In 2009, after a lifetime of aggressive running, I herniated a disc in my cervical spine between my C4 and C5 vertebrae.
For weeks I experienced acute pain down my left arm radiating down from my left shoulder to my left hip. It was excruciating even to rest, to sleep, or to walk. My doctor told me I had three options: live with the pain, undergo an Anterior Cervical Discectomy or take cortisone shots for the rest of my life. I decided to undergo the discectomy.
The spine fusion procedure began with transverse incision in the lower front of my neck. The underlying musculature was carefully dissected, allowing the surgeon to expose the front of the cervical spine by retracting the esophagus and trachea toward midline and the carotid artery and associated structures to the side. A retractor was placed to protect the soft tissues. The intervertebral disc was removed and reconstructed to support the normal load of the cervical spine by inserting a human cadaver bone graft. The intent was to promote the formation of a living bridge of bone between the previously distinct vertebrae. Finally, the surgeon fixated the grafted segments with a titanium plate and 4 screws providing for further stability and promoting adequate fusion as well as preventing dislodgement of the bone graft. The surgery was a success but I was warned about limited mobility and the fact that that the rest of my discs were desiccated and future surgeries might be required.
Later that summer, I decided to try Bikram Yoga because I heard of its benefits for the spine and I wanted to improve my neck’s limited mobility and the overall health of the rest of my discs to prevent surgeries. At first, the classes were hard and uncomfortable. I had set backs regularly. Over eighteen months, I saw gradual progress. Now, five years out from the surgery, I have much more mobility in my neck and live a better, more active life without being concerned about my discs.
I recognize that practicing more frequently would be better for me but due to my busy life with a demanding full time job, family responsibilities, teens’ after school activities, and church service, I can only do Bikram twice a week. Nevertheless, I am in my fifties and every time I practice, I experience inner peace, more relaxation, better sleep, increased range of motion, and a beautiful feeling of being strong and in control of my life. Gracias Yoga Bikram!