Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Falling Open

I've added to my New Year's resolutions: At least one blog post a month! Honestly though I have so much to write about these days I want to do more. With my semester starting tomorrow, I thought I'd at least try to get one more post in. I've been successful in keeping up with yoga as a daily practice. Even though it's only been a few weeks since I've started I already feel a lot of rewards. Taking a half hour or more every day for myself has been important. "Me Time" has been one of the things I've missed the most about my previous gym rat lifestyle. Yoga has helped me gain more acceptance of myself. At the end of every practice, when the old thoughts of "Oh this isn't enough of a workout, do more" begin to rise I tell myself, "This is enough, I am enough." Then I think about all the benefits one can attain just from yoga practice and I feel so much better about myself and where I am right now.

We've all had our memory jogged by places and scents. Through daily practice I've found that my memory and emotions can be brought forth by poses. Every time I'm in Downward Facing Dog and I move my left leg forward so it's between my hands to do a lunge, I am so grateful. A month after surgery that pose was impossible for me. Now it's a reminder of healing, of progress and hope. Most days, when I do Baddha Konasana I find my left knee coming closer and closer to the ground. And some days, I'm tight, and it doesn't go so far. I don't get discouraged as much anymore. I know that each day my body is different and especially now that my hip is going through ART (Active Release Technique). Muscles are loosening, scar tissue is releasing, there is a lot going on and that's just in my hip!

Besides doing yoga I've been focusing on a "detoxifying diet"*. Most days I have a green smoothie that consists of kale, broccoli sprouts, tart cherry juice, fiber supplement with probiotics, shredded carrots, aloe juice, frozen blueberries and frozen mangoes. Some days I also try to add brown rice protein. This smoothie is a combination of foods that help both my stomach (the now latent gastritis/h. pylori) and reduce inflammation. I recently found out that broccoli sprouts are really good for controlling h. pylori, which is awesome! I'd rather have broccoli sprouts as a preventative than take Mastic Gum and Monolaurin when I feel symptoms acting up (as in when it's already too late). I've been eating a later, "second breakfast" of oatmeal with flaxseeds and raisins or craisins to keep me going until lunch time. Most recently I've tried to make quinoa for breakfast, and I've got to admit I really like it! I've been doing really well at making big, filling, delicious salads with some help from my friend Diana and Gena at Choosing Raw's awesome blog post "How to Build a Meal Sized Salad". In a world where I have all the free time I could want, I would love to write about different foods, their benefits and how to integrate them into your diet.

Last Saturday was the first day in three months that I didn't have noticeable hip pain! I spent most of the day so happy, so grateful that I'm feeling proof that all my efforts, all the pain I go through in ART is paying off. Overall I've seen a significant decrease in my daily aches and pains. I know that I'm going to continue to have ups and downs, but I feel I'm doing everything I can mentally and physically to push through the hard days. I know now that if I push myself too hard, even if its doing upper body strength training, it can set off a chain of reactions within me that can send my body back months. I hope to continue all the hard work I've been doing this winter break and keep with it through this next semester – hell, through the rest of my life.

I must note that the title of this post comes from a yoga philosophy blog by the same name that I have recently discovered and really enjoy. I've been working a lot at opening myself, to my own body and to those around me. It's just another way I've been trying to heal and that's helped by yoga practice. I've come across a lot of blogs and such that I really enjoy and have made an impact on me. Please check out:
The Everything Yoga Blog
Jennifer O'Sullivan at iHanuman
Flying Yogini
Brené Brown's TED Talk

* Note: I don't mean "detox" like I'm following some set plan by some guru, quack, former model, current celebrity where I drink water with maple syrup and lemon juice, fast for days, subsist on juices or anything like that. I mean "detox" in the sense that through research I've mish-mashed together an idea of foods that are good for me. Some of this has been through trial and error since I've started eating a healthy, mostly plant-based diet: Eating what I've noticed my body likes and avoiding what my body doesn't like. The main foods I avoid: sugar, dairy, coffee and alcohol. All of which are foods that increase inflammation. Oh and I've added in a lot more greens and antioxidant rich foods, ie foods that reduce inflammation.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

9 Months Post-Op

Three months have passed since my last post, and not that much has changed. The cortisone shot that I had didn't do anything. Bad News: I received no relief from the pain. Good News: That means the pain isn't coming from my hip joint. It was good to know that I could stop worrying about the actual hip joint and focus on the muscles around my hip. Through regular massage via the amazing Jessica (intuitivelotus.com) and tennis ball humping I was as close to pain-free as I've been since before the tear. A week or so before Thanksgiving I was feeling so much better that... I started running. Yes! Running! I ran a mile in 15 minutes or so, ok... that's not running that's "jogging" or whatever, but in any event I was going in a forward direction faster than walking. Muscle memory is incredible. Although I hadn't ran in a year I felt my body moving as though only a few weeks had passed. I had to keep slowing myself down. My whole body tingled with glee on that first "run". I ran again that week, two miles in one week after almost a year of zero.

On Thanksgiving, with my boyfriend's family acting supportive but worried, I went out into the freezing rain and ran a mile. It felt awesome although it was simultaneously freezing. Unfortunately the next day I went to the gym, and I pushed myself a little too far. I'm not mad at myself. I have to relearn my boundaries every day. Every day is a test of what I can and can't do. There is no clear forward/linear direction in this healing process. (I will get to more of that later.) So I overdid it at the gym not running (I stopped when I was starting to have the old shooting pains, my hip had had enough.) but with tiny stupid weights. I was trying to strengthen my back and triceps to prepare for swimming again. I am completely useless in the water unless I have built up my arms and back. I ended up pulling the muscle that runs along the bottom of the scapula; so badly in fact that I had to take muscle relaxers and sit with a heating pad on my back for a week. After several days of using the heating pad, then doing the yoga pose plow, my back returned to normal – but my hip returned to a near constant state of pain. I'm sure the fact that I pulled a muscle that is right next to where my psoas connects to my spine did not help my situation.

I went to a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic a few weeks ago. Luckily (or not so luckily) the pain in my groin was flaring pretty bad that morning. I made my doctor feel where I was experiencing the pain. The thing with orthos is, no matter how great they are, they are concerned with bones and joints, that's it. The surrounding muscle and fascia could be on the moon for all they care. Once he felt where the muscle was pulling he had a very surprised expression on his face. "It's... it's like a cord! That's... impressive!" "That's not impressive," I responded, "it f*cking hurts!" He decided to refer me to Dr.Orefice at Active Health. I went to my first appointment with Dr.Orefice last week. He decided that he will mostly be using ART or Active Release Techniques to help my psoas calm down and break up scar tissue. I really hope that this is finally the procedure I need to break up the sh*t residing in my hip. During the first visit, even though it was painful I felt that he was getting to the major sources of my pain. OK, so what is ART and how does it work?

From Active Health's website:
"ART providers utilize highly developed tactile skills and knowledge of physiological symptom patterns to locate scar tissue adhesions on and in between muscles and nerves. A precise hand or thumb contact is applied to the correct area (tension to the tissue) and the recipient is directed to move the effected region of the body through a specific range of motion (muscle is shortened then lengthened). This causes the muscles to slide under the ART providers contact. This technique has proven to rapidly break up scar tissue and yield recovery of many types of soft tissue pain conditions found in the work place and in sports."

2010 was a long and frustrating year. I've decided that this year, in order to better deal with my pain and anxiety issues I will try to be a more faithful yogi. I came across the book "A Year of Living Your Yoga: Daily Practices to Shape Your Life" by Judith Hanson. As I was searching to see if there were any blogs that reviewed 'A Year of Living Your Yoga', I came across a blog called Yoga Dork. Yoga Dork is just one of the blogs trying to practice yoga daily and put into practice Hanson's daily insights to approaching life and yoga. So I will be trying to do yoga every day, on days where my psoas/hips are really tight I will be practicing my new favorite type of yoga: yin yoga.

I've been doing home practice since most of the yoga classes in this area (at times I'm available) are vinyasa. Though every teacher is different, I've found that most vinyasa classes move too quickly. I've always preferred slower paced yoga, being able to stay in poses and really enjoy their full benefit. I've noticed great improvement in my flexibility since practicing yoga regularly a month or so after the surgery and now. Practicing has made me grateful for how far I've come. Even though I still experience pain, my hip has more flexibility and is able to do more poses without modifications.

I set up an account with MyYogaOnline.com so that I can practice using their videos. MyYogaOnline provides videos of a wide variety of yoga styles. Classes range from a quick 15 minutes to longer hour and a half sessions. They also have pilates videos and guided meditations. This year, besides continuing with grad school, I hope to make further progress in my recovery. It is my intention that through regular yoga practice I can learn to be more patient with my body and regain a higher awareness of its ups and downs, and learn to respect whatever it may be able to do day by day.