I have a Grade 2 Spondylolisthesis (or “spondee”) of my spine. It is a fancy medical jargon for one of a vertebra (usually a lower lumbar) slipping out of the spine. Grade 2 means it is out of the stack more than 1 cm, and it goes to grade 3 if it is more than 2 cm, and so on. A lot of football players get this or some unlucky victims of car accident or fall. I am not any of those and still one day, I felt tremendous pain radiating from my back all the way to the toe. It turned out to be my lowest lumbar (L5) has been slowly slipping forward unbeknownst to me and decided to tell me about it just then. That was Thanksgiving of 2013. I was in so much pain even with strong pain medicine, it was difficult to go to bathroom, not to mention carrying on normal daily life. The specialist confirmed the X-ray verdict with MIR and said they could fix it with a surgery-by screwing my slipping bone with the upper and lower vertebrae and “fuse” them together, but she also said there is no guarantee of success and I’d be facing 6 month + of recovery time. That was my Christmas gift 13 months ago. When I pleaded her what else she could do to help me without a surgery, she told me about doing Bikram yoga 5 times a week. Well…what can one lose (but some sweat)? I’ve done Bikram before on and off, and five times a week seemed a bit too much but that was my last option before going under the knife. So my Bikram journey started a year ago in January 2014. First, I could not even do a sit up not to mention all kinds of other stuff. I asked for the help of Wendy, Irma, Claudia and other wonderful teachers at RB Bikram Yoga school to be patient with me and they more than encouraged me to do what I could and modified the poses when necessary. The first month was hard, but slowly and surely, it got easier. I canceled my surgery date and kept going. After the 3months, I was free of painkiller pills! After 6 months, I started playing my favorite hobby, tennis again albeit without much running and jostling. This January, I celebrated my anniversary of Bikram journey to spinal health. Yes, I still have my L5 vertebra way out there (about a half way out of the spine) and I cannot do all the poses. But I am pain-free and I lead an active life. Doctors are very happy to see my smiley face and even the spinal specialist who recommended Bikram says she wishes more people would take her advice! (I guess most people would rather pop narcotic pain-killers than sweat it out at Bikram yoga).
To commemorate my journey out of pain and finding hope even in the midst of breaking back (literally!), I joined the 30 day challenge in January. It was hard, but I am so very glad I did it. I am going to celebrate this milestone every year, as long as I can, by doing the 30 day challenge in January. Thank you all at BYRB for their support and encouragement.