Having arthritis in my hips has been a teacher that I would rather not have studied with but sometimes you don’t get to choose. You have to take the general education units in order to get to your major!
I started experiencing some hip pain a few years back and was diagnosed with arthritis in both of my hips. Yoga has taught me to view pain as a wise teacher that I need to pay attention to. So as my pain grew worse I knew I needed to take some drastic measures to help myself.
Last year in March I decided to take a break from teaching at our studio and either have hip replacement surgery or find some alternative that would relieve my daily, debilitating pain.
Over the course of this year I have tried everything I could think of that might work. I have had success in eliminating the pain I was experiencing in my hips, legs and knees. I am happy to report that I am pretty much out of pain and can do my daily life without pain meds! I am back to beach walks and feel so grateful that I have found relief. I cannot say I am 100% better but I can confidently say I am 80% better! I am looking forward to continuing this healing and regaining the strength and flexibility I lost.
I want to share some of things that have helped me heal and what I have learned along the way.
#1. Diet plays a MAJOR part. I know that’s nothing new and I had a fairly clean diet. I knew that eliminating gluten was necessary and haven’t had it for many years but I decided to test other foods. I found that some healthy foods can cause inflammation for me. I found that all yogurt, even plain, organic, “grass-fed” yogurt caused pain in my hips that would then radiate into my thighs. As did tomatoes and oranges. As my diet became cleaner I could feel the effects of my food more quickly. Sometimes very quickly after. I realized that could not eat at some of my favorite restaurants any longer. Being in pain after eating was just not worth it. I started to cook more at home. I only buy organic fruits and veggies, and use only organic coconut and olive oil in my recipes. I added turmeric, apple cider vinegar, chicken bone broth, collagen powder and probiotics. I started juicing. I found that I can drink certain wines and I can eat dark chocolate!! Yay! I also decided to have filtered water delivered and I drink more water than I used to as there are studies that say folks with arthritis are often dehydrated.
#2. I started meditating an hour everyday. I have mediated for years but I expanded my practice. There are many really great apps and CDs that you can meditate with. I bought a few and was inspired with new ways to go within. My favorite CD is called “You Are The Placebo” by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I highly recommend this recording. It was a little strange to me at first, but I have used it often and it has given me amazing results. It has helped alleviate my pain levels and the deep meditations are perhaps the cause of synchronistic events that have led to me find other ways to feel better. I have also called upon my friend and local healer Sudama Mark Kennedy to help me. Sudama’s work is mysterious and wonderful, and I really do not understand how it works. But it has helped my pain levels decrease and after our meditations together I would feel lighter and happier. Sudama also helped me to continue to believe that healing is possible and that the power of my mind is a powerful healing tool, capable of anything!
#3 Pain is a messenger. Being a yoga therapist, I know that when I am in pain physically, I am in pain emotionally… they are connected. If you look up arthritis in Louise Hay’s book “You Can Heal Your Life” it says that arthritis is about criticism. Yikes, I did not want to hear that! It really hit home though, as I was highly criticized growing up, and subsequently made it a point not to allow teasing or sarcasm in my own home. But it looked like I still had some work to do. I realized that the #metoo movement and the current awareness of the exploitation of women brought up past memories and resentments… more for me to let go of. I knew I needed to do some more work on forgiveness; – mostly with men, starting with my father, my brothers, and some not so great men I have worked for and had relations with in the past. In our teachers’ trainings we have tool that we share called “The Love Letter”. It is a way to release emotions and has helped me let go of emotional baggage and fear. I began writing Love Letters and with each one felt a little lighter. I know that seeing others with love and acceptance reflects back to me.
#4 Yoga! Being a yoga teacher and having hip pain has been very confusing, and, honestly, a little hard on my ego! Is the pain from yoga? Have I sat cross legged too often? Should I stop practicing? Well, I have to say that when I stopped yoga, my body tightened and the pain got worse. And on top of that I lost flexibility and strength. But yoga hurt and although I know that “heightened awareness” or discomfort was part of yoga, I didn’t know what was good pain and what was not so good. So, I experimented: I researched yoga for hip pain and visited physical therapists (they always sent me home with yoga poses!) I gave myself an anatomy lesson to fully understand what was going on. One day at the Goleta Public Library, that synchronicity that I was talking about earlier, happened. I had just been to the orthopedic surgeon for a second opinion as I was in considerable pain but that day I rounded myself up to join my family and go to the library. I was mulling around the health section when a book jumped out at me as if someone had pushed it from the other side (I even went around to look, but no one was there!). The book was called “Pain Free” by Pete Egoscue and was full of gentle restorative postures. I borrowed the book and few days later tried the suggested poses for hip pain. I had practiced these poses before but I was surprised to see how long he suggested holding the pose – 5 and 10 minutes in most cases. These simple poses changed began to change my posture and almost immediately worked to eliminate my pain. I started back with my Let It Go Yoga practice holding the poses even longer than I was used to. I use props to support the poses, so that the long holds are comfortable and that I can allow gravity to help my body to relax and let go. I am now starting to regain some flexibility! I have a way to go but I am happy that it’s working and I do love yoga, so practicing is not a chore.
Which brings me to the last point I am going to share today. Maybe it’s the essence of all healing.
#5 Do what you love. Having taught yoga for over 30 years, I am eternally grateful to have found such a fulfilling and rewarding career. I love practicing yoga and I love teaching yoga. It was a tough decision to let go of teaching classes in our studio. That’s probably why I had to be in so much pain to get me to even consider stopping. I knew I would miss seeing my students, who are all my friends. I knew that the rest of the family would miss everyone as well. It was also scary giving up the income that my yoga classes brought to our family. I knew that I needed to spend time and work on myself and over this past year I have found that the money has come in and that I am teaching yoga in a new way that I really couldn’t have imagined. It has been a labor of love to put our courses online but I have been so motivated to do so. It’s work that I love doing. I have learned new things and have studied many new topics. I have overcome fears and at times have made myself ”just do it”. It has been an exciting challenge to put myself out to a larger audience and see what happens. I wish I would have done it a lot earlier in life! My reward? I love hearing from a student that has experienced a break through or a teacher that is bravely starting out. I have students from all over the world! We now have a Let It Go Yoga teacher in Stockholm, Sweden. Our online teachers have taken Let It Go Yoga with them to share in India and are setting up classes in San Diego and Hawaii. We currently have students attending both of our Introduction to Let It Go Yoga and our Let It Go Yoga Certified Teacher Training and we haven’t really “launched” yet! We have only just begun! We are in the process of creating webinars and Facebook events that allow us to continue to teach more people. I still love teaching yoga and I love teaching yoga teachers, I just had not realized that I needed to work on myself more and that the teaching would show up in a new way. For that I thank my hips for screaming at me to make some changes. Letting go of something you love is hard but does open doors for new opportunities to come in. I want to get my lessons on all of this so that I can move forward – onto my major!
Thank you all for your help and support. I am sharing the four Restorative Poses that helped me the most. They are very simple… but don’t let that fool you, they do wonders. Click here for your copy.
Contributed by Sue Anne Parsons, Owner of Let It Go Yoga.