Superhuman Healthcare – Herniated Disks

Herniated disks are no joke. The first time I got one I was commuting to NYC every week. Schlepping a roller suitcase through the crowded subways did a number on my neck. I woke up one day with a very bad pain radiating down my arm.

In yoga we talk about the difference between good pain and bad pain. 

  • Good pain is a generalized discomfort that results from increasing your performance level. Good pain is an indicator that you are progressing with proper alignment and awareness of your personal limitations.
  • Bad pain is sharp, shooting and localized. It’s a red flag that your body communicates to say STOP what you are doing immediately.

A herniated disk (also called a ruptured or slipped disk) is an excellent example of bad pain. They can occur anywhere in the spine, but most often will occur in the cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine (lower back). Typically a herniated disk causes a pinched nerve, leading to numbness or tingling in the neck, arm, lower back or leg. It causes pain, weakness, and/or numbness.

The good news is that up to 90% of patients can be treated without surgery. I’m a huge advocate for avoiding surgery whenever possible. And it can be helpful to know what kinds of alternative treatments are available and how they work.

This past January I ruptured my neck again (admittedly, it’s the weak link in my chain). I did it while sleeping incorrectly and it took about two months to heal. Part of what slowed the process was that I didn’t take time off. I was doing a LOT of desk work while trying to keep up with my normal exercise routines.

Pain is a great teacher.

Thankfully, I had the help of one of the top tier Oriental medical providers in America – Avi Ginsberg, a.k.a. Jin Wei. He’s helped me on countless occasions over the past twelve years, including one time when I got a serious viral infection.

Avi has an arsenal of therapies that he uses in his treatments, all of which are built upon his signature style of bodywork. The foundation of external therapy in Oriental medicine is Tui Na, or Chinese medical massage. It’s somewhat like Rolfing, as his technique is a unique form of non-invasive reconstructive surgery.

In addition to Tui Na, Avi gave me acupuncture multiple times. After administering over 30,000 treatments he’s mastered a painless needling technique. During one of his treatments I fell asleep on the table! This is not uncommon but it was a first for me.

He also used cupping therapy to help increase circulation. Cupping is amazing. It feels like deep tissue massage and is great for immediate pain relief. One time Avi combined a cupping treatment with Gua Sha, another ancient massage technique. According to Wikipedia:

Gua sha, meaning “scraping sha-bruises”, is a traditional Chinese medical treatment in which the skin is scraped to produce light bruising. Practitioners believe gua sha releases unhealthy elements from injured areas and stimulates blood flow and healing.

Again, this is deep tissue medical massage. It’s not for cosmetic purposes, it’s for getting to the root of the problem which may involve good pain. One of Avi’s clients (a retired nurse) used the analogy of how you wouldn’t try to fix acne by covering it with make up. You have to dig deep sometimes which is why a solid yoga practice is so helpful with navigating the healing process.

I’m very grateful to be pain-free after receiving such wonderful care. I’m rebuilding my strength and I’m happy to be practicing handstands again.

For more information about Avi Ginsberg please visit Hatch Chiropractic and Wellness

Mind Gym – Flexible Aging

Emily Seymour Yoga Flexible Aging

 “A Yogi measures the span of his life not by the number of years but by the number of his breaths.” – Sri Swami Sivananda

People will sometimes ask me how old I am. Honestly, I tend to forget (and it’s not from senility haha). On more than one occasion I’ve had to use a calculator to determine my age. It just isn’t something that I think about that much…

In my experience age associations tend to be more constrictive than empowering. You’re always too young or too old for something. And when someone learns your age their perspective of you shifts (I see this all the time). Age association shapes our idea of who we think we are. This can have an effect on us but only if we allow it to. Time is flexible to our perception of it.

You are not your age.

People tend to be surprised when I tell them how old I am. It’s partly because I don’t fit into the box of my age group. I try to maintain mental flexibility around aging. There’s a saying in yoga that what we focus our attention on tends to grow in size. Mindfulness meditation is a good tool for navigating potentially limiting thought patterns.

Your perception of yourself is one of the most powerful tools that you have in your belt. It helps to be aware of the ways that we talk about ourselves. Saying things like “I’m getting too old” is a sure-fire way to box yourself into self-imposed limitations. It’s the same with self-identifying with physical illnesses (example: “my arthritis”).

How we view our life experiences can also be limiting. Fixating on some aspect of the past as the being the “best time” of our lives makes us less likely to be open to new or different experiences.

Backbends reverse the aging process.

Your physiological age can be measured by the flexibility of your spine. Psychologically, backbends help us to access the “backpack” of our past which is held in the dorsal side of the body. Releasing and opening the body through back bending helps us digest our past memories. Opening the front body allows us to become more receptive to the present moment and future.

I’ll never forget a birthday present of wisdom that was given to me by a fellow yogini. We were talking about aging and I was surprised to learn that she was forty years old. Her youthful and powerful presence made her look fifteen years younger. She quietly confided that “age is all spirit.”

How old is your spirit?

Emily Seymour Yoga Flexible Aging Backbends