On Friday I wake with pain so severe in my leg that I am uncomfortable in my own body. If you put your palm on the back of your right knee and slide it up two and a half inches and then a quarter turn to the right, that’s where this discomfort is located. This is where I feel like a vortex of hell has opened in my leg.
The pain doesn’t radiate and it doesn’t move around, though there is “sensation” in my hip flexor and “tightness” in my knee-joint periodically. I’m one of those who, when discomfort strikes, I feel compelled to try to slide it around with my mind to make sure I know where it is. All you hypochondriac folk out there know what I’m talking about.
I have to drive to Fort Walton on Thursday. Oh, the horror! Sitting makes this excruciating pain worse, if you can believe it. I couldn’t believe it either, but I slide around on my torn leather seats until there is no weight on my right side. This, my friends, is a feat considering I drive a five speed and must now maneuver the gas and clutch bearing all weight on my left, clutch, side. The pain doesn’t sling itself down my leg, no, it just gets so much worse.
It must be a blood clot. What do I do when I get home? Web MD? Ah, amateurs! No, I call my sister who is engaged to an emergency room physician. I exploit this fact to no end, or rather, my hypochondria exploits this fact to no end.
Is there swelling and redness?
Is the area hot?
No, but my legs are smoking!
Does it hurt more when I flex my foot?
My sister gets on the phone, in a tone with no little hint of exasperation she asks, “Is it possible you did something stupid while you were practicing yoga?”
“Well, I never!” I exclaim, but to myself I think, Well, maybe.
Wednesday night I am working on hips. By that I mean I’m doing all things imaginable in the yoga world to make them more flexible. Flexible hips relates with proper alignment and possibly being a better person. I want both, so I welcome myself to pigeon pose, lizard pose and some variation of a three-legged downward facing dog that would have Ed Daily writing home to Iyengar about this student he used to know - who he has disowned.
Having said that, perhaps my sister is correct. But I ponder the blood clot a little more. But I go to work and there are no more problems.
Until I sit in my car at the end of my shift.
Reader, if there was a way for me to crawl out of my skin for that drive home, I’d have done it. I slide around on that torn leather and I whimper a little, which is fine. There isn’t anyone else to hear. Just me and Michael Jackson driving down Bayou Boulevard whimpering and hee-heeing.
Tonight, Sunday, is the first meeting of the book club at Dragonfly Yoga Studies. The drive out there is somewhat less excruciating due to the overwhelming presence of Advil, Reiki and frankincense essential oil (which is an anti-inflammatory). As soon as I arrive I perform all manner of counter stretches in an attempt to unhinge whatever I bound up Wednesday night. There is some headway before friends start to arrive.
One of the Dragonfly teachers takes a seat next to me. She is quite a lovely person who I love and admire. She also seems to know quite a bit about this business of yoga, and I don’t mean finance. Her classes are informative and challenging and I figured she might know something about whatever in the hell it is I’m dealing with.
“Now, tell me where you’re feeling this.” She says as her tone of voice drops and her eyebrows spread over her eyes in an effort to help her focus. She looks serious. I tell her where the pain is, and then I re-create the exact moves I have pinpointed as the possible culprit (brilliant, I know).
She explains to me that there was a time when she thought she had a blood clot because she was experiencing the same pain in the same place as me. It’s a sciatic nerve issue. Sciatic nerve issues are something yoga is capable of handling beautifully. I think that the sciatica makes me feel old. I haven’t had children and aside from the occasional yoga practice that goes off the rails, I can’t imagine why this might be an issue.
But believe I’m going to go home and do what yoga has taught me to do for that sometimes pesky little nerve.
But wait, there’s more.
This same friend calls me on the way home. We had a guest teacher in November. Her name is Nita Spielberg and she’s brilliant in the area of therapeutic yoga. She discussed the sciatic nerve and the issues one might encounter there, but also she explained how there is another issue that is often misdiagnosed as a sciatic nerve problem. My friend from the book club meeting reminds me of the teaching from that workshop weekend.
The piriformis is a muscle that’s shaped like a long pyramid that has been placed on its side. The skinny side of the triangle points away from the mid-line towards the outer hip. The broad side of the pyramid connects into the sacrum area (without a diagram and dry erase markers this is harder to describe than I thought). For the sake of argument, it’s like a skinny triangle someone spread out over your butt. And on her way home, my friend considered the exercises I showed her I thought caused the problem and it seems they were enough to effectively ruin my day.
There is only one thing to be done here. I must sit on a tennis ball. No, really.
You put this thing under you and roll around on the tennis ball until things get uncomfortable. And when you think it can’t possibly be any more horrendous, roll around on the tennis ball a little bit more until it feels you just got punched in the butt by an F16. That’s how you know you’re getting somewhere.
I put this off all night. On a good day, when the pyramid on my butt isn’t causing problems all the way down near my knee, I hate the tennis ball treatment. Sometimes I roll tennis balls up the length of my spine, and this makes me feel like a goddess and a sane human being all at the same time. But on that piriformis; never a happy time.
Finally, after a re-run of Frasier and tucking my niece into bed, I throw myself down on the floor before I can change my mind. I roll the tennis ball under my hips and find the pain and I sit there. And then I roll around some more until it feels worse than being punched in the butt by a fighter jet. This, my friends, feels like someone is trying to remove my right butt cheek by hacking it off with a steak knife.
All I can do is sit there.
I extend both my legs between tennis ball sitting. And then I do the other side so I’m balanced, if not mentally, then within the realm of my piriformis. Then I fold over my legs again.
When I stand up there is a sensation I haven’t experienced in a couple of days. I note an absence of pain.
I’ll be damned.
So this is for all you out there who aren’t into energy work, clearing your chakras or releasing trauma in the heart region; yoga can kick your butt and sometimes, after seeming to hack half of it off with a serrated edge, it can fix your ass, too.
I know I don’t need to say this because all my readers are so very smart, but just in case; this post isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any pain in the ass you might have.