Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pain Free Through Yoga

Not Growing Old Gracefully

Since last summer up until this past February, my body had been doing things that I was none too happy with. Being an athlete most of my life and having an "A" type personality which contributed to my being highly competitive, I felt there was nothing I couldn't do or accomplish. I came at exercise with an attitude of "just do it" and "never die".

Weight lifting was such a pleasure for me. It made me feel strong and physical, a tactile experience....grabbing those weights, lifting those weights, creating a force inside me that was powerful.

Then one day in August, that experience came crashing down around me. All of a sudden I could no longer lift weights over my head, out to the side or do anything that required pressing backwards such as tricep kickbacks or overhead with tricep extensions. My left shoulder had shooting pain around the rotator cuff.

Thinking I had injured it, and that my Bursa sac was probably the issue, I decided to let it rest....and then I learned it needed more rest and then I realized it wasn't getting any better. I iced it....I applied heat, I took anti-inflammatories until my ears rang. I was headed into having a frozen shoulder in my minds eye.

My range of motion was all but gone. I couldn't clasp my bra, I couldn't curl my hair without pain, I couldn't reach behind my back, no higher than the top of my bum.....I couldn't reach over my head to grab a dish out of the cabinet.....sudden shifts in my arm such as pushing up off the floor, pulling or pushing a car door open, or getting out of a chair became a crippling experience. I was all but immobilized on my left side. Reaching forward began to be painful as well as the tendons began to shorten and pull at the back side of my arm up to my shoulder.....needless to say depression set in. I was beginning to fear joint issues since I also was hearing a clicking sound in my shoulder and it would pop every so often.

Is This What Getting Old Is?

After 4 months of trying to cure myself through rest and easy lifting, I only continued to re-injure my shoulder over and over. I told you I am an "A" type, never die or quit...even though I was killing myself....I am one of those that says, "work through the pain". I simply refused to accept my age and that this was what older meant. My body becoming incapacitated in some way and just learning to live with it....I refused....somehow I am going to find my way back.

Visit To The Doctor

Finally, I went to my doctor whom also provides naturopathic medicine with traditional methods to see what she could do for me. After several tests of range of motion, she felt it was all Bursa sac related and that frozen shoulder could be prevented. Fortunately no joint issues were involved and the popping and clicking was caused by how the tendons were pulling over the muscles when I would move a certain way. Also I was experiencing tendinitis from lack of movement since they had been initially strained and then began to shorten.

Then the great news came....are you ready?....She told me that at my age....."NOOOO"......I had to take it easier and come at lifting weights not so aggressively. Once a woman turns 50......"WHAT?"....she begins to age faster and needs to adjust her workout routine to accommodate her changing body.

Those dreaded words hung in the air like doom. No, not this gal....I'm not going to grow old! No sirree! I mean as we get older we have to work harder at staving off gaining weight especially after can this be happening? I shut my ears like a little kid refusing to listen.

Apparently, according to her, doing shoulder presses with such heavy weights is probably what began my painful syndrome in my shoulders and that an imbalance occurred when lifting, causing the left arm to compensate more than the right, whereby injuring it and causing the spiral downward to no longer being able to do what I normally could do.

When did this happen?.... When did I get old according to my body's ability to perform in the same way?..... When did it decide it no longer wanted to lift weights that I had been lifting for years?

I had to stop all weight lifting and push-ups in my upper body and rest and I was really feeling sub par with what I was used to doing in my daily life. So I rested the shoulder and kept up with anti-inflammatories and my body weakened and began to gain weight.

Can you say "feeling old?" Was this what my future holds?....losing muscle mass and have it be replaced with fat mass? The saving grace of that conversation was my shoulder was not frozen and there was hope of restoring full range of motion. Even if I could no longer lift weights, there wasn't anything I wouldn't do to get my shoulder restored to full movement with no pain. And I was going to find a way to fight my middle aged spread no matter what!

Daily activities were brutal. Simple things like brushing my hair or even sleeping on my left side brought about excruciating pain. I needed assistance with putting on my bra....MY BRA..... and pulling a sweater over my head created a sweaty experience....WTH! Even the pulling upward motion would cause the tendons to flare so that backward upward pull to position my bra just right was eye watering.

God love my hubby!

I also literally had to sleep a certain way to avoid injury or further pain....this was fun!...waking up moaning and groaning unable to move my arm as now it was paralyzed. Freaked me out!

Furthermore my psyche was becoming damaged because my quality of life was diminishing and I was watching my body get soft and flabby, that is, until I refused to allow it go further. I decided to fight back at my own body that was now betraying me.

Fighting My Way Back

Once I got the Holidays over with and saw myself and the weight I had gained on my home video I made at Thanksgiving, I decided to do some research on my situation. I was determined to learn as much as I could about how to stop living with immobility and get back on track with little to zero pain.

Like all things on the internet, a ton of information was available, and most of it good but also confusing.

Rediscovered Yoga And Partook In Massage Therapy

One consistent method throughout my search was the healing benefit of yoga exercise. I had done yoga years ago but always felt like it was a wimpy girl workout. So I didn't pursue it on any real serious level. I learned the basics and did it mostly for stretching exercises after a weight lifting workout.

I began with the basics once again in January....taking it easy and I couldn't believe how out of shape I had become. Plus any overhead movement was mind numbing. Downward facing dog was brutal as was wisdom pose. My upper arms and shoulders were so tight by this point....but I pressed on doing only what I could do with limited pain....and interlacing my arms behind me....well forget about it!

I also researched massage not the kind of massages for muscle relief and relaxation but true therapy for what is called Myofascial Release. This requires a therapist to be knowledgeable in this type of treatment who truly works with incapacitated patients and those that deal with sports injuries....this is not your beauty massage.

I actually located a good one through Facebook of all places, putting my feelers out and doing my research on line. For those that live in the Treasure Valley, Boise, Idaho area, the one I highly recommend is Body Epiphanies with Brandon Trean. This young man is excellent and well educated in every aspect of massage therapy. He is the consummate professional always and the beauty of what he offered was he also would come to your home. This was the best part! Due to my busy schedule of running Sterling Minerals Cosmetics and ONATI Skin Care, this made my life that much easier especially dealing with the pain since even driving my car had its challenges. Holding my arm in any type of upward position caused more pain.

Brandon began with coming once per week, and literally with the first treatment, I had regained 30% more range of motion, being able to reach higher on my back without the pain. I was amazed. It still tweaked but he had really worked that arm for an entire hour....and it wasn't necessarily pleasant. This was true physical therapy so not much about it was relaxing. He never pushed passed what one could stand in terms of pain, but he does have to work in there pretty deep in order for there to be really any benefit. So one must endure some discomfort to gain any mobility and again, I had that "do or die" attitude of suffering through to fight my way back!

I continued with my yoga between visits, until I was able to reduce the treatments to every other week. Each week my arm was a little better.

Dealing With Setbacks

After doing this now for a couple of months, something shifted, and now my right shoulder was taking on the same symptoms as my left. One shoulder improves while the other grows painful. This was enough to make me call it quits....I was losing my mind with frustration. So instead of working on the left arm now Brandon was working on the right as well. Once we got that back in shape then I had a piriformis muscle spasm that literally brought me to my knees and caused intense bouts of crying....I mean I could not walk for days without having my right leg buckle underneath me. The piriformis muscle lies deep beneath the gluteus maximus, and apparently I had overstretched it in pigeon pose!

Now I am thinking I can't even do Yoga....what's next a wheelchair? My attitude by this time was terrible and I became hell to live with.....dealing with menopause was cake compared to this.

So again, Brandon spent an entire session working deeply into that connective tissue in my bum until the piriformis muscle released.

The picture here shows Brandon at work with his myofacial technique for working this area. After that I just felt bruised, but could walk with a bit of a limp and mobility was getting better. Needless to say I removed pigeon pose from my yoga workout since my body doesn't like it....or silly me I came at it too aggressively.....typical!

The beauty of Yoga is you can adjust it to the level your body can handle. There are no hard fast rules. Any portion of the pose will work wonders for regaining flexibility and don't have to become a pretzel to reap the benefits of yoga. Patience is also key in learning anything poses cannot be rushed! Take it slow and steady and the poses will become easier over time. People that can get into some of those pretzel positions have been doing yoga for years and most their entire life. So don't compare yourself to them, something I had to overcome due to that competitive streak in me.

Yoga Will Help You Lose Weight, Build Strength Along With Endurance

Now I have to say that anyone who thinks that yoga is a wimpy girl workout, me included, has not experienced yoga to its fullest potential. I have changed my whole mindset of this fact.

If you are doing Hatha yoga then you may think this because this is more for relaxation and simple stretching through basic poses, and what I used to do way back when.

I have since incorporated Vinyasa Flow into my daily workouts and I can tell you that it gets me sweating, heart rate up, and is building muscle endurance beautifully. Plus the stretching benefits are incredible and it is so gentle on the is like receiving a massage all over. And the best part is it puts power back into my upper body! Think this looks easy, give side plank a try and see how long you can last holding this pose and tell me this will not strengthen the arms. Plank pose and Chataranga Dandasana which is lowering down in a reverse push-up from plank very slowly with elbows close to the ribcage is another great exercise for strength. I still have to do this on my knees at times. A real tricep and shoulder builder. Your core will also become equally powerful since it is from the center of our body we draw our strength and balance.

If Vinyasa isn't enough workout for you then there is Bikram and power yoga if you are wanting to engage in something more powerful, but I decided this was more strain and too long of an intense workout for me to sustain. But you will lose weight and build lean muscle like never before with these routines.

Vinyasa incorporates a flow that is soothing, relaxing, invigorating, energizing, fat burning, muscle building and creates incredible flexibility. Yoga is whipping my aging body back into wimpy girl workout here. And if this is what it takes to adjust to my workouts like my doctor said then this I can deal with because I have gained a whole new appreciation for my daily yoga. You even learn to breathe correctly since most of us are shallow breathers in our day to day lives, and I look forward to regaining full flexibility in my arms. Wow..... now that is flexible and something I used to be able to do 10 years ago.

If you are still skeptical about the ability to change your body through yoga practice then check this out from CNN about a man who loses 365 pound doing Yoga. Read about it or watch the video.....Truly inspirational!

Keeping It Going And A Workout Tip

Once I regained my full mobility which took until this April, eight months after the onset of my shoulder problems, I decided to step up my yoga with some stretch band workouts and light weights for building my biceps. One thing yoga will not do is work this area for building this muscle. It will strengthen every other muscle in the body, but the bicep is ignored except for lengthening it.

I was finally able to say goodbye to Brandon after several months of therapy and I owe him a debt of gratitude for helping me achieve a better quality of life once again. But I will call on him again when and if I should need his services.

I am continuing to get stronger and my body is getting leaner, and the best part is, my shoulders are completely pain free....whoop! I did nothing else except yoga throughout the winter months and now I am incorporating walking and bike riding with the nicer weather when we can get it.

In fact just the other morning I woke up after sleeping on my left shoulder and suddenly realized I had no pain from laying on it. No stiffness or soreness, just pure bliss of being able to enjoy the simple task of sleeping in my bed. I laid there for a moment, shifted, snuggled down and clutched my pillow and basked in the simple pleasure of just "being" was good! It is amazing the little things we take for clasping a bra....something we do out of habit or unconsciously, suddenly became a snap again to my amazement.

Yoga Becomes A Lifestyle Must

During my journey of regaining mobility and overcoming the depression the lack of it caused, I learned that yoga cannot be a hit or miss thing. When I would go just a couple of days without doing my yoga, mild pain would creep back into my shoulders and my mind, body and soul would feel less energized throughout my day. Once I did the workout, even performing it through a bit of stiffness, all things were right again and the pain was knocked back, and I would regain flexibility and my mind would become alive once again. I also noticed that I eat differently...better....healthier since doing yoga. It is as though my body doesn't want certain foods.

The beauty of yoga is you can do it everyday unlike weight lifting...muscles need a "rest" day to recoup. In fact you are better off doing 20 to 30 minutes of yoga everyday than a longer session 3 days a week...the body responds better. I discovered if I went much past 30 minutes I would lose interest and would poop out.

A Strong Recommendation Of Yoga DVD's

My favorite teacher on DVD for Vinyasa flow is Shiva Rea. She is truly remarkable and her teachings are excellent. She works with beginners to advanced and the music and locations add to the relaxation of the flows. I can't explain it, but the vinyasa flow creates such a calm and peace inside of me, and my body feels like putty when I am done. So relaxed, yet energized at the same time.

The two DVD's which are my favorites of hers are:

Shiva Rea Daily Energy Flow (my most recent purchase). Her latest production just this past December of '09. This offers 7 daily 20 minute routines with additional workouts for abs, relaxation, energizing, meditation and forward bends. This DVD is my favorite of them all due to the customizing I can do each day to pick the workout I want. It is designed to work with a Matrix so you can pick and choose your routine. Make them as long or as short as you need. I am never bored with this DVD yoga program.

Yoga Shakti filmed on location at the Maldive Islands was my first DVD I purchased of hers and it is also beautifully done. You can go from basic to highly advanced and this DVD also provides a Matrix in order for you to choose what different poses you wish to perfect or to pick your length of workout. I love this one for the scenery, sounds of the ocean and her voice never fails to motivate with a soft touch.

You will develop strength, flexibility, balance, better breathing and a capability of dealing with day to day stresses. Yoga has been recommended for those with arthritis, chronic ailments, fibromyalgia and any other sports injury one may have incurred. I am a true believer after going through what I went through. Without my yoga, I don't know where I would be today in terms of mental well being and pain in my body. All I know now is life is improved, I am happier and my body is performing to its fullest potential despite my age.

You can get both of these at Barnes and Noble or through Amazon. There are of course many other DVD's available and I have invested in quite of few, from the Yoga Zone workouts to Rodney Yee, and Crunch Yoga Series. But Shiva Rea is by far my favorite teacher.

Thanks for sharing in a day in my life and I hope what I shared with you today will help someone else who may be experiencing something similar to what I endured....

Don't give up or quit because it isn't over until it's over. I can only speak from personal experience, but yoga, like all things when taken slow, can and will bring a person back to living a normal life once again. In fact, in my humble opinion, everyone should discover and explore the healing art of yoga for themselves....Namaste!

Peace and Love! ;~)

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  1. An email I received from a reader:

    Hi Katherine

    I found your post regarding your shoulder injuries and yoga really interesting. I used to do yoga a lot, had a truly fantastic teacher but she moved away. I need to get back to doing it more regularly. I wish I could go back to the times of regular classes when she still lived up here!! Yoga helped me through some emotionally painful times, and with my shoulder troubles too.

    Cath W.

  2. Thanks Cath,

    That is what I am learning about Yoga does more than just alleviate pain, but truly does help with emotional issues. Sometimes when I'd think today isn't going to be a good day, I do a bit of yoga and feel so much better. Yoga assists with cleaning the lymphatic system and stimulating our organs for a good cleansing of body toxins we have stored up for some time. I think that is one reason I don't desire certain foods anymore! Holistic healing definitely is a big part of my life.

    I hope you find another good teacher Cath, but in the meantime check out Shiva Rea, she is excellent!

  3. Another email from a reader: And thanks De for sharing another resource to help us out for staying limber.

    Hey Katherine,

    When you mention that you suffer from frozen shoulder I immediately thought of my favorite and current DVD workout. It's called 'Classical Stretch'. I recommend it to everyone!

    Its a 30 min stretch program that I started doing for my low back pain. I haven't had a back pain attack for 6 months. My posture has also improved and I feel more flexible and lean. They also have episodes that focus on frozen shoulder. Check it out My favorite series is CLASSICAL STRETCH 2007 TV SERIES (SEASON 4) and 2009 Series Season 6.
    It's also shown on Public television (PBS) Mon. Wed, Fri at 8am. Here in Salt Lake she's on a station called UEN.

    Take Care. It's not fun getting older, thats for sure! But I believe good health and exercise will make it tolerable :)