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It All Started With A Stretch

Friday, February 26, 2016

By Ellen Greenberg

For the last two years, I have been dealing with chronic migraines—the worst kind. My cardiologist is not sure why I am living with this type of chronic pain. I know that many of us CHDers live with chronic pain. My neurologist is bewildered as to what to do for me—due to my multiple congenital heart defects—and common migraine medications have been difficult to administer.

I get Botox injections and nerve block injections in addition to various medications. My neurologist suggested alternative treatments such as physical therapy, which I’ve done. But after months of physical therapy, acupuncture and biofeedback, I still didn’t have relief from my chronic pain.

I have always liked yoga. I don’t enjoy running and participating in outdoor sports; I always feel as if my heart is going to burst. I had tried lighting weights and exercising videos, but fell out of practice. I asked both my cardiologist and my neurologist who handles my headaches if yoga was something I could participate in. They both gave a resounding yes!

I am aware of how pricey attending classes can be. Not thinking I could afford classes while on disability for my CHD, I eventually found a Groupon for a studio that’s local. No, my post is not an advertisement for Groupon; it is, however, about my being able to afford me an experience with yoga.

This particular studio has understanding teachers. They take everyone’s ailments and strengths into account during class, leading me to purchase another Groupon before mine ran out. The teachers will ask questions to ensure everyone is OK, or if anyone needs a modification, for instance.

No one judges you in this class. In fact, there is a sense of camaraderie. Everyone is trying something new in the same place but at his or her own level and speed, and I am finding relief from my chronic pain by doing yoga.

Taking yoga classes these last few months has begun to transform my life. When I come home from yoga, I do not have a headache. If I do, it is significantly lessened. I feel now, at the age of 38 and being a Fontan patient, it is even more important to start taking care of my physical health and yoga is doing that for me.

It is a discipline that I am learning and excelling at quickly—being told I am really flexible and doing my first inversion. The best part for me is there is no running! Gyms just weren’t working out for me; I feel completely comfortable in my own skin while in yoga class.

I will continue with my practice and see how yoga continues to help my chronic pain and how this will relate to my day-to-day life, including my heart. It will be interesting to see if this helps not only my chronic migraine pain but also prolongs the health of my heart and lessons my occasional atrial flutter.

As we say at the end of class, Namaste!

Note: Always make sure to check with your ACHD cardiologist before beginning any exercise routine.


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