Holy Hip Pain – Healing Journey

That’s right .. “Holy” hip pain because pain is often our most divine teacher. This is what I’ve learned.

“Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional” – Buddha

Needless to say, I was shocked to find that I was having hip pain after my recent pilgrimage to India. I was feeling incredible mentally and emotionally and felt that I had done a lot of personal “healing” through meditation and self-study. I came back home ready to live my life with my new perspective. As a physically active person, I was really ready to jump right back into my workout routines and yoga asana classes, committed (once again) to regular practice. For the most part during my trip to India, there was very little movement (108 degree days), and a lot of sitting and most of the yoga asana practices were very gentle.

Unfortunately, once home, every time I tried to run, I had this nagging hip pain that wrapped around my upper thigh, and by nagging I mean it stopped me in my tracks. Walking on the beach, I noticed the same nagging pain. Flow classes – same. Ugh!!

 

With some new introspective tools from my Yoga pilgrimage to India, I have learned a lot about my body mechanics and my coping mechanisms. As any athletic person will attest to, the worst advice you can be given is to rest.

Finally, nearly 3 months after my return from my spiritual journey in India, I return from a different journey, a healing journey. All in all, I have learned
Perseverance , Patience, Compassion for myself,  and Trust in the timing of the Universe – which means letting go of control

I would stop running for a few days and try again, but there it was. What was driving me crazy, as an inquisitive physician, was that I couldn’t comprehend WHY I was having pain. For god’s sake,  I had done nothing to injure myself – quite the opposite, I essentially was inactive for almost 3 weeks in India. I’ve had issues with my sacroiliac joints in the past, so I got a chiropractic adjustment, which realigned the S-I joint, but the hip pain persisted. Thinking this was all tight muscles, I got several massages, which seemed to help, until I tried to run. A chiropractor thought it could be hip bursitis and an orthopedic surgeon agreed +/- Iliopsoas tendonitis. So, more rest (ugh), ice and NSAIDs. When I tried to run again, at this point a month after my return from India, pain was still there but not as intense.

Time to examine Everything I have been doing in more detail. Before I left for India, I was in pretty good shape, running regularly. I, like many runners, have chronically tight muscles – hamstrings, quads, glutes. But, I would not say that I had pain. Then I went to India and did not run for 3 weeks (108 degrees). Since I wasn’t doing very much, could it be all the sitting? Could it be how was I sitting? For lectures and meditation, I was sitting for hours on the floor or in a chair; I had also sat for hours on long flights and long bus rides. I also started to ask myself “Could it be emotional? Is this all part of my spiritual healing?”

With the help of Dr Clayton, chiropractor extraordinaire, who treats the entire musculoskeletal system,  I think I have some answers, at least on the physical plane. On top of baseline hip rotation and imbalances, prolonged sitting led to shortened and contracted muscles, which led to pain with activities. Prolonged sitting in which muscles are in a shortened state for extended periods can lead to the muscles adapting to this position. Once in an adapted state, muscles have trouble returning to their normal resting length.

This is often the case with the  the Quadriceps, Hamstrings and Iliopsoas muscles. This was the case for me.


The iliopsoas is actually comprised of two muscles: the Psoas muscle and the Iliacus muscle. The Psoas originates from the lower spine (T12 and L1-L5) and inserts into the inner thigh. The Iliacus originates from the iliac fossa then descends to join the Psoas major tendon.

The primary function of both the Psoas and Iliacus is hip flexion, also known as flexion of the thigh. In other words, these muscles lift the knee to take a step in walking & running. Due to its attachment along the spine, the Psoas also plays a major role in maintaining upright posture.

The Hamstrings consist of three muscles in the back of the thigh, originating from the ischial tuberosity (the sit bones) and inserting into the bones of the lower leg below the knee. This large muscle mass plays a key role in knee flexion (bending the knee), extending the thigh and rotating the knee. When tight, contraction can cause the hips and pelvis to rotate back flattening the lower back and causing back problems. Tight hamstrings can also be responsible for postural problems and other back problems such as sacroiliac joint pain (thinking chicken or the egg), as they will tend to pull the pelvis out of normal position.

Consequences of Chronic Muscular Contraction

If a muscle cannot return to its normal resting length, it then resides in a state of chronic contraction and numerous undesirable consequences can result:

1. Ischemia.  A state of low blood flow.  An ischemic muscle is often a painful muscle.

2. Trigger Points which refer pain – felt in the affected muscle or in other parts of the body (radiated pain).

3. Distorted Movement Patterns. A chronically contracted muscle can distort the movement of the joint it crosses. For example, a chronically tight iliacus could reduce movement at the front of the hip.

4. Muscular Compensation.  If a chronically tight iliacus, for example, reduces movement in one hip, then the other hip or the spine or other parts of the body will be called upon to compensate or to change their normal pattern of movement.

5. Nerve Entrapment. A chronically contracted muscle may be responsible for entrapment of nerves, another cause of pain.

So what to do? Sometimes all you need is stretching. But while in India, I was doing yoga stretches everyday. Sometimes you need more aggressive manual therapy in order to enable the muscle to fully lengthen. The reason for this is that the fibers of a muscle can become adhered or stuck together.

Sometimes this “adherence” is within the muscle itself, and sometimes one muscle can become adhered to another muscle. In both cases the attempt of the muscle to fully lengthen or fully contract is impeded. This results in a dysfunctional muscle which can be painful in and of itself, but also can result in compensatory muscle patterns throughout the body.

Once contracted, a muscle cannot lengthen on its own. The contractile units of the muscle (sarcomeres) must be stretched back to their original resting length by an outside force (such as an opposing muscle group) before the muscle is able to actively contract and relax again.

In enters ART – Active Release Therapy (and in my case Dr Clayton).

ART is a patented soft tissue system movement based manipulation technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Every ART session is actually a combination of examination and treatment. The ART provider uses his or her hands to evaluate the texture, tightness and movement of muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Abnormal tissues are treated by combining precisely directed tension with very specific patient movements.

ART is not a cookie-cutter approach. These treatment protocols – over 500 specific moves – are unique to ART. They allow providers to identify and correct the specific problems that are affecting each individual patient. It has been a game changer for my body!
Finally, after much divinely determined rest, during which time I focused on healing, inside and out,
I am back — Running slower, shorter distances but running! 🙂
 

Namaste

 

A Yogi’s Pilgrimage to India

Why do so many Yogis make a pilgrimage to India? A pilgrimage is a different kind of journey. It has a deeper, personal purpose. A pilgrimage is a journey of spiritual significance, in search of spiritual growth. My recent trip to India was more of a pilgrimage than a vacation. I went to India in search of wisdom – about Yoga, about myself, believing that Yoga is the path to that wisdom.

It is incredibly challenging to describe India in a few words. When I think of India, 3 phrase come to mind – 1) sensory overload, 2) coexistence, and 3) spirituality.

While in India, every single sense organ was awakened and stimulated – the eyes beheld the vibrant colors, the beautiful people, the spectacle of the overcrowded streets; the ears rang with the constant car horns, the dogs barking, the chanting; the nose smelled the spices, the incense, the flowers; the tongue enjoyed the spicy food, the delicious naan bread; and the skin felt the hot, hot Indian sun. Woven into all the intensity that is India, is an undercurrent of stillness, of peace.

A friend used the term “Peaceful Insanity”.

This is what I mean by coexistence. The streets are … CRAZY, at least to us Westerners, but apparently, completely normal for India. The streets are filled with cars, rickshaws, buses, people, dogs and cows with no apparent order. At first glance, it appears and sounds chaotic, with all drivers having one finger firmly fixed on the horn. Apparently, however, there is a certain pecking order on the street. The pedestrian is at the bottom, giving way to  the bicycle rickshaw, then the auto rickshaw, then the car, then the bus. The bus stopping only…. for the Holy Cow that rules the street. Then you veer off this busy street, make a quick turn, and enter through a gate into a beautiful garden or temple. Complete juxtapositions. The chaos and the peace co-existing.

When I speak of spirituality, I’m not talking about any particular religious worship. Spirituality is a search for meaning, for purpose and direction in life. It fulfils our need to have a foundation for living, a path or way of life in the light of a larger context. It speaks to the need to be “aligned” with something bigger than our body and mind. The religions of India (whether it be Hinduism or Buddhism) and their spirituality are greatly misunderstood in the West. Although there are many statues representing numerous deities, it is not about idol worship. What I’ve learned is that all the deities and their different forms and manifestations represent important values that guide us on our path towards spiritual growth.

From my experience, Indian people live spiritual lives where their daily actions are influenced by their belief in loving kindness and compassion to all beings. Imagine what life would be like here if everyone you came into contact with, greeted you with a heartfelt bow, hands to their heart, saying  Namaste.

Namaste – we say it at the end of every yoga class. What does it really mean? Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you.

Therefore, namaste literally means “I bow to you.” Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. The gesture represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that we recognize as One.

My pilgrimage to India included time in Delhi (the capital), Agra (to see the Taj), Khajuraho and Rishikesh. Everywhere I went, I was impressed with the ever-present juxtapositions – from the grand palaces and temples to the poverty in the streets, from the NOISE to silence in meditation.

I had the privilege to stay at the Himalayan Institute (HI) in Khajuraho, founded by the great Swami Rama.  The Institute’s 30-acre campus is the ideal setting for sadhana or spiritual retreat. Surrounded by hills and forest preserves, it is blessed with natural beauty and tranquility. Here, we studied, meditated, practiced asana, chanted and grew together as a beautiful spiritual community.

We studied a book called the Devi Mahatmyam – the Glory of the Goddess, an ancient allegory. Part myth and part philosophy, the text addresses some very important existential questions that have plagued mankind since time immemorial. Its stories can be taken as metaphors relating to our own psycho-spiritual development, as well as the challenges we face in life.

 


 

 

Rishikesh was the exact opposite experience. Rishikesh is a city on the Ganges river that is renowned for being a holy site and a pilgarimage location. Hindu sages have traditionally come here to meditate throughout the centuries.  All of the great yoga masters have their roots here.  The spiritual connections here mean that it is a place that is free of both meat and alcohol.

Rishikesh has also been given the name of “the yoga capital of the world” as students from all over the globe, including myself and the Beatles in the late 1960s, converge here to learn the ancient wisdoms of yoga. YOGA, we learned over and over again, is “simply” a way of life, a way of being and the Wisdom that we seek is found in ourselves. Siddhartha Krishna, a compelling Yoga Philosophy Teacher, that we had the great honor to learn from, told us that the most important component of yoga is Ahimsa, literally translated as nonviolence, which is really all about compassion. Yoga gives us the tools so that we can practice compassion.

In the words of Swami Shivananda who began the Divine Life Society, the goal of Yoga is to:

SERVE       LOVE       GIVE

PURIFY       MEDITATE     REALIZE

With deepest gratitude to my fellow pilgrims and teacher, Indu Arora.


Namaste 

 

Why Yogis Go to India: Spirituality, Curiosity, and Self-discovery

 

As I’m getting ready for my trip to India, I have been asked many times, “WHY are you going to India?

While those who know me, know that I want to see ALL the world and will go anywhere; India, I believe will be a unique journey. The birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, India is also the birthplace of Yoga. As a yogi, I’ve always been curious about and drawn to the country where it all began.

Yoga has grown very popular in the western world, mostly as a physical exercise. I. personally am thrilled that so many people are now drawn to yoga. However, the yoga of India, which has its roots approximately 2500 years ago, is of a much more spiritual practice.

Yogis go to India to deepen their understanding of this ancient practice because we know that this is the real gift of yoga. There is just something just so exciting about practicing yoga where so many of our legendary yoga leaders -T. Krishnamacharya, K. Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, Swami Vivekananda have been and practiced.

India, however, will come will its challenges. India is a vast country with over one billion people. I have been told that India is like no other place, a land of tremendous diversity and contrasts which will awaken all of your senses and emotions.

So, here I go! With an open mind and an open heart, I am ready for what I believe will be a journey of a lifetime.

“Where is the delusion when truth is known? Where is the disease when the mind is clear?

 Therefore surrender to Yoga.” – T. Krishnamacharya

Yoga in the Galapagos

 

IMG_9148IMG_0864           To me, yoga and travel offer the same gift. Wanderlust – the inward and outward journeys that bring us closer to discovering our true selves in this world. People travel for many reasons. Yogis travel to BE in the world. As we travel to new lands, we practice “Yoga” – compassion, love for all of Nature, movement (Asana) mindfulness and letting go.

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In the Galapagos Islands, everything is big -sea turtles, iguanas, birds and even the crabs. Erica, our yoga teacher and owner of Escape to Shape, reminded us to also be big – big with our postures, big with our breath, and big with our Love. Doing yoga in the Galapagos makes it incredibly easy to truly Be in the moment – our feet (or hands) grounded in the earth, our focus on the horizon or a sea lion and our hearts wide open. Yoga on the sand and on a boat also introduce the challenge of balance and acceptance.

IMG_6969IMG_0700The preserved, untouched wildlife of the Galapagos reminds us that we are all part of the same Universe – that we share, not own,

DSCF7776IMG_0796this Universe with the Earth, the Oceans, the turtles, sea lions, sharks, blue and red footed boobies, dogs, cats, etc. So, let’s show respect and compassion for us all. After all, we are all here on this planet for the same reason.

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#escapetoshape

Machu Picchu

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What an extraordinary trip to Peru. The energy from the Andes mountains and the Andean people is palpable everywhere you go from Cuzco to Machu Picchu to the Sacred Valley.  The indigenous Incan culture lives on in the Quechua people, particularly their relationship with Nature – earth, water, sun and all living creatures. The Incans knew and the Andean people continue to honor and appreciate the health benefits derived from Mother Nature, treating successfully everything from altitude sickness to abdominal pain with herbs and plants.

Travel is no excuse not to stay fit and healthy. No matter where you are, you can always practice yoga, walk, hike or run. Hiking Machu Picchu was breathtaking – both from the view as well as the physical exertion.

In the Sacred Valley, we stayed at a lovely yoga retreat called Willka T’ika surrounded by the magnificent Andes mountains. Willka T’ika is a serene place with an incredible staff who carry on the Quechan traditions with their organic, local grown meals and healing herbal teas. There is a spectacular Chakra garden with all of the seven gardens beautifully and carefully designed; each garden corresponding to a particular chakra with it’s corresponding color, energy, healing plants & flowers.

It was a beautiful experience. Now off to an entirely different ecosystem — the Galapagos. Very excited!

Jai ma