Bikram Yoga eases chronic pain

Guest Post: Jen C.

Ten years ago a truck ran a red light, t-boned my Honda and left me to a decade-long battle with chronic pain. Both sides of my neck were whipped around, concentrating the pain in my neck and shoulder muscles–and radiating out to the connecting head, facial and jaw muscles. The pain is nagging, persistent and all-over.TP_scmS

I’d tried everything from prescribed narcotics and muscle relaxers to physical therapy and memory-foam pillows. None of that really provided lasting or complete pain relief, and I thought I’d exhausted all my options. I’d learned to live with it. I thought I had to. 

And then, by accident, I discovered Bikram Yoga

A friend of mine was in town and wanted to work out, but she forgot her tennis shoes. I begrudgingly agreed to try Bikram–that heated-room, humid, grueling, gross form of yoga. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. 

We got there, and even the lobby was hot and humid. The instructors said all I needed to do was stay in the room, if nothing else. Once I walked in, I realized that would be easier said than done. 

Unlike other forms of yoga, a Bikram thermostat is set to at least 105 degrees and about 40 percent humidity. They said it’d be normal to feel nauseous or dizzy–and that some positions would “hurt like hell.” Great.

(On top of the indoor climate adjustment, I was afraid of being the newbie or “not in shape enough” or the girl who’s gross and sweaty. The news for me? Everyone in Bikram is gross and sweaty–and there were a LOT of beginners. At least I fit in!)

The first class was really tough. I sat through at least a quarter of the class, and laid down a couple of times, too. (I learned later that you’re not supposed to lie down during the standing series of the class because it takes too much exertion.) You’re standing or sitting in pretty much one place for 90 minutes, but it’s an incredible cardio workout. They say you’re joining the breath with the heart–a lot more eloquent than hopping on the elliptical.

The practice was completely torturous and pain-relieving at the same time. My body seemed to be working harder than during most vigorous weight-lifting sessions with my (very tough) personal trainer. But I could feel my muscle pain letting go and easing up. It was a complete release of muscular tension.

That day I was ravenously hungry and thirsty. The next day I was sore. But the third day was the revelation: My neck didn’t hurt.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like to have pain every day, and even more difficult to describe what it’s like when it suddenly disappears. But it did. It was weird and fantastic. The neck pain I’d taken for granted as something I’d always have … was gone. Gone. 

It wasn’t a one-time fix, and my neck is quick to remind me when I need to get to another class. But Bikram has brought me relief that medicine and doctors never have. The relief from headaches, neck pain, stress and insomnia was the first to come. But with every time I practice, I find relief of some new ache or pain I didn’t know I had. 

If you suffer from chronic pain, I hope you, too, can find some relief. Check out this link for more information on Bikram Yoga

Also, make sure you talk to your doctor about alternative and mainstream pain-relief options. Pain-management doctors, nursing programs and the Veterans Administration have long considered pain the fifth vital sign (with pulse, temperature, blood pressure and breathing). Unfortunately, though, not all doctors treat pain this seriously. Find one who does
. More information on pain management can be found here.

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Thanks so much Jen for sharing this with us. This is Jen’s second guest post. If anyone is interested in writing a guest post for Go Fit Girl! let me know via comments or send me an e-mail to: ann@gofitgirl.com.

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