Tools and techniques for dealing with pain

For the past three months, I’ve incorporated a set of tools and techniques into maintaining the subtle balance of my body, and it all started with an unexpected message.

Photo: two yellow balls for yoga therapy
A deceptively useful instrument for dealing with tension

When, I first published the news about my condition of peripheral neuropathy, Jill Miller reached out to me to tell me about her own therapy work with someone who was suffering from a severe case of peripheral neuropathy. I had actually read her two- part interview in The Magazine of Yoga when she was declared “Teacher of 2011”, but it was before I knew that neuropathy would take such a predominate place in my own existence. Actually, there were so many interesting segments in the interview, it was easy to overlook the part in which she discussed the case of Eric who has Charcot Marie Tooth disease, the most common genetic neuropathy. He was severely handicapped, even crippled by the disease. Miller set up a therapy program to reawaken his nervous system. Miller also pointed me to a PowerPoint presentation that she made at the Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research in September 2011, sponsored by the International Association of Yoga Therapist (IAYT). My condition was far less severe than Eric’s; he was using high doses of multiple pain medications (including cannibis). After treatment, he reduced his use of pain meds by 70%.

I was intrigued. I was looking for something that would allow me to get from session to session of my massage therapy. I immediately incorporated a couple of routines of yoga poses into my evening restorative routine: bridge pose, dolphin pose (actually I skip them in the evening if I did a class that included them) and leg stretches. Miller’s reclined routines required me to prop up my hips on a yoga block and anchor my feet on a wall. As I’ve employed these routines, I’ve come to appreciate how they opened up my hips, widening and stretching the area between my sit bones.

I then placed an order for self-massage therapy audio CDs for full body and Yoga Tune Up® Balls, which had also been used in Eric’s treatment program. I’ve mainly stuck with the upper body routines and the exercises for the feet and calves. It takes a good slice of time (20-30 minutes) to work through the upper body series and I also needed to do other routines to prepare me for sleep.

Putting the balls to good use

I took the balls and audio recordings with me on my Christmas trip to Florida. I found that they really helped relieve the stress of driving around the Tampa Bay area between family gatherings, beaches and our living quarters. I got home late and was unable to turn off my hyper-alert mind and release the tension that built up between my shoulder blades. I did my Yoga Tune Up® routines and was able to rest.

Even more importantly, the routines have contributed to lessening the low-grade pain and numbness in my feet. On the downside, it’s obvious that Jill M mainly works with women because the balls (made out of a resilient rubber material) are showing signs of wear from bearing my heavier weight. I will have to order a new set of balls soon. I think she should consider making several sets of balls that take into account the user’s weight.

Going back to the extended interview, it helped me appreciate that Jill Miller is firmly grounded in yoga tradition and the new frontiers that are being opened up by practitioners who are not afraid to listen to their bodies. She’s not selling a gimmick or an angle that’s meant to differentiate her products and services in the market place.