I had a revelation the other day. My yoga teaching might be contributing to two health related problems I’m having. This was a huge revelation for me because as a yoga teacher and one that specifically focuses her teaching, books, online courses and blog posts on the anatomy of yoga, my first question was: “How could I have missed this!?”
Well, I think you pretty much know the answer to that. It’s the hardest thing ever to apply what you know to yourself. You’re too close to it, you miss the signs and, as a yoga teacher, you’re generally too focused on what everyone else is doing to be worried about yourself. But that all changed once I started physical therapy last week.
I started with a high degree of hope that my P.T would be able to help me with my plantar fasciitis. If you’ve never had this issue, it’s a thickening and tightening of the plantar fascia at the bottom of your foot. See: plantar fasciitis. I know it’s related to standing a lot, to walking in bare feet (as I do each day in the studio) and is especially prevalent in runners (I do run but not in the colder months, so I haven’t been running lately). For me, my plantar fasciitis seemed to spring up one day at the gym, when I was doing lunges while holding weights.
Along with my right sided plantar fasciitis, I’ve had this recurring but intermittent left sided shoulder pain and these “attacks” seem to me to be biceps tendonitis and are related to picking up something heavy or first thing in the morning quick movements, as you might do if you’re rushing to get to work. In any event, my trip to PT was to address both problems.
What her evaluation found was that both issues, and the accompanying tingling feeling down the lateral aspect of my right (effected) leg could be a slightly hypertonic nerve, aggravated by excessive backbending and reaching the arms up above the head. All of this got me thinking: What the heck was happening to my body and how did I get here?
I spent a few days looking closely at my patterns of movement. I noticed that in class while teaching, I was demo’ing A LOT. I wasn’t really “doing” yoga but more making some of the movements. Things like reaching up and folding forward; doing a handful of poses with class or even taking a few Sun Salutations with them.
I also took a look at my movement patterns throughout the day. Most of my “getting around” was on foot; in a variety of not-so-great footwear (when it comes to supportive footwear). I also knew that there was the unavoidable barefoot walking at the studio and the 4-day a week-for-5-hours barista job I have at a coffeeshop.
I also started to look at the bag I was using to carry around all my stuff. Some days, my boyfriend would pick it up and he’d say, “My god, what are you carrying in here!?” I realized that it’s no wonder I have shoulder pain. I’m carrying a huge bag all the time!
I talked about my sleep patterns with my P.T. She suggested sleeping on the back, supporting the effected arm with a pillow. I realized I never sleep on my back but almost always on my side. I tried to sleep on my back and hated it but stuck with it for a few days, trying to make a parallel to being in shavasana. After a few days, I started to get used to it.
Once I did a few P.T. sessions, I better understood the exercises she wanted me to do and could do them on my own. I made a schedule and started to do them twice a day and went to the gym to do the exercises that required weights (while standing barefoot to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the feet). Today, after two days of this, I noticed for the first time in months, I don’t feel any foot pain!
I bought a new bag that is more of a backpack style and started to use that with only a few things for my short trips around. I bought really good running shoes and started to wear them. I went back to riding my bike for longer trips versus walking. I made a schedule to allow me 1/2 hour each morning to do my exercises and myofascial release. I’m interested to see how this all impacts both of my issues by week’s end. I also decided to try a few body worker sessions too.
So, what’s the point of all of this? The point for me was that even though I was focused on other people’s movement patterns, I literally was blind to it in myself. I couldn’t see how what I was doing, both on the mat, off the mat, in teaching and in activities of daily living, was contributing to my physical pain in the shoulder and foot. And, as a teacher of anatomy, I am fully convinced that everything is connected and often the issues we feel in one part of the body could be related to a problem we’re having someplace else. I started to wonder if a body worker might be able to help me determine if there is a related issue between my right sided foot pain and my left sided shoulder pain. I look forward to diving into this issue further.
It is imperative for our health that we keep striving for answers; that we consult with others; that we stay curious and open-minded to feedback and that we seek input from a variety of professionals. I’ll keep you posted on how things go over the next few weeks!
Thanks for reading!