said about her approach too! Glad to hear you're feeling better. As a PT, I'm bummed to the doctor just straight up said no to conservative treatment. Then again, sometimes you have to let the injury calm down a little before you can treat. And I *love* that someone suggested yoga to you and it helped--it's been the most helpful to my chronic shoulder injury.

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  4. ooh, i'm def going to check that channel out. thanks. I'm a huge fan of yoga as well, for the same reasons as you (but for me it was hip issues, not my back). so many emotional and spiritual benefits as well.

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