I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a while about an event that occurred about 5 months ago which I’ll never forget. I don’t write personal blog posts often, but wanted to share this experience in the hope that it might help others dealing with physical obstacles in their life. I originally started doing yoga on a regular basis to help my recovery from some severe nerve damage I developed almost three years ago. I originally tried Yoga to help with back pain (which it did), but more important for me, I realized that during and after some types of yoga classes, my symptoms were dramatically reduced. As a result, I started trying just about every different type of yoga class and yoga studio in the area to find which classes and which instructors could help the most.
The good news for me is that I’m about 80% better now and feel the best that I felt the last 3 years. That’s a huge quality of life difference for me. Back then I was bed ridden for weeks at a time, would wake up most days not able to feel my legs, feet or toes and when I did feel sensations, they could best be described as a fiery pain probably about 9 out of 10 on the pain scale. As a result, I was on some pretty strong nerve blockers (the kind they give people with shingles or other uncontrollable nerve pain). After a few years, my doctor at my prompting thought I was ready to try going off them. I was more than ready – I won’t go into it, but the side effects were pretty bad. He recommended slowly reducing the dose. I tried that for a few days (with good success) then decided to go completely off them all of a sudden – not a smart move! Since it had been 2 years, I thought my body could handle it. I was wrong. Just when I thought I was in the clear, the off the charts pain returned – perhaps worse than it had been in years.
So what does this have to do with Yoga or Nerf Balls?
I was already taking a regular ‘Easy Yoga’ class at Shakti Studio with owner/instructor Sue Schmitt – who was very familiar with my condition and has an almost magical understanding of the body and the way minute changes can effect it. Somehow I managed to drive myself over to class, but I was in bad shape. The beginning of Yoga class this ccentering) often provides some relief and is something I look forward too. Not this time, the pain was so bad I couldn’t focus on anything else.
Sue took one look at me (I told her briefly before class the results of my ‘experiment’), brought out two medium sized Nerf balls and placed one under my back (actually the sacrum) and one under my head. Wasn’t quite sure what she was doing, but I’ll never forget that the pain went off light a light switch within about a minute. At the end of class, I told Sue the great news – she seemed as excited and happy as I was. Turns that the placement of the Nerf balls were a ‘cranial-sacral’ technique which functions as a natural nerve block. She gave me the two nerf balls as a gift and told me to use them whenever the pain returned. I did this for about a month as my body slowly re-adjusted to being off the nerve blockers. It’s been about five months since, I’m still off the nerve blockers and my pain levels are about one tenth of what they were that night.
Now what’s this have to do with going to a small studio or working with a regular instructor on an ongoing basis? Sue’s studio (Shakti) is a boutique studio – picture about the opposite of any yoga class you’ve ever taken at a gym. The average class size is about 5-10 people. Sue knows each of her clients, their physical limitations and any special problems they are trying to work with. Sue was able to help me that night because I had been taking her classes several months, she had an in-depth knowledge of some of the problems of trying to overcome and her classes are the right size for her to give personal attention to her students each class and every class. small out that If you haven’t taken a lot of yoga classes, you might not realize how important this is. One of the things I quickly learned through yoga, is that it’s a great tool to observe your current state of mind and body on any individual day and that even for people without specific problems this state can vary greatly on the day-to-day basis.
It must’ve been my lucky week. Two days later, I went back to Shakti and tried a class and instructor (Joan Livingston) I had never had before. I got there a few minutes early, and gave Joan a quick summary of the physical problems I was currently having. It had only been two days since Sue and her “magic Nerf ball advice”, but my pain levels were already about 60% better. I was still having considerable numbness in my feet and toes, which I told Joan about. Turns out that Joan had just taken a workshop geared specifically for the feet and during her class spent about ten minutes teaching everyone feet exercises that I had never seen before. At the time, I wasn’t sure which exercise did it but after the exercises, I had complete feeling back in both my feet and toes. I was pretty amazed, and after class I told Joan about my experience. She couldn’t have been nicer. I told her that I’d like to practice these exercises at home and and asked her I could jot down a few short notes. Joan took about twenty minutes and and completely wrote out each of the exercises along with illustrations and left me a great ‘foot exercise plan’ that I could refer to each day when I practice them. I practiced these exercises on a daily basis and each time they restored feeling to my feet.
It’s been about five months and I still go to Shakti on a regular basis and take classes with Sue (and Joan) as often as I can. I’m past most of the pain and numbness issues, but continue to get a great deal out of each class I take with them and one of the reasons I really enjoy being able to take smaller Yoga classes when possible and get to know each instructor. If you are dealing with any specific issues and have only taken Yoga classes at a gym (or watched Yoga videos at home), my hope is that sharing this experience might help you decide to walk into a Yoga studio and try out a beginner class. If you’re not sure where to start, feel free to post a comment or e-mail me privately and I’d be happy to suggest a few classes and instructors that worked well for me.
Note: Don’t think I’ve ever put a disclaimer on one of my posts, but thought it might be the right thing to do since a good amount of people have started following my blog and Facebook page…
Even though the two experiences I just wrote about sound almost magical, if you have a medical condition please see a doctor first to better understand your condition and rule out anything which could be dangerous. My recovery and quality of life has been immeasurable improved by my practice of yoga, but it was only part of a long path (which originally started with multiple MRIs and extensive tests, seeing multiple specialists, both locally and in a university setting, finally finding a great integrative doctor who I continue to see on a regular basis, and most recently acupuncture and cranial sacral therapy sessions which have greatly sped up my recovery in a very short amount of time).
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Thanks and Namaste.