How was my last experience with THE WORK in LA?
Besides being a nice excuse to get away from my daily routine, soak up some needed warm sunshine, and reconnect with some wonderful inspiring people, this time I was not so thrilled to be doing “The Work…” I left Seattle in pain and knew I could not cancel my trip, and still stay in the program due to my pain. It would also not be sufficient to just go and observe. I know that they expect to see us participating, moving, and working! If I did not go and experience first hand the work in my body I would have to drop out of the program. I have worked hard to get in and stay in the program thus far, and their philosophy, which I also believe in, is that you have to experience something if you want to teach it.
What was my pain?
I had intense pain in my left neck, trapezius, and shoulder. At the time I did not know that my pain was due to a big herniation between C6 and C7. Just found out this past week (1 full week after completing my week in LA).
How was my experience?
One word can sum up my last trip to LA for “The Work,” “OOOUCH!”
How did I get my herniation?
What can I say? It’s always a dynamic! As we all know, life is just that, one messy but beautiful dynamic. Whether we like it or not it usually makes sense, if not right away then it will down the road of life. Personally, after contemplating how I got so badly injured, I would have to say that its my own damn fault. For starters, my injury has been accumulating all my life and I have done my fair share of slouching! Also, having broken my back when I was 7 at L1/T12 (another story) does not help either. I have always felt an unrelenting stickiness in my low back that I constantly try to pull out of. Maybe that’s why my love for yoga grew at such a young age? Unfortunately, my stretching efforts to get out of my low back usually only manifest up at my neck. My husband can confirm this as he hears me crack my neck every night before I get in bed after my nightly yoga stretch routine. He always warns me often that I should not crack my neck so much and that “cracking” was not a ‘good’ thing but it felt good to me and I never thought I would be where I am now.
More recently, around the beginning of February I also fell on my head. It was a nice fall, but none the less, it did have some impact and I felt the consequence in my low back and my neck the following day. If any of you Pilates Enthusiasts are familiar with an exercise called the ‘squirrel’, I was doing a variation of just that on the Cadillac with my feet in the fuzzies, except I was in a backbend and to what I recall a bit twisted. I cannot even remember how I got in that position to be honest. I was in my bi-weekly pilates session and at this particular moment I was just playing and having fun. My Pilates sessions, to be honest, are usually my “recess”:). Simple fun!
Almost 2 months after my fall, and I was still feeling a nagging tightness in my neck and upper left back. Part II of The Work was soon approaching and I was a little nervous because I knew my body was not feeling the best. I was convinced that it was just a rib or part of my upper thoracic that needed to be adjusted back into alignment. My husband, Pontus, as most of you know is a Doctor of Osteopathy and can help me time to time if i’m nice of course! I was nice(he’s usually nicer), so he did try to help me on several occasions. He was not able to manipulate what I was sure I needed to be manipulated and was blown away with how tight my left trapezius muscle and levator scapula had gotten. He advised me not to mess with it any more and just do gentle stretches and ice as he thought I had a nerve pinched.
I however, being stubborn and wanting “a fix” decided to go to a chiropractor I had seen before for iliocecal valve difficulties when I was having trouble with digestive issues. I was able to make 2 appts back to back right before I were to leave for California for The Work. I was so happy that I was able to get in and I thought I would finally be able to get some relief before the MAT portion of The Work(the most challenging module as you do not have any support from the apparatus). I had worked hard on my homework and felt prepared but I also wanted to feel better in my neck and shoulder before going into the big demanding week ahead.
My first chiropractic appt went well. The chiropractor was able to adjust my low back and also my upper thoracic. I felt some relief, but still had the nagging pain in my upper neck and left shoulder. I went back the following day and before I left Pontus said to me, “do not let him touch your neck!” However, when I arrived at the chiropractor, I said I was still feeling tight and stuck in the same places. He listened and told me that he thought he could help as he just returned from a course that was all on the neck and upper traps so I said, “ok, see what you can do.” Well, I know now that saying that was a BIG mistake! Right away I felt and heard a huge ‘POP.’ I did not know what to think…so what did i do? I continued with my day in auto pilot and even went to a yoga class and did Headstand(how stupid am I?). I should have iced! That night I was in so much pain I barely slept as my left trapezius and neck were hurting more than ever.
I left to teach that morning before I left that afternoon and was in pain the whole time and realized I even had a hard time bending over and tying my shoe laces! I called Pontus at work and asked him, “what should I do?” He said, “Brooke you will be okay, just take some pain meds, turmeric, anything to reduce inflammation and ice.” I am thinking, okay, I will be okay, just take it easy.
The following day, my demanding schedule was looking straight at me! On average I had 3 Pilates sessions/lessons a day. On Saturday and Sunday it was an all day MAT workshop with Jay Grimes. We must have performed the Mat sequence at least 5 times each day. It was actually okay when I was warmed up and moving and continuing to reach and create my own traction and length, but very painful to just lie down and put pressure on my back or the transition from lying to seated to standing etc. IN between moving I iced and lathered on arnica gold cream and red tiger balm like never before! Everyone knew I was not feeling the best and asked me if there was anything they could do, I thanked everyone for their concern. There were several others who were also going through some their own issues they were working out as well. One individual had a torn rotator cuff and there were also some other interesting cases! We were all in it together and I think just knowing I was not alone helped me in addition to just continuing to breathe, believe, ice, and take epson salt baths in between my sessions as I counted the days till I could go back home!
So what got me through probably the most painful week of my life(beside child birth of course)!
I know I was in pain and I needed to come up with a plan to hep myself get through the intensive week and Mat workshop with Jay Grimes. Besides reminding myself to “take one day at a time” and also calling my husband and hearing him reassure me “that everything will be okay”…I knew it was important for me to start my day off right. Some of you that I teach may here me say, do not rush, take your time, and most importantly set yourself up for success! I used this for myself and this helped me in my misery! Here’s a look at my morning routine and how I set my day up for success.
-literally rolled out of bed at 6am. Sat and on my bed and breathed deeply to create and find space in my back and neck.
-Drank my morning ritual of warm lemon water and and also some l-glutamine as I caught up on the morning news briefs and iced my neck.
-I followed with my bullet coffee(I brought my inversion blender with me) and my berries and a coconut chocolate drink with bone broth to kick start my day with sustained delicious energy. UMMMM, so good.
-I would then normally do a 15 minute full body yoga routine to help wake me up and uplift my body from the nights sleep. Unfortunately, the routine was too painful and instead I did some light stretches targeting my upper back, chest, and neck all while I held and gently lifted my head to create traction for my compressed hurting neck. I usually stood up against the wall in my room just breathing and lengthening my back in and up against the wall. This would help me align myself so I could work on melting my front body into my back and the wall to give me support all the while lifting my spine and creating more length in my neck out of my shoulders.
-9am – walked 1 mile to the studio listening to some Hawaiian happy reggae to continue my beautiful day.
Some of my mantras that were particular useful to me were…
take care of me
start with a good position
be present and observe
less is more
control and contain self
We cannot always control the ‘life’ that is presented to us whether that be a particular situation, disagreement, argument with family or friends, problem at work, or personal challenge possibly with the state our body is in. Regardless, if there is a reason, deep down we know that there always is (whether we like it or not)….we do have a choice to control our mind and our actions to help better our situation. This in a nutshell is Pilates….the art of Contrology. THE ART OF CONTROL. I hope, that I can continue to fine tune my Pilates in and out of the studio to better serve my life and as a consequence the lives that surrounds me. I am so grateful.
stay tuned on what comes next…:)