I could feel the pain radiating from my hip into my lower back and down my leg. When I tried to run, the pain was excruciating, and I would double over. I began to walk with a limp. I felt pain when I was standing and even when I was sleeping. It all began when I was thirty-four years old, after the birth of my second child. I was a runner, swimmer, cyclist, skiier and hiker, formerly a gymnast and diver too. As an athlete, I was no stranger to a little pain. I just assumed it would go away if I rested and took Ibuprofen. It didn’t go away.
I finally had an x-ray taken, and the abnormality in the shape of my hip bone was obvious. Only a third of my ball joint was covered by bone. In fact, the orthopedic surgeons were surprised I hadn’t suffered symptoms earlier. The remedy, I was told, was a total hip replacement. A total hip replacement means the surgeon cuts off the top of your femur (the ball) and replaces it as well as your acetabulum (socket) with a metal, plastic or ceramic one. It is a major operation and while usually incredibly successful at eliminating pain, it only lasts between ten and twenty years and certain yoga poses are not advisable due to the risk of dislocation. Being one who avoids medicine and hospitals, I decided to explore all other alternatives first.
After trying many different solutions, I found transformation in yoga. Eight years later, I have not only avoided surgery, but I went from being a person who walked with a limp and suffered from chronic pain to a person who cycles, swims, skis, hikes and does yoga with little pain. I have competed in numerous cycling races and even won my age group in one. I continue to amaze my kids when I’m able to do dance parties and play soccer with them. The miracle is yoga. Yoga strengthens and stretches the muscles around my joints and in my core, and it brings my body into better alignment resulting in less stress on my hip joint and less pain. But most importantly, I have gone from feeling sorry for myself because of my disability to feeling that my challenges are gifts that transform me and help me see the profound beauty of life more clearly.
Yoga can heal our minds, bodies and souls. It provides a way to turn within and feel grounded, to live in the moment and feel ones breath away from the frenetic world outside. If we listen to ourselves, it helps us get in touch with what we really want, need, and hope for and then it enables us to focus on compassion towards others and gratitude for our lives. In fact, one study has concluded that meditation which focuses on the breath “appears to be associated with measurable changes in the hippocampus, the brain region involved in memory, learning and emotion.” The study concludes that mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Previous research has demonstrated that mindfulness meditation may reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and chronic pain. In addition, one report that reviewed eleven clinical studies on the health benefits of yoga suggests that yoga can reduce symptoms such as tender, swollen joints, pain and disability associated with arthritis and improved feelings of self efficacy and mental health. More research needs to be done, but these studies conclude what I and millions of people around the world know: yoga has the power to heal.