Why I will choose Yoga over everything

You’ll notice that lately I write and post a lot about Yoga, the reason for that is that Yoga has been life changing for me. I am in perpetual pain, I mean like all the time, and where physical therapy has failed me time and time again, Yoga has allowed me to grow and flourish. Let’s examine this on a case by case basis.

Wrist Pain

The problem:

Somewhere down the line my wrists decided that they would not flex upward. Any pressure in that direction is extremely painful for me. I spent months in therapy and saw all manner of specialists. At the end of the day, they said surgery. But when asked why, when they themselves said that everything appeared structurally sound, they couldn’t answer. Yeah, no, hard pass.

How Yoga has helped:

In yoga, we do a lot of planks and downward facing dogs. These two movements have allowed me to slowly strengthen and regain some mobility on my wrists. I can’t fully bend them today, but I can do a decent, ghetto version of chaturanga dandasana. I believe that over time and continued practice, this range can only get better.

Ankle pain

The problem:

Over the years, I have run hundreds of miles, jumped rope thousands of times, kickboxed, taught Zumba and performed all kinds of physical tasks on my legs. I really have put my ankles through all sort of abuse over my lifetime. In addition to that I have a physical misalignment that has existed since childhood. This puts extra stress on my legs because it’s not how we are meant to move, but it is how I’m built. The solution again? Surgery, not only now as an adult in pain, but when I was a child too. Again, hard pass. I’m 45 years old, I’ve made it this far with duck feet, I’ll be alright.

How Yoga has helped:

In yoga we do a lot of balancing poses on one leg, we also do upward dogs, a movement I certainly could not even dream of doing in the beginning. Now, I do it fairly easily and consistently. This movement has served to strengthen and mobilize my ankle. I have to do this position several times a week or my ankles will begin to hurt a lot. My ankles, toes and knees are now strong enough to support the position, this in turn has resulted in less overall ankle pain.

Shoulder pain

The problem:

I had a brown belt give me a labral tear on my shoulder while executing a sloppy armbar. Nice guy, but a little overzealous and basically gave me a lifetime injury due to his irresponsible behavior. Surgery is an option as always, but I’ve opted not to do it. It’s always there, but somedays more than others.

How Yoga has helped:

In yoga we do a lot of planks. When I first started, and even now if they overdo it, it can irritate my shoulder and make it painful. However, I think that over time my shoulder is getting somewhat stronger and more stable. It always bugs me, but the level of pain seems to be less intense. I’m hoping that Yoga is making my injured shoulder more resilient. The stretches are also helpful as they loosen up all the neighboring muscles and joints who may be picking up some of the flack due to the injury.

Lower back

The problem:

I was encouraged by a friend to find my 1 rep max on the deadlift, among other exercises. My foolish self went ahead and racked up that bar up like nobody’s business. This after years of not deadlifting anything very heavy. I’m sure you know how that worked out for me. Spoiler alert, not good. The next day, while still in pain, I saw an older woman struggling with a shopping cart filled with beer. I ran over to help her and I underestimated the weight of the cart and the degree of my injury. That sealed the deal for me. I felt another strain and I have been in lower back pain since. For a long time, I’d feel uncomfortable depending how I laid down, but the back pain was never ongoing. Now it is. I am getting an MRI on Monday to more closely determine what is going on in there. My doctor said I didn’t need it, I insisted.

How Yoga has helped:

I believe that without Yoga there is no way I would be able to function on a daily basis since I acquired this wonderful gift of lower back pain, let alone teach zumba, lift weights, train jujitsu, run, etc. As with my other injuries, the pain is always present, but the degree of discomfort is worlds less when I do yoga, than when I don’t. At this point, if I don’t do forward folds a few times a day, and take a proper yoga class about 3 times a week minimum, my back is killing me. In this particular case, Yoga has been life changing for me. It allows me to function almost pain free and still manage to do the amazing amount of training that I do on a daily basis. Twice a day even!

Neck

The problem:

I have no idea how I hurt my neck really, it wasn’t an acute injury, I think it’s more a chronic thing due to terrible forward leaning posture. I have a herniated disc on the C3 level and this can completely lay me out at times. Of all the different pain and injuries I’ve ever experienced, this one is absolutely the worst. The pain goes from my neck into my head, so in addition to hurting my mobility and creating unbearable neck pain, it also creates one of the worst headaches I’ve ever felt. Mind you, I’ve had drug withdrawal level headaches, these are just as bad or worst! Disc replacement surgery was offered, I promptly passed.

How Yoga has helped:

So this one is a bit tricky. Research actually indicated that doing Yoga with a disc herniation on the cervical spine was not a good idea. However, as you can see above, the other benefits that I am receiving from Yoga far outweigh the potential negative effects it can have. I believe and hope, that as the tissue around my entire body are stretched and improved upon, that this will have a positive net effect on the neck. So yoga is not directly healing this injury, but it is opening up my chest, my shoulders, my back, and strengthening my spine, all things that can and do affect your neck stability and potential for pain. The biggest culprit in my back issues, aside from stupidity at the gym, has been poor posture. So I hope that Yoga will help my posture overall, and this in turn will help and alleviate the problems on my neck. Everything is connected, and that’s how yoga is helping my neck.

Knees

The problem:

On occasion my knees will feel weak and bother me, but thankfully that one doesn’t stay around permanently like the others, yet. It is just an annoyance due to the years of wear and tear.

How Yoga has helped:

I believe that doing Yoga, as it has similarly helped with my ankles, also helps with my knees. The upward dogs have been strengthening my knees, along with all the different warrior poses. Of course the stretching element is key too. I remember about 4 years ago, I could lay down on my stomach and grab both my legs with my hands, but today I cannot. That is a clear indication of reduced flexibility on the knees and quad area. My hamstrings? Forget about it. As you know, tight muscles cause imbalances, imbalances lead to problems and more often than not, pain. So strength and flexibility are the goal here.

Hips

The problem:

On occasion, I get this annoying hip pain, especially when I do a lot of cardio, particularly the elliptical. It’s funny because I do the elliptical to go light on my knees and ankles, but it takes away my hips. Basically, if you do any one thing too much, it becomes a problem. Fortunately for me, just like the knees, this one also doesn’t stick around all the time and rest usually helps. I’ve had to back off the elliptical too. Doing an hour or two on that machine definitely aggravates it.

How Yoga has helped:

In Yoga we do a lot of hip openers, as I mentioned before, everything is connected. If your glutes are too tight, guess what they are pulling on? Hips, back, all that works in unison. Working to improve my overall flexibility and range of motion has proven invaluable to me. Some days after Yoga, my hips are screaming. However, I think they are better off with it, than without it.

Conclusion

Overall my body is super tight. I have been doing Yoga for a few months now, and though I have noticed improvements, I have a very, very long way to go on this lifetime journey. I believe that adding Yoga to my life will continue to be transformative and I can’t wait to see the future changes and improvements that are to come.

Oh, I forgot to mention, as an added benefit, I am losing weight and my body composition is changing in a positive way since adding Yoga. People seem to think that because Yoga is slow, that it is an easy format. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You recruit muscles you didn’t even know you had and use them in different ways than you ever have. This has the benefit of stretching but also strengthening. In my case, it is also aiding my weight loss and body transformation goals. That’s always a plus! Also, I am so tight and far gone, that pretty much every single pose that we do benefits me. Others may make it look effortless, but for me, all of it is a challenge. That’s good because it can only mean one thing, up is the only way to go!

If you have never tried Yoga, don’t wait until you break your body like I did, get into it now and use it as a form of injury prevention! The benefits are just amazing. Thanks for reading and good luck to you on your journey.

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