NotSoZen YogaJen

Archive for the ‘Pilates’ Category

Me and my yoga mat after restorative yoga class

This is me after class, with my yoga mat over my shoulder.

On Thursday, my physical therapist cleared me for restorative yoga.

This has happened at least three times since the beginning of this year — my hip will start to feel a little better (I’ve had a hip injury for a year and a half and was diagnosed with a labral tear in my right hip last August), my physical therapist will say I can go to restorative yoga that week, and then before I can make it to a class, my hip will flare up again. So I have to take my PT exercise routine down a notch, slowly add back the more challenging exercises once my hip pain has calmed down, and make sure I’m OK doing those exercises consistently. Only then am I cleared again to go to yoga, at which point my hip flares up before I can make it to class.

On Thursday, my physical therapist said, again, that I could go to restorative yoga.

“Go tomorrow!” he said.

I’d been scanning yoga schedules for restorative classes so I’d be ready when this day came, and picked a Saturday evening class at a studio in Manhattan.

Technically, I haven’t been to a yoga class since last spring, when I tried a restorative class after having gotten a cortisone shot. But it feels like it’s been a lot longer because that one doesn’t even really count. It was labeled as a restorative class but it was pretty active, and focused on hip poses — they very thing I can’t do.

When I explained my injury to the teacher before class and said I might need some modifications, she hurriedly brushed me off, saying that I should be taking a private session instead, and she didn’t offer help or alternative poses during class. I could hardly do any of the poses, and was in pain afterwards.

I haven’t been to a yoga class since. And I haven’t been able to practice consistently, and without pain, since I got injured a year and a half ago.

This weekend I had a completely different experience.

Before class, I went up to the teacher and told her I had a labral tear and tendonosis in my right hip. I said that this was my first yoga class in a year, and I may have to modify things.

She told me that she had labral tears in both hips (!), and we talked a bit about this type of injury before class even started.

As opposed to the class I took last year, this restorative class actually was restorative, and involved a lot of props, holding simple poses, and relaxing. Throughout the class the teacher was very attentive, suggesting things I should or shouldn’t do, helping set up props to make my hips more stable, and making sure poses felt OK for me.

Being in a dark, candle-lit yoga studio, doing familiar poses, felt…joyful. And peaceful. Slowing down, taking deep breaths, chanting “Om,” being quiet and meditative and reflective.

But it was also a little sad. Remembering the way I used to practice yoga, the things I used to be able to do, the way I used to be able to move. And thinking about all the poses, like pigeon (which I loved) and headstand (which I hated), that I might never be able to do again. Being in that room was old and familiar, but also different and new.

Afterwards, I spoke to the teacher more and she was really helpful, sharing her experiences with her injuries and recovery process.

It was the perfect first yoga class for me to go back to — slow-paced and gentle, with a knowledgeable teacher who knew firsthand what I was going through.

Walking out onto the street, my yoga mat slung over my shoulder, I felt great. The class hadn’t exacerbated my pain, and it was something I could go back to. To begin my yoga practice again in this new way, that’s very different, but also kind of the same.

And an update since my last post in October

Shortly after I wrote that post, a coworker referred me to a physical therapist who specializes in hip pain whom I’ve been going to ever since, and building up my strengthening PT exercise routine. I was introduced to the foam roller. And I love it! I bought a giant ice pack.

After a few times, I stopped going to the basics Pilates class in the fall because my hip pain was often flared up. At the beginning of this year I was able to go back to Pilates and can make it to my weekly class pretty consistently now.

I’ve tried acupuncture which was recommended but it flared up my pain. I got two massages and one was fine and the other flared up my hip. Last September I tried going to a chiropractor who used Active Release Technique which also flared up my pain. So for the moment I’m staying away from soft tissue work and sticking to PT, Pilates, and now restorative yoga, too.

I read in a comment on this blog post that someone with a labral tear cut out wheat and sugar and felt better, and I was vaguely aware of having heard or read that gluten is inflammatory, so it makes sense that not eating it would help. A week ago I started an experiment of cutting back on gluten and sugar to see if that will make a difference.

At the beginning of last week I had two almost pain-free days where I could go through the day without an awareness of my hip. This felt amazing, and light. It reminded me how draining — physically, mentally, and emotionally — chronic pain is, and what a weight is lifted when it’s not there.

Towards the end of the week, the pain came back. Right now my hips hurt — I am definitely aware of them — and I still have some degree of pain more often than not. But I’m going to foam roll, do my PT routine, and ice while I watch The Big Bang Theory. This morning I went to my regular Pilates class. And last night I went to my first yoga class in a year.

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Keep calm and do Pilates

Source: Parsley & Dill

In June, after having been diagnosed with hip bursitis earlier in the year, I had completed two months of physical therapy and gotten a cortisone shot, but my pain persisted and I still couldn’t do yoga.

What happened after that was, I got the second cortisone shot my doctored recommended, which was really the last one I could get, for awhile at least. And my pain got worse. I started having muscle spasms in both legs and pain in my right calf. Also, aside from bursitis, my physical therapist thought that there might be something wrong with my actual hip joint.

I called my doctor to tell him about my worsening symptoms. He was very friendly and upbeat, assuring me that nothing was wrong.

“Youshouldhaveafinehip,” he said.

“What?” I asked. I was taking notes, and didn’t want to miss anything important.

“You. Should. Have. A. Fine. Hip,” he said, overly enunciating every syllable.

I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. The way he’d switched on a dime from warm and cheerful to cold and condescending made me feel like a little kid who was getting reprimanded. So I responded how I always do when someone speaks to me harshly and I feel immense discomfort: with excessive cheerfulness.

“Great, thanks!” I squeaked. “Have a great weekend!”

The next step was to get an MRI but in the meantime my doctor prescribed pain medication for me — at the highest possible dose. I’m very sensitive to medication and also have depression and anxiety, so I quickly experienced disturbing side effects. I felt spacey, disconnected, and checked-out, in addition to really sad and extremely anxious to the point of panic.

After a few days on the medication and feeling like I was jumping out of my skin, I had a meltdown at the pharmacy counter late one night asking through tears if I could stop taking it immediately or had to do it gradually.

“Stop!” the pharmacist said, handing me a tissue.

My gut, which felt like it had been punched after my last conversation with my doctor, was telling me to go to a different doctor. But I felt scared and people-please-y.

Maybe I should at least go back for one more visit and get the MRI through him, I thought.

The primary reason I didn’t want to go back to him was the way he’d talked to me that one time, which didn’t even seem logical. Maybe I was too sensitive or just overreacting.

But then I started to think about how he’d prescribed a pain medication at the highest dose allowed when I’m a fairly petite person who’s highly sensitive to medication. And then I started to think about how after four months of treatment including two cortisone shots, my injury wasn’t getting any better at all. I still felt nervous about not going to him anymore, though.

If I wasn’t trying to please someone else, what would I do? I asked myself.

The answer came loud and clear: Go to a different doctor.

So that’s what I did.

My new doctor didn’t think I had hip bursitis, the condition I’d been diagnosed and treated for over the past four months. She thought I had a labral tear in my hip, and prescribed an MRI.

Early on in my injury, I thought I had a lip labrum tear based on a conversation with my neighbor who had the same thing — her symptoms sounded exactly like my symptoms. At the beginning of this year, when I was experiencing these symptoms, Lady Gaga had a labrum tear in her hip and had to get surgery. My fear, going into my first doctor’s visit in April, had been that I would have a hip labrum tear and would have to get an MRI and surgery, and I was so relieved when I was diagnosed with hip bursitis and did not have to get an MRI.

I’d heard scary stories about MRIs — the enclosed space! The loud noise! — so by the time I got to the hospital for my appointment, I was terrified.

“Are you claustrophobic?” the pre-MRI questionnaire asked. I panicked. I didn’t know if I was claustrophobic. I had anxiety that could be pretty severe at times and didn’t want to discover I was claustrophobic while I was in there.

My MRI technician put me at ease though, talking to me through headphones throughout the session to let me know what was going on. Pretending I was in Savasana pose, I put one hand on my heart and the other on my belly and breathed. The noise was loud but repetitive and oddly soothing, and I fell into a calm, meditative state. By the time it was over I was almost asleep and totally relaxed.

The results of my MRI confirmed what my new doctor had suspected — I had a labral tear in my hip, and no bursitis at all.

A labral tear never heals, but there are things that can be done to manage or hopefully cease the pain, like stretching and strengthening.

After a very extended yoga hiatus and barely being able to do any physical activity all year, at my appointment where I got my MRI results, my doctor cleared me for Pilates right away (!).

Excited to get back to a class of any kind, I found a small Pilates studio a few blocks from where I live that offers a super-beginner level class. That Sunday, I put on yoga pants and a tank top, and sat down on a mat — similar to my familiar yoga mat — at the studio.

There were only four people in class, and before it started I talked to the instructor about my injury.

“I knew about Jen,” the teacher said, standing at the front of the room, “but are there any other injuries I should know about?”

Everyone raised their hands. There was a shoulder injury, a painful lower back, a knee thing.

So this is what it’s come to? I thought, laughing to myself. I used to do advanced yoga and now I’m in Pilates for injured people.

Although I stopped going to physical therapy a few months ago when my injury wasn’t improving, I’ll go back soon and incorporate that into my rehabilitation routine along with Pilates. Hopefully physical therapy will have more of an impact once it’s treating the correct condition.

For now, I feel happiness from my new Sunday afternoon Pilates ritual with a wonderful teacher who remembers what my injury is from week to week, tells me when I shouldn’t do a pose, and offers adjustments and modifications. And with my new — correct — diagnosis, I’m starting all over from the beginning, taking gentle, mindful baby steps on the slow road to recovery.