Last April, I injured my shoulder. It was a mix of throbbing and sharp pains. A visit to my doctor’s office yielded advice that I take Motrin and wear a shoulder brace for about five days. With little improvement, I went to my orthopedist, who diagnosed me with a sprained AC joint and prescribed four weeks of semiweekly physical therapy.
The PT started the next week, and my physical therapist said it wasn’t so much of a sprained AC joint, it was more of a strained pectoral minor muscle. Clearly, there was no consensus of what was wrong with me, but I kept going to PT. Then I kept going…and going…and going. Three months of physical therapy yielded some benefits, but I wasn’t entirely healed. I still had a noticeable amount of pain, and I was beginning to think that I might have to deal with this the rest of my life.
In additional to physical therapy, I started a massage therapy program, as I figured that could help me heal, too. I started working with Lameka (and still do) at the Massage Envy in the Clarendon area of Arlington.
“You’re muscles are very tight,” she told me. “It takes a long time to get your muscles to relax.” She recommended I get a foam roller to help stretch out my body. I bought one, but I also made another change.
I started going to yoga classes.
Having taken yoga in college and several dozen classes with my friend Kelly McGannon about eight years ago, as well as some Yin Yoga classes with my friend Mandy Slutsker more recently, I knew the benefits of yoga. The thing was that I didn’t really enjoy it. I felt it was too hokey…with my previous instructors focusing too much on balancing my shakras, whatever that meant. I felt there was too much talk about positive energy and “not judging my thoughts,” should they enter my mind.
But I needed to do it again. I had to heal myself. I had run out of other options.
So I started going to some Yin Yoga classes at a variety of studios close to the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC. The Yin style of yoga focuses on holding static body positions for anywhere between three and five minutes, ensuring a really deep stretch. Considering I needed to stretch more, I thought it would help. But it didn’t…I just wasn’t getting enough benefits out of the classes.
I decided to take it up a notch and attend more active yoga classes, and I did it at the yoga studio closest to home, a place called Yoga Heights at 3506 Georgia Avenue.
When I started, it was difficult…very difficult. I felt broken. Not only did my shoulder hurt during the class and after, but I couldn’t remember any of the moves. Even if I did remember them, I could only do a few. I felt like I couldn’t even bend down and touch my toes without excessive strain. It was clear after only a few classes that years and years of biking, running, and other muscle building exercises had turned my body into an inflexible mess.
I felt discouraged, but I also had a glimmer of hope. During each class, I recognized that I was getting better, albeit very slightly. I could twist just a bit more, touch my toes more easily, and even do a bind or two.
But most importantly, my shoulder was starting to get better. After about six weeks of classes, my shoulder pain didn’t flare when I was in class, though it would feel sore later and in the few days after. But it wasn’t sore where the initial pain was…it was like regular muscle soreness from a workout.
So I kept going. I took classes with a variety of Yoga Heights instructors: Amy, Becky, Juliana, Steve, Caroline, Angela, Michelle, Gregory, Sihnuu, and Becca. Each time, I would get better and better, and Lameka noticed it, too.
“Your muscles react so quickly now,” she said during one message therapy session. “Before, it would take 15 or 20 minutes, now it’s within the first minute.” That reaction enabled her to do her job better, which helped me–and my shoulder–heal faster.
So I kept going back to Yoga Heights, and after a few more weeks, I had met more students in the classes and several instructors learned my name. It seemed as if I had become a regular… Angela’s 9 a.m. Sunday hot yoga class, Steve’s intermediate class on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., and Sihnuu’s all levels flow class on Fridays at noon.
And the thing was, although I didn’t want to admit it, I was really starting to like it. My body felt great. I could bend forward and place my palms on the ground without bending my knees, reach my left arm up and place my shoulder next to my head without any pain, and execute several difficult yoga positions, like the bird of paradise, forearm stand, and wheel pose.
Now, after more than three months of going to Yoga Heights on a regular basis, my shoulder pain is gone, my muscles are much more pliable, and I feel better.
And I couldn’t have done it without Yoga Heights on Georgia Avenue. Thank you to my favorite instructors: Angela, Steve, and Becca. You helped heal me beyond what months of physical therapy could. You enabled me to undo years of damage I had done to my muscles, simply by not stretching enough after intense workouts.
It seems as if yoga is now a part of my life, as I’ve healed an injury that I never thought would get better. My body can do things I never thought it would do. Even though I’m not a fan of the ohm-ing and the namaste-ing and the bowing, I can deal with it…my body is worth it.
Thank you, Yoga Heights, Thank you.
I encourage you to visit Yoga Heights and take a class. They offer about ten a day, and even have child care for certain day classes, barre-style workouts, and chair exercises. The instructors are phenomenal, the studio is warm and welcoming, and they have great rates. It offers a $39 introductory month of unlimited classes for new students. Maybe I’ll see you in Angela’s Sunday morning class, Steve’s Tuesday class, or Sihnuu’s Friday class.