It’s a slow news day on the college football beat so it’s always a safe shot to recur to the ol’ “athlete turns to yoga for flexibility” story to provide human interest and humor about grown men sprawling on the floor — and even farting.
Washington PostTerrapins turn to yoga for rejuvenation, recovery: “Yoga’s one of those things, you don’t really want to do it,” Francis said. “But we know it’s good for you. I’d never go out of my way to take a yoga class. I’ll put it that way. But I do understand it does have its benefits. When it’s offered, I’d be a [dumb guy] not to take advantage of it.”
Having followed media coverage of yoga for more than five years, this kind of story comes up so often that I have stopped writing about most of them. But in this case, it’s a home town team so I can’t ignore it. UM has lost four quarterbacks to injury this season and they’re converting a linebacker to the position this week so they may want to make yoga compulsory for quarterbacks in hopes of preventing injuries. On the other hand, being crushed by a couple of 300-pound defensive linemen is not something that Patanjali has a lot to say about.
I have to apologize for how I left my previous entry hanging ominously on the diagnosis of having idiopathic peripheral neuropathy and my doctors’ seeming inability to determine the cause or prescript a treatment that could relieve my pain. I already knew that I had more options for treatment and even the prospect of a happy ending.
After I meet with my neurologist, I had already lined up an appointment with Howard Rontal who practices myofascial release therapy. He is a certified Hellerwork practitioner, a Certified Myoskeletal Therapist, a Certified Structural Integrator SM, and am licensed as a massage therapist by the Board of Chiropractic Examiners, State of Maryland. More importantly, he’s been at this vocation for more than 20 years, and currently teaches around the country.
I had contacted Howard because I wanted to work with an experienced bodyworker who is aware of yoga, comes out of the currents of structural integrators that include Ida Rolf, Joseph Heller, Moshe Feldenkrais, Tom Myers and others. It’s safe to say that Howard is not just a massage therapist. I told him that I had multiple problems that included plantar fasciitis, peripheral neuropathy and assorted body tightness. Howard was very honest up front and said that he could not guarantee anything in terms of the neuropathy, but he could certainly help my plantar fasciitis. Another reason that I picked Howard is that he is located about 15 minutes from my house and could treat me in the morning.
I’ve now had six sessions of bodywork, one hour each, with Howard, and the results have been jaw-dropping. As just an initial example, the first two sessions focused exclusively on my feet, ankles and calves. Howard does intense stretches of the plantar ligaments (soles of the feet) that are sheer torture. In the first session, I could just barely tolerate the pain on my right foot; I could not feel anything on my left foot. It was as if a local anesthetic had been applied to my left foot. On the second day, I could actually feel the ligaments on my left foot being stretched. By the end of the session, the sensation of relief in my lower legs was overwhelming, but was even more surprising was that it seemed to ripple up my whole body. I could tell that I was in the right hands and was on track to managing the pain and even healing my body.
Over the next four sessions, I found that even working on another part of my body (say, shoulders and neck) could end up relieving the tension in my lower limbs. The pin pricks that had been keeping me from sleep at night are much less intense, and only distract me at times. Other symptoms, like numbness or blunted feeling, do tend to come back gradually between sessions, but each time with less intensity. It might even be a case of new circuits of sensation that I am feeling and interpreting as being symptoms, but are actually a new phenomenon.
The bodywork has also changed my yoga practice as I find that my body is pulsing with more sensory feedback and awareness in muscles that I had not been able to access fully. In one session, Howard dramatically freed up my diaphragm and made my breathing smoother and fuller. The experience has made clear to me that any mature adult (45 or older) who starts doing yoga should also seriously considering using a structural integrator because there are so many issues that have been “baked into the muscles” (bad posture, trauma) over the decades. In the past, I’ve frequently felt as if I’ve been fighting against myself, and now I know I have been struggling against some real resistance.
This treatment has been eye-opening for me, and there are so many lessons in it that I could not possibly give a full account in one sitting. I am going to come back to this facet of my mind-body experience because of its transformative power.
But experts inside and outside the industry say yoga therapy should be approached with caution. In general, a person can practice as a yoga therapist after 200 hours of yoga teacher training, which might include basic training in anatomy, breathing, meditation and giving adjustments.
At the end of the article, there is a paragraph about NY-based designer Donna Karan “sponsoring a 10-day Well-Being Forum in Manhattan to bring together doctors, yoga therapists and yoga teachers…” That may explain why the article got commissioned in the first place. The event is organized by UrbanZen with Rodney Yee, former model Christy Turlington and a host of big names serving on the board. Karan is pushing integrative medicine that combines alternative health with conventional medicine following the death of her husband from lung cancer.