Last November I had a L5 Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF). After 20+ years of being treated for back pain, I ran out of options because there was simply no disk left. The cortisone and facet joint block injections no longer worked. Anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy were a thing of the past. After failed rhizotomies, long discussions with my Spinal Orthopedic Doctor and a second opinion, surgery was my final option.
Prior to this decision, I had to deal with the pain. I always had some kind of physical exercise as part of my lifestyle but it became increasingly harder. When you have an injury or disk issue, your other muscles will sometimes overcompensate for the area where the pain is. In my case, it was my low back, which meant that my entire torso was always tight and sore. I always had knots in my shoulders and neck even though the source of my pain was coming from the low back.
Several people had recommended I try yoga. This Type A personality had always steered clear from yoga in the past because if I had time to work out, I wanted to be dripping in sweat. I thought the only way to achieve that was by doing cardio. Otherwise, I didn’t feel like I worked out. I didn’t think you could break a sweat in yoga but thought, what the heck, I’ve tried everything else, why not.
The Down Low To Down Dog
The first day I went to hot yoga, I was skeptical and feeling a little out of place. It was so quiet in there you could hear a needle drop. I remember thinking, am I in the wrong room? Why is no one talking? Isn’t there pre-workout chatter and gossip? It was all women, and maybe 1 lonely man, most of which were just laying on their mat. Were they sleeping, getting a power nap? I thought, these people are too serious and this is going to be a waste of my time. But I mimicked what they were doing, rolled my mat out on the floor and lied down. I tried to pretend I was napping too but kept peeking out the corner of my eyes every few seconds to see what the others were doing. Nope, still napping.
The instructor finally came in with her soft, soothing voice and began the class. I diligently followed her instructions, all the while, looking around to make sure I was doing things right. I definitely felt like a fish out of water but if I looked like one, no one seemed to notice or care. They all appeared to be focused on what they were doing and not giving the new girl questionable stares or that silent criticism. So, I tried to focus on what the instructor did and really take it in.
After maybe 30 minutes of concentrating on my breathing and pushing my flexibility to the max, I looked down and noticed the backs of my hands had beads of sweat on them. What?! I didn’t even know you could sweat there. When we got to the end of our 60-minute class, I realized I was completely drenched in sweat. So, you can really can sweat in yoga! I made a mental note to bring a towel the next time.
I used to think I was pretty flexible, until that first day in the yoga studio. What I envisioned my body doing and what it could actually do were two different things. I guess all of those years of my back tensing up really changed things. And you know what? I really did feel better, even after 1 class. I continued to go and after a few sessions, I felt like I could stand taller, had more energy and while it didn’t eliminate my lower back pain altogether, it did improve the rest of my back, neck and shoulder pain. My entire body felt better than it had in years.
I also figured out why it was so quiet when people arrived. I came to enjoy the peace and quiet. It gave me an opportunity to clear my mind, something I never concentrated on when I did cardio with earbuds blasting fast music.
For other benefits to yoga, see the article we posted in our August Newsletter here!