I shared this on Facebook on August 28th...
This is a long story of how one day I craved hot yoga and green juice.
At the very beginning of June, I injured myself and with five days could not move. I did not know what the problem was and made an appointment with my primary doctor. It was for a week later and I called UPMC irate and they got me in to see a specialist the very next day. He took x-rays and discovered that I had mild scoliosis in my back and early onset way down low in the S-1/tailbone area. Nothing else seemed to be causing my pain. But then, not even two days later it got worse. My entire left leg from butt to foot had gone numb on the back and hurt worse than anything I had ever felt before. I was literally stuck on my couch, on my hands and knees and pillows under my stomach and did not move unless it was to get up to go to the bathroom or to the doctors.
I saw my primary doctor and he prescribed pain killers, muscle relaxers, and a round of steroids to bring down muscle swelling as he suspected muscles were pinching the sciatic nerve. It didn't help. I was back in just a few days as it had intensified. He upped the pain killers, changed the muscle relaxers, and at Rick's request because I was not sleeping prescribed me sleeping pills. I tried a second round of steroids and then moved onto PT which only aggravated the problem even worse. At long last, I was finally referred for an MRI where they found an hourglass shaped spine, three bulging discs and one herniated disc. It was the herniated the L5-S1 disc that was crushing the nerve and causing all the pain and numbness. My surgeon repeatedly referred to my back as "your junky spine."
I had a microdiscectomy within the week. The surgeon went in and removed the expelled disc matter that was on the nerve. It wasn't a very long surgery nor a complicated one (compared to other surgeries) but it left me with a two inch long incision just about where my tailbone is and so many weak and sore muscles. The pain from my leg was gone immediately following surgery and the numbness was about 50% receded. Over the next week, I couldn't do anything but lay very carefully on my back. I wasn't permitted to bend, twist, lift, or even reach my arms above my head and I don't think I could really have done any of those things anyways the first couple weeks.
Everything healed well but for the six weeks after surgery I had those restrictions but was permitted to walk. My first walk was maybe 100 feet and I had to hold onto Rick and by the end of it I was dripping in sweat and exhausted. It hurt and ached to hold up my torso. The incision hurt. My left leg wasn't very co-operative and it seemed I now had a limp. The numbness seemed to have increased by the end of the walk especially in the outside bottom of my foot and the heel.
I was determined and walked a little bit more each day and by six weeks after surgery I was walking 5-6 miles a day (a couple of walks a day) and was faster than I had been at the start of this all but still with numbness and limping and not at the speed I once used to be able to walk at. I didn't care so much--I was walking. I wasn't permitted to run and being unable to lift my left foot properly I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to run again but I could walk. And soon, perhaps use the elliptical or ride a bike for a little bit--or as long as I could bear to sit. (As of today, I can only manage about 45 minutes before it feels like a spike is being driven into my tailbone)
I began PT last week. I had an evaluation on Wednesday and had my first official session on Friday. It wasn't terribly difficult and I decided that I would continue PT as prescribed at the two sessions a week. The therapist remarked that despite my injury and my left leg being weaker than my right that I was still pretty strong and flexible compared to the average person. I laughed and asked him if he was joking and told him that he should have seen me before--that I was much stronger and much more flexible and still that was nothing compared to those I had practiced yoga with and what I aspired to be myself.
Yesterday, exactly seven weeks post surgery and about thirteen weeks since I got hurt, I woke up and knew that today was the day that I must return to Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh I don't know where the thought came from as through all the pain I expected never to be well enough to return but come it did. As the day went on, I became more and more sure that I HAD TO GO. I went to PT and then went home and put on my yoga clothes and gathered up all of my things.
I went to the 4 pm class.
The studio looked almost exactly as it had did when I had taken my last class on May 28th. I was so happy to walk in that door and so excited to put my mat down in the hot room. The heat felt GLORIOUS. There's no other word for it. Many, many times over the weeks post surgery when all I wanted to do was stretch out and wasn't allowed to I thought of how wonderful it would be to come to the studio and just quietly lay in the corner of the room and allow the heat to soak into me and relax my poor muscles.
I had no expectations for class; I did the positions as best as I could and was incredibly cautious and did not push a single thing. I did less than I thought I could and let my body re-learn the movements. Listen to the words of the teacher and allow them to sink in. Class was difficult physically because everything was so sore and tight. It was difficult because I had to remind myself that it didn't matter what I could do before. I was here now and this is what I could do now.
Class was amazing. My body may be slower to respond than I would like, but my mind and soul were soaring with happiness. For the first time in over three months, I felt like the body I was in belonged to me. It was changed, yes, but with practice it would change again. I walked out of the studio with my spirits high and treated myself to fresh juice from The Pittsburgh Juice Company. Surprisingly, I wanted the green juice and it has never tasted better. I picked up Power Berry for later and one of Rick's favorites for him.
I am so grateful for this yoga. I think it is because I practiced this yoga so steadily through out the winter and early spring (every day for 100 plus days! and then several times a week until my injury) that my strength and flexibility are as good as my therapist says and coming back at a good rate. I think it is because I practiced this yoga, that when I finally was allowed to walk and it was miserable that I kept going. I remembered the saying about the thing you hate most is the thing you need most. I think it is because of this yoga that I will heal the damage done from the injury and subsequent surgery.
I am so happy to be back to class...and if you made it this far...I bet you are glad to be done reading this!!