I injured my back in the fall of 2001, shortly after I had started practicing yoga. I had spent my youth playing sports, and most recently rugby, running and weight lifting. A lifetime of aggressive and contact sports culminated in two herniated discs in my low back at S1/L5 and L5/L4. They caused acute low back and sciatic pain radiating down to my left knee.
I was in pain constantly, even in my sleep. The pain was so acute some days that my husband had to put my shoes on my feet. It was excruciating to go to work, to rest, to sleep, to walk, to drive. My doctor told me I had three options: live with the pain, undergo a discectomy or take cortisone shots for the rest of my life. At this point, I had begun to practice at a wonderful studio in Burlington, Vermont under Bikram Certified teachers Kelley Lyons and Amy Nietzberg. I decided see if Bikram Yoga would help first.
It was no miracle cure from the start. Classes were hard and uncomfortable. I had set backs regularly. At the time, my job only allowed me to attend 3 to 4 times a week. Some days I didn’t think I could go through the pain and challenge of a class, but I always felt better (increased range of motion, better sleep, less pain and an ability to participate in more) after attending.
Over eighteen months, I saw slow progress. The miracle happened when I started practicing two times a day. It took me 10 days of doubles to be pain free. I kid you not. PAIN FREE. I could sit without a back support. I could roll over at night. I could put my pants on standing up. I kept it up for two months, resting on Sundays. I had a few set backs in the first couple of years. Under extreme stress or after moving or shoveling snow for hours in the Vermont winter, I have had times where I get sore again. Once, I threw my back out. I have found that the quicker I get back to yoga and the more classes I can take, the faster I recover.
Now, five years out from the initial bad spell, I live a free, active life. I hike, water-ski, shovel, stand on my head. There are no yoga poses that I skip or avoid. I haven’t thrown out my back in over two years. I am nine months pregnant and have experienced no back problems at all in the entire pregnancy. I recognize that double classes are not possible for all of us. With less frequent practice, the healing (and strengthening) will simply take more time. Be patient with yourself and your students. Be strong and work hard. All you need is your body and this yoga to heal yourself.
Credit: This is written by Sara Curry. Prior to attending the Bikram Yoga teacher training in Spring 2003, Sara worked for years in Special Education with students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. She holds a degree in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Vermont. This story has been reposted with permission. You can find the original here.
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