Yoga with Cervical Radiculopathy Pain
Following on from the advice of two of the surgeon’s I consulted with, which was to get back to exercising and normal activity, last night I took a yoga class for the first time in about three months. I survived!
My right arm is still intermittently painful, usually only slightly. Of course, as I type this, it is probably more painful than it’s been in a few days, I think due to a combination of last night’s yoga along with the car ride here to this Starbucks I’m working out of for the afternoon.
So the day before yesterday, knowing it was time to try a yoga class, I figured I’d better test out this arm before getting there and finding out it’s just not going to work. To test it, I fired up my Apple Fitness+ membership on the TV and chose a 10 minute yoga session. I’ve tried the Fitness+ yoga before, after I was actually in pretty good shape and had been doing strenuous yoga classes at my gym for quite some time. I found them pretty challenging, but they’ve since added a lot more and I suspect toned things down some.
It was tough, but not too tough. Only one potential “showstopper” – while I can push and pull just fine with my arms, and can hold myself up at the top of a plank/push-up, once I begin lowering down my right arm seemingly gives out and I drop. I’m able to muster enough to avoid completely collapsing, but it’s neither graceful more pretty. After finishing the one session I started and finished a second 10 minute session with the same instructor. Fortunately there were only a few plank to up dog movements. I was worried though, because that movement, which is part of the sun salutation and is a staple in every yoga class at my gym, is something I can’t avoid.
So I show up to last night’s ROOT yoga class at Lifetime Fitness. Andy, the instructor, is awesome. I’m very picky about yoga instructors. There are a couple of simply avoid altogether. There are three that are great, and two are my favorites. Andy is one of my favorites, as his classes are always so well programmed. I know this because I almost always leave his classes feeling both like I got a great workout but also like I added to my body. Nothing is overemphasized, e.g., legs vs upper body, etc.
I was extremely nervous all day leading up to the class. Even though I tested the right arm and knew I’d probably struggle with the downward strength movements, I wasn’t sure how much it would negatively impact me. Thankfully, I think we only did that movement approximately five times all class. Aside from that, some poses were really awkward, particularly reverse triangle. I’m just out of shape and it was clear to me. Shockingly, my ability to hold balance poses was no worse than before, and having reserved a spot in the back corner, which I think is where the astute beginners all like to be, I was comforted in noticing others around me were struggling. A few months ago I felt like an advanced yogi (which is and was wishful thinking). I surely felt like a beginner yesterday. I’d like to say it was a great class and I was thrilled to get through it. And I guess it was, and I am. But I also realized how difficult a struggle this is going to be to get back in somewhat shape. My lower body is sore today, but not overly so. The only pain during the class was during shavasana. Shavasana, for you non-yogis, is simply a rest period where you lie on your back for a few minutes. My right shoulder/back were in some pain but not unbearingly so like it was before. While not comfortable, after the first minute or so I got used to the pain and could reflect on the class. Honestly, a few times I looked around during class and started to tear up, wondering if this was my last one. I did my best to put those thoughts out and just focus on breathing, which I did a pretty good job of considering my lack of fitness. When class ended I showered and went home to watch the playoff basketball game. For the first hour or so post-class I felt kind of worn out and the shoulder/arm pain was there. Then, while watching the game on TV, I noticed it was gone. My arm felt stronger and, hard to describe but, more normal than it had in a while. Went to bed and hoped for the best, as that night’s sleep would dictate my yoga future, at least for the short term.
Next morning I woke up around 6am and felt phenomenal. No arm pain and it retained that stronger, more normal feeling. I was stoked…enough to not allow me to go back to sleep for another hour or two : ( I also got the itch to turn on my side, which resulted in the pain coming back a little : ( I finally got out of bed around 8am.
Not sure how well it comes across in this post but, basically, as of right now I’m thinking that yoga is the best thing I can do for this condition. So long as I don’t overdo it. I packed my gym bag for today with the intent to get to the gym and just do some cardio and maybe lift some weights. I’m not so sure about that now. I reserved SOL yoga class tomorrow, taught by my favorite instructor. She practically taught me yoga, as I was crazy enough to go to her class as a complete beginner, even though no beginner has any business going to SOL as it is a fairly challenging class. I stuck with it and am so in tune with her voice/instructions/pace. It’s usually a small class and with my having disappeared for a few months she’ll surely ask where I’ve been and I’ll have to rehash the story, if only to alert her to my likely flopping down awkwardly during sun salutations due to my dead right arm. If I can make it through SOL and not cause added pain as a result then I will keep going.
Aside from that, I am expecting a decision later today or tomorrow from a top cervical spine surgeon based out of Cornell, who is slated to review my images and reports remotely. Curious to hear what he says.