2018 threw me a major curveball. I started January 2018 with fulfilling a passion of mine to complete my certified Yoga Teacher Training. I couldn't have been more excited! Given that I am a natural skincare formulator and an avid wellness geek taking up my yoga certification was a perfect next step for me on my wellness journey.
That excitement turned into a daily yoga practice and sometimes combined with a gym workout sesh in the same day. My body started to give me some pretty strong signals that I was pushing myself too hard. I had been suffering for the past decade with on and off back pain that would throw me out for a couple weeks at a time. This was part of my motivation for taking up my yoga teacher certification in order to heal and strengthen my own back naturally once and for all. Let me say also that I have always been very active with almost daily activity of some sort whether it be yoga, the gym, walking, running, swimming, pilates, cycling, hiking. Whatever as long as I was moving and staying active.
By February I was experiencing quite intense lower back pain, numbness and tingling that had extended from my left glute right down to my left toes. I would be standing at an event or party and my leg would suddenly just give out beneath me without warning. I suspected it may be some major issue and actually worried that I had started showing signs of severe sciatica or even worse an autoimmune condition such as Multiple Sclerosis or a brain tumour. Physio, osteopathy, massage therapy were my weekly routine now to work with my "team" of experts to try to heal this numbness.
Finally after x-rays and an MRI, I had my diagnosis of spondylolisthesis (slipping of vertabra) and spinal stenosis in my L5 (narrowing of space within the spine putting pressure on the nerves), disc degeneration and scoliosis. I had really done a number on my back somewhere along the way. Chances are I had been gradually degenerating for years especially since there was no marked incident or accident that preceded this. It may have even been after I had my twins or my firstborn. I will never know.
At first I was angry and depressed. I have already suffered from severe osteoarthritis of my right big toe which forced me to stop running and now this. At the young age of 46 and for someone as physically active as myself, this seemed like a cruel fate.
Here's what I know about a diagnosis like this (or insert any other diagnosis that changes the way your body moves permanently):
You will go through the Stages of Grief: Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression and Acceptance.
It makes you feel old. The first few specialists I saw gave me long lists of what I can no longer do. I wanted to just curl up and cry. I was told no more yoga, no more weight training, no more cardio or impact sports or activities.
It forces you to redefine your definition of yourself.
It makes you park your ego at the door (or as my fellow yogis likes to say, on the mat next to you :))
It makes you really brace your core. Like really. Brace. Your. Core. You haven't been up until now. Trust me on this.
It makes you even more hyperaware of your body movements and bending to put on a shoe or pick up lint off the floor becomes a big deal.
It makes you redefine what your goals are. Suddenly the fear of pinching my spinal column worse that it already is and losing bladder and bowel control are real worries in my forties. Wow. Now we are getting real. I thought I would worry about that in my eighties, not forties!
Here's what got me into the acceptance phase:
It could always be worse. It isn't cancer or a life threatening diagnosis. I am more grateful for what my body CAN DO and trying not to focus on what my body CAN'T DO.
It is treatable but that it is up to me to follow my physio plan to strengthen my core, to stay active and healthy, and at a healthy weight. I can avoid surgery. It won't go away but it can be managed.
I turned to meditation to ground me and keep my perspective. I started caring a lot about the chakras and assessing if I am holding onto something from my past that is causing a blockage in my lower chakras. I had never even thought about this before!
I used my yoga practice to really get present in my body. I have to be in order to keep my back safe and to keep checking in with myself. To think that I almost gave up yoga when I was told initially that I could no longer do it with this condition. I am glad I didn't accept that advice.
I sought out a Female Physiotherapist who is a Pelvic Health expert as well as a yogi and a workout nut like myself. She is working with me to strengthen my internal pelvic health and to learn to train my brain to release the pelvic floor muscles that are pinching on my spinal nerve. She is a godsend!
I surrounded myself with other strong, positive minded, female health experts and gurus that have lifted me up high above the depressing days that initially overwhelmed me. I am eternally grateful for them and the support they have given to me.
It's ok to modify the heck out of each and every workout and yoga practice. It is your body, your workout, your practice. Don't worry about what others think. Do what makes your body feel good and don't let anyone pressure you to "get that leg straight" or to "lift heavier" or "push harder". You know your body best.
This was my wakeup call! This was the big guy doing me a favour and telling me to honour my body. I only have one and I need it to last another 46+ years. In life we don't always hear the wake up call and end up in a far worse state than need be. I am grateful that I heard it and made some big life changes.
Are you suffering with a diagnosis that has you depressed or angry? If you have I sincerely hope you can adopt some of these strategies to start to heal yourself from the inside out. Everyday I still struggle with some physical pain, numbness and difficulty to sit for long periods of time (even now as I write this I am feeling it). The silver lining is that it forces me to walk around the neighbourhood and take frequent breaks from my computer. That makes my Fitbit happy!
And guess what other good has come of this? I have now decided that should I pursue teaching yoga to others that I may focus on back injuries and core strengthening as I feel I am a bit of an officinado now that my team has been guiding my recovery.
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Oh, Jodie, you are such a sweet lady, I admire you and pray for you, God certainly looks after you, positive attitude could help a lot in our everyday struggles, as you know. God bless you and your family,