This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Sheryl Stich. Sheryl is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 500 hour teacher training program and an instructor at Whole Life Yoga. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our bodies are made up of a complex matrix of muscles, bones, organs, energy, nerves and emotions. Our hips are centrally located and intricately connected with the rest of the body. Because of theses interconnections, it can sometimes be a challenge to determine where pain originates. We can even have problems in one area of the body, but we experience the discomfort in another area of the body, called referred pain.
When I was 22 I started to have pain in my right low back, which traveled down to my knee and foot. The doctors thought I had tense muscles in my back and gluts and gave me exercises to help relieve the tightness. After 17 years of unrelenting pain, and working with various doctors and therapists, my primary care physician sent me for an x-ray of my hip joint. There it was, plain as day – the cartilage was almost non-existent, which was causing the pain in my back, and referring pain down my leg. The doctor said the only way to fix it was to have a total hip replacement. I said, “This pain can be fixed? Sign me up!” I had no injuries or other things that might cause the cartilage to erode. Many of my family members had hip replacements, so my problem was probably genetic. The surgery was highly successful. Afterwards the pain was virtually gone! Amazing – what was thought to be back pain was actually being caused by my hip joint.
Several years later, terrible pain suddenly started shooting from my other hip joint down the front of my leg. I was certain something had happened to that hip joint, so I went immediately to my orthopedic surgeon. When I described the location of the pain, he told me it was a disc in my back, not my hip joint. “Funny, I thought, this time I think it’s my hip, and it’s actually my back.” I had surgery to trim the bulging disc, which immediately relieved the pain, but left me feeling a need to do something to help preserve my joints and hopefully stave off future surgeries.
I decided to start practicing yoga. As I was walking down Greenwood Avenue one day I noticed Whole Life Yoga and met Tracy Weber as she was opening the front door. I told her about my back and hip surgeries, and asked if this would be a good yoga for me? The answer was a resounding “yes!” She explained the benefits of Viniyoga to me, and I started taking classes that week.
After a few years of yoga practice, I took the Whole Life Yoga basic, and then advanced teacher training programs. As I was designing a hips practice for myself for the training, it occurred to me that others might also benefit from the practice, so I developed Yoga for Happy Hips class. In this past year I have had a hip revision surgery on my right side to replace the worn out synthetic cartilage from my 16-year old original hip replacement (when it was first replaced, the estimated life span was ten years). I believe my yoga practice helped me to lengthen the life of the joint by keeping the muscles around my hip joint strong and flexible. My left hip joint has lost a significant amount of cartilage over the years, so I practice to keep that hip strong and flexible too.
Through yoga, I have learned to listen to my body. When I have pain, yoga helps me not only physically, but helps me remain more calm and relaxed which helps reduce stress and discomfort. I truly enjoy helping my students by sharing my knowledge and experience with them, whether it’s tight muscles, stress, injuries or the myriad of other challenges that can cause hip discomfort.
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!