From inflammation to ease

Until a year ago, I ardently resisted going to a Kaiut class. And then I literally ran out of excuses (and time, as I was moving away from Boulder in just a month). I couldn’t put my friend off any longer. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll come with you.” Thinking all the while, “I really don’t need another restorative/Yin/gentle stretching class.” And I didn’t.

The class was nice. Not earth-shattering in any way. No “sensations” at any point. Nothing was “challenging.” I didn’t experience any “discomfort” at any time. Honestly, I didn’t feel anything. At all. But it was nice. Like a warm bath or a gentle massage. I went home feeling like I was now off the hook from ever having to do that again, and could go back to my rigorous dance classes and a yoga practice that challenged my strength and flexibility and left me feeling nicely wrung out.

It wasn’t until I got out of bed the next morning that the earth did shatter.

No sooner did my foot touch the ground that I knew something was very wrong. It took a moment to figure out. I hadn’t winced in pain, in fact, I could feel my belly tight and my breath short in anticipation of the pain that should have come with getting out of bed. Only…it didn’t come. Wow.

One Kaiut class and something had grabbed the pain dial and turned it down several notches.

So that day I went back to Kaiut class – to two classes actually. Same result: nothing happening during the class, but lasting freedom from pain after. The next day, I took three classes. And kept on taking three classes daily for another week, my body and nervous system a desiccated sponge soaking up juice, class after class. When I was saturated, I went back to two classes a day, then just one.

For the first time in 17 years, my body was at ease for more than a handful of hours at a time. The pain dial, which usually fluctuated around a 6, had been turned down to a 3, and it seemed to be staying there.

That seriously rocked my world.

I had spent the past two decades in an exhaustive, desperate, and thus far fruitless endeavour to reduce the encroaching inflammation in my body. Craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, Rolfing, chiropractic adjustments, macrobiotic diet, raw diet, trigger point dry needling, Ayurvedic treatments, Chinese herbs, Botox injections in the muscles of my neck and back-everything worked (except the Botox) but for no more than a few hours at a time. Then the muscles of my neck and shoulders would inexorably begin to tighten, my upper back to stiffen, and moving my neck, shoulders, and hips became more painful.

As a last resort, I’d let Western medicine take a shot at it. For four months, my awesome, cutting edge doctor threw every blood test, imaging procedure, and specialist at me. “You have cervical dystonia,” she told me at last. Huh? “What it means,” she confided, “is that we have no idea what the problem is. We can track the inflammation in your tissues and we see that there is tremendous tension in your muscles, but we have no idea why your brain is telling your upper body (cervical spine) to contract and never let go. We believe it is a neurological condition akin to fibromyalgia, but short of giving you painkillers and muscle relaxants we have no idea what to do with you.”

Thanks, but no thanks. So I learned to live with the pain. I have a bag of tools amassed over the years to help me cope with it: breath, massage balls, wheels, spiky balls, baseballs, tennis balls, yoga postures, dance stretches, and a small army of body workers, all of which/whom give me temporary relief. After a couple of hours rolling, stretching, massaging the tension,  I could usually get on with my day.

Weirdly enough, in spite of the significant pain, I had no problem with mobility or flexibility. I was dancing four times a week and doing yoga a couple of times a week. And, while the movement itself was delightful in the moment, my body invariably started to contract again with a vengeance an hour or two after any activity.

Perhaps that mobility is why I didn’t “feel anything” in that first Kaiut class. I went nowhere near the limit of my flexibility or range of motion, so my joints and muscles had nothing to report. But a secret message had been delivered to my brain: “you don’t need to habitually contract these muscles any longer.”

Every Kaiut sequence I do on my mat has the same result: less tension in my tissues, more freedom in my body. During the ten days of my first training in Toronto, I felt virtually no pain. I slept through the night for the first time in many years. Night after night. It was ten days of bliss.

Much of that still comes through when I get on my mat and go through a Kaiut sequence on my own, not as clearly as in a class, but enough to keep inflammation under control and some softness in my upper body. I’ve given up going to other yoga classes, finally grokking that I invariably have to spend an hour in a Kaiut sequence to undo the damage I do in those classes.

So it’s me and my mat (and my booklet of Kaiut sequences), exploring my body’s response to each posture, each permutation. Often just shaking my head in wonder at this methodology which co-opts my body to interface directly with my nervous system, and the message is always: “be at ease.”

Malak Nour, Iowa, USA

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