This is an awesome post by a regular student at our Augusta Road location, Laura A. Garren…
I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times: yoga changed my life. I don’t know how else to put it. But each person has his or her own experience, so each story therefore must be unique. Without further delay, I will relate the first part of mine.
I started practicing in January 2011 because of lower back pain, which had started four years earlier. I injured it gardening too hard after the death of my mother, and I never fully recovered. I tried medication, exercise, massage, chiropracty, and even physical therapy; each helped for a while, but I could tell that my back was waiting for the opportunity to start hurting again. The pain lurked. On top of that problem, I also began suffering from sciatica.
In August 2007, eight months after my mother died, my husband had a massive stroke that left without the ability to speak, read, write, use his right arm, and walk normally. I quit my job as an English teacher at Clemson University to care for him. My back pain continued, at times becoming worse with the stress and exhaustion of my new role. At this point, my health was secondary as I struggled in the wake of Chuck’s stroke. My back hurt most of the time, and I dealt with it by consuming ibuprofen like candy and by icing it.
Two years ago we moved to Greenville from Pendleton to be closer to friends and Chuck’s therapy and to have a wider array of cultural activities. I joined the YMCA because by this time, I knew I had to take care of myself in order to continue taking care of Chuck. I rode the stationary bike and worked with resistant weights in an effort to strengthen my muscles, particularly hoping to address the on-going back pain. While I did feel better as a result of the physicality, I reached a plateau where no more improvement occurred.
Then I saw that the Y offered yoga instruction, so I decided to go. I had always heard that yoga was a strenuous, mind-altering activity but never felt compelled to try it. However, I figured I had tried everything else short of surgery (although my pain was never severe enough for me to consider this route), so no harm would result.
My first impression was, “Yoga is harder than it looks!” I had no idea how much strength was required to hold one’s body in some of the poses. I realized that yoga was a form of weight lifting, in which the weight being lifted is that of one’s own body. I liked yoga more than I did any exercise machine; better than any exercise class I had ever taken. Aerobics, to me, was a stressful, unpleasant activity. Yoga, on the other hand, gave me a good workout but also left me feeling relaxed. I loved it so much I began to go to Greenville Yoga in order to be able to practice every day, as the Y had classes I could attend only five days a week.
After a month, my back pain had receded so much that I only had problems after being on my feet for hours hiking, or after stooping during housework or gardening. And then, I recovered much faster than before: I just lay down on ice for an hour and the pain was gone, whereas before, I was bedridden for the rest of they day.
I’ve been practicing eight months and yoga has been the best remedy for my back pain out of many the remedies I’ve tried. Plus, I haven’t had an attack of sciatica once since starting my practice. I don’t know if I will ever be completely pain-free, but I look forward to finding out as I go deeper into my practice.
Yoga has changed my life in other ways, as well, but I will save that part of the story for another time.