Around May of 2011, I noticed I had some pain in my left leg. It felt like a “pulled” muscle, so like any good on-again, off-again yogi, I started doing stretches that targeted my hamstrings and glutes. In hindsight, I had been experiencing lower back pain (and ignoring it) for decades. I was a ballerina (tucked pelvis, turned out feet, ribs thrust out) and a cheerleader (lots of 90-100lb. girls standing on my shoulders) as a child and young adult. I had been in a few car accidents. I sat in school and at home for hours and hours a day. I had been to chiropractors, massage therapists, etc. They would relieve my pain for a while, but it never occurred to me to change the way I lived! Lower back pain, 3 years ago, at 35 years old, had just become a fact of life. One morning, in September of 2011, I woke up and couldn’t bend over at all. I tried to get dressed for work and couldn’t. I could hardly breathe, the pain was so bad. We had a training class at work, and I had to be there in order to open and set up the conference room. I took some Aleve, managed to put on a skirt, and drove to my office (about 25 miles) in excruciating pain. I did what was needed for the class, and then finally limped into my office and collapsed in tears on the couch. I couldn’t move. I was terrified. I had no idea what was wrong with me. Thankfully, there was a chiropractor down the hall. She did her best, but at this point, all of the muscles of my lower back and left leg were in full-blown spasm. This began what would be one of the hardest, darkest, most sad, scary, and painful times of my life. I have never experienced pain like this. I am someone who can normally handle high levels of physical pain, but this had me screaming, crying, and (no kidding) wishing for death. I eventually went to an Urgent Care center (I am not fond of emergency rooms, and only go if I absolutely have to) and they took x-rays and informed me I had a compressed disk between L4 and L5 (the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae). They sent me on my way with some non-narcotic muscle relaxers and a prescription for Ultram. With the help of two wonderful chiropractors (one of which came to my home and braved my protective Chihuahua to work on me in my bed), my amazing massage therapist, my mom, and a gaggle of the best friends anyone could ever hope for, I was able to get through the pain, and start my healing journey. Along with not being fond of emergency rooms, I am even less fond of surgery. Everyone that I talked to that had had surgery for this kind of issue was still in constant pain, and had to rely on heavy pain meds in order to function. I knew there had to be another answer.
I was bedridden for about a month. I couldn’t stand for long periods of time, I couldn’t sit, and I could barely walk during this time. Slowly, over a period of about 3 months, I was able to sit up, stand, and even walk around a bit. Thankfully, my job permits me to work from home (or in this case, bed) and I didn’t go in to the office until December of 2011. My chiropractor had given me a few exercises to do, and I had been able to see her a few times without screaming in agony as she attempted to massage my muscles. She would talk about my psoas, my iliacus, and my piriformis. These words were foreign to me. Muscles in my body I didn’t even know existed. This is when I started doing some research, and this is when I found Katy Bowman and Restorative Exercise™. I started doing some of the exercises I found on her website. I started to FEEL BETTER! I could walk for longer periods of time. I could move around without as much pain. I had hope.
Towards the end of the year, Katy sent out an email about her Whole Body Alignment Course. A 60-hour course that I could take online to learn more about whole body alignment, and it was also the pre-requisite for spending a week with her learning how to teach Restorative Exercise™to others. I purchased it immediately.
Over the next few years, my progress was slow but steady. For the 9 months or so after I could actually walk again, I could barely do any yoga or walk more than a half mile without having to come home and lay on an ice pack. I couldn’t sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time at night. It was not fun, and I would get very discouraged and throw my hands up and feel sorry for myself and not stretch or exercise for months. I put on weight. I was tired all the time. But slowly, very slowly, I started to do the exercises daily. I started to walk in shoes without heels and found that I could walk much longer distances that way. I realized how much better I felt as I went through my day when I did my exercises as opposed to not. And they’re not really “exercise”, y’all. They take at the minimum, 30 minutes a day. Not a huge deal. But the difference I started to feel was incredible.
Over the last year, I’ve really ramped up my personal practice with the restorative exercises. In addition, I’ve also learned how to eat better, and have completely given up fast food, soda, and (almost) anything with harmful chemicals or anything that doesn’t come from the Earth. I do know that moving more and having my body in alignment is a big part of that process so my body can actually USE the minerals that come from my food. I’ve shed most of the weight I put on, I can sleep through the night, my body feels great, I have almost NO menstrual cramps anymore, and I can pick up my nephew and get down on the floor and play with him. I couldn’t have done any of that the year before. I got the opportunity to attend a Restorative Exercise™ Specialist certification week in Minneapolis at the beginning of August, and am one step away from certification. I am so excited to get to teach this amazing healing information to others.
I’ve learned so much about my body. I know what muscles are where, and what they’re supposed to do, and how to evaluate on myself and others what’s REALLY going on with our bodies. I’ve learned the difference between natural movement for optimal cellular regeneration and intense exercise for physical fitness. Exercising for physical fitness is fine, however, it is not what creates optimal cellular regeneration and therefore the kind of health and wellness we have the intention of creating when we start an exercise program. I’ve learned that chronic exercisers are dying at the same rate and of the same diseases as those that we call “couch potatoes”. I’ve learned how to hold my body in alignment and to move from that space, and I feel so much better when I do. I went on a long hike a few weeks ago, holding and moving my body in alignment almost the entire time. Thanks to understanding my alignment and how to have a natural gait pattern, when I was done I felt like I’d had a full-body massage. Years ago, I would have been in pain after a hike like that. It was amazing!
So, this is my story. Does any of this sound like you? What I have to say is this: Most of us have started to accept chronic pain as a way of life. I know I had. I just figured “Oh well, I have back problems.” That had become a part of my identity. It isn’t anymore. Because once that process starts, if we don’t change the way we live, we’re in for much more serious issues down the road. Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, pelvic floor disorders, and cardiovascular disease (just to name a few) are on the rise in our country, and there IS something we can do about it. It is my intention to help to educate people on how our bodies work, and how to get back to whole body health. Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t been perfect along this journey, and I still have a long way to go, but I am so grateful to be armed with the knowledge and education to continue to improve and to help others to improve as well.
Thanks for reading! For more information about my Restorative Exercise™ practice, please click here, and let’s get started!