I’ve never really considered myself an athlete. But I have always been a pretty active person (with the exception of a few periods in my life – I’m looking at you, college years).
I started dancing at age 5. I danced continuously until I graduated high school, and then off and on until my late 20’s.
I began running in my 30’s, and by my 40th birthday I’d run two full marathons and maybe about a dozen half marathons.
When I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis and had to stop running in 2015, my interest shifted to yoga. I loved yoga, and despite my lack of natural flexibility, it felt right – like something I could someday be good at. I stuck with it for as long as my body would allow, but eventually I had to give it up too.
Since my spinal fusion surgery in May 2016, I’ve dabbled in yoga here and there, but for the most part I’ve been unsuccessful. But not so much because of my physical limitations – it’s the mental challenges that trip me up. Things like being patient with my body. Accepting where I’m at. Not letting my ego trick me into doing things I know damn well I shouldn’t.
I wind up frustrated, in pain, or both. Or worse, I become scared to even try.
Can you relate?
Yoga + Other Exercises after Lumbar Fusion
As I recently shared on Instagram, I’ve started to feel like I’ve reached a turning point in my spinal fusion recovery/life. Maybe it was reaching the 2 year mark in May. Or perhaps I’m just tired of sitting on the sidelines – I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I’m finding myself wanting to do more. I feel like I’ve plateaued in my recovery. It’s time to push past my fear, expand my limits, and get myself moving.
I’m still not ready for running. And as much as I’d love to learn to tap dance (#bucketlist), it’s probably not the smartest idea right now (ouch). But yoga – well, yoga seems like something I can do, as long as I do it with the proper guidance and modifications.
As I begin this next step, I’d like to share some of what I’m learning with you (here and/or on Instagram). My hope is that not only will it be useful info for you, but also that it will help keep me accountable. I feel a little like I’m starting from scratch, which is both exciting and daunting.
Alignment Paths: Spinal Fusion Yoga
There are a surprising number of online resources for yoga (and other exercises) after a spinal fusion. Some of them come from physical therapists or other medical professionals with expertise in spinal disorders. Others come from yoga practitioners with fused spines. My favorites (so far) are resources that combine the best of both worlds. That’s why I love Julie Wilkins, founder of Alignment Paths – she’s a licensed Occupational Therapist, a certified Yoga Therapist, and a spinal fusion warrior of 30+ years!
I first found Julie on YouTube (click HERE for her channel or search YouTube for Julie Wilkins), where she has a number of (free) videos to guide your practice, as well as practical tips for living safely with a fused spine.
I’ve followed along with several of her YouTube classes, and I like them a lot. But don’t let the idea of “modified yoga” fool you – her workouts are still challenging, especially for someone who’s just getting started or who’s starting over. But challenging in a good “shaking-quad-muscles” kind of way, not in a “what-was I-thinking” way.
On average, Julie’s YouTube classes are about 15 minutes long. She also has a number of longer courses and workshops, which you can find on alignmentpaths.com. These are paid classes, but I think they’re priced very reasonably – $20 or less per individual class, plus most are downloadable for future use. My goal is to work my way through the free resources (I’m particularly interested in her core workouts) and then try some of her paid courses.