Day 38 of quarantine here in DFW, I’m ready to teach group classes again. I miss you. Thank you everyone who has financially supported the donation based virtual studio. This is something that I’ve talked about for two years and have really worked hard on, especially the last few weeks. Putting out videos regularly with my girl Brittany, what a fun project this has been! I’m truly grateful to have it so well received. If there’s something that you’d like to see, LMK! I know these are weird times we are living in, I’m telling you NOW more than ever it is SO important to take care of yourself. When life feels hard, you hit your yoga mat harder. That doesn’t have to look like a sweaty flow, maybe it’s more restorative or you can even just lay in stillness. Maybe use this time to create a dedicated space in your home for you. For meditation, for yoga, reading, journaling, prayer, whatever. If you need any tips or ideas, HMU.
I recently launched the 721 Yoga Fall 2020 Yoga Teacher Training! This is something that has been sitting with me for a bit. I knew when I quit lululemon I wanted to move away from group classes at the gym and focus on multiple destination retreats a year along with Yoga Teacher Training's. I’ve been working out details, securing the venue and guest teachers. I’m really excited with how it’s flowed together and the support & encouragement I’ve seen. Enrolling in a YTT program you really have to be ready and open for your life to change in every possible way, for your highest good. I truly believe this is going to be transformative for all who attend. If this is something that interests you, please reach out!
I go back and forth with this blog, being a resource vs too personal. I never want to dump my shit on my students. I’m here to serve you! BUT, when we are vulnerable (…which ISN’T easy,) we allow others to be. It’s relatable. I wanted to take this time (since I have A LOT) to get real personal, especially with those of you that may not know me too well or haven’t known me long. I want to share my WHY of yoga. Why do I practice and how did I start? In short, Body. Mind. Soul.
I tell people I got into yoga because I had a surgery that left me in a lot of pain and my physical therapist recommended I try it. What I don’t share is that whole story.
Part 1- Body
In 2007 I had a surgery. I was experiencing urinary incontinence. When I would laugh, sneeze, run, or even unprovoked I would pee my pants a little. So embarrassing but I tried to make a joke out of it. This was super uncommon for someone so young who hadn’t had a baby but something that most women in their life will experience at some time, which is why I think it's important to share. At first my OB had me try some prescription pills for a few months that ultimately didn’t help. After a (“super high tech”) q-tip and cough test, he determined that surgery was the only fix but there was a “New, super easy, outpatient procedure. The corvette of implants on the market. A hammock inserted under the urethra to hold it in place.” Me being 20 with pretty little guidance and without getting a second opinion, blindly trusted my doctor and had a TVT-O mesh implant. A what? A piece of plastic mesh (like netting made of fishing line) inserted through my vaginal wall to act as a hammock under my urethra creating scar tissue to ideally hold it in place with metal anchors to my inner thighs. I woke up from the surgery in EXTREME pain with numbness in my right leg. I was assured I was okay and sent home with pain pills. After a week at home I called an ambulance to take me to the ER because I felt something was very wrong. They told me I had an infection and gave me antibiotics and more pain pills and instructed me to follow up with my OB. After a few weeks, and still in pain, my OB said I probably had nerve damage from the surgery because it’s a sensitive area and I was given pain pills, muscle relaxers and antibiotics but that was it. This was my new normal. I knew something was wrong with the implant but I didn’t know exactly what. After the surgery I was told it was permanent and there was no taking it out. I started to see a pain management doctor who did nerve cauterization in my back multiple times and kept my prescriptions filled. Nothing helped much and it seemed like I just needed more pills as time went on. In 2013 I started seeing a new OB. After explaining my medical history, the surgery I had had, and the pain that I was STILL IN, he wanted me to get urodynamics done. A super invasive and scary test but it showed what I had been feeling all along. That the implant was too tight and it was causing multiple problems, including pain and reoccurring infections. He referred me to UTSW.
One day while scrolling on Facebook, I saw an article in the Dallas Observer about a local lady who was suing Johnson & Johnson for the same TVT-O implant I had. The article not only talked about her experiencing some of the same things I was, but it named my freaking implanting doctor as hers too! The more I read, the madder I got. My doctor had sold me a product that he said was safe but it hadn’t been tested in humans before despite having FDA approval. He had also not been formally trained to perform this surgery. AND he was getting a fairly large financial kickback from Johnson & Johnson for every mesh implant he sold to women. His office at Baylor Garland conveniently flooded and all his patient files ruined and he claimed early onset Alzheimer’s during trial when faced with lawsuits over mesh implants. Long term studies had not been done on mesh and there was no exit strategy if for any reason there was an adverse reaction and the implant needed to come out. After more research of my own I read about people getting autoimmune disorders from plastic implants. Why? Because plastic isn’t supposed to be in our body. Our immune system will constantly attack it trying to rid the body of this foreign invader, eventually wearing our immune system down and thus making the recipients of these types of implants highly likely to develop autoimmune disorders.
My doctor at UTSW was great and very knowledgeable. She did a partial removal that got most of my plastic out and instantly I was a million times better. I did go to UCLA to visit one of the few doctors in the world who said he could do a full removal of the metal anchors but my insurance changed to an in state only plan before I could schedule a surgery with him as he had a very long wait list. I trust this happened for my best interest because it was a very dangerous procedure that had a high risk of doing more nerve damage. Before and after the partial removal I had at UTSW I started to see a pelvic floor therapist 3xs a week. This was really hard for me, physically and mentally. Over the course of our meetings my therapist used biofeedback, a device with electrodes hooked to difference muscles to measure a contraction, to show me how tense my muscles were as I “rested” then we did a few stretches and I used my breath to consciously relax those muscles and the device would show that yes, my muscles had been able to relax with simple breath and movement. This was to help train my mind and body to notice how I carried stress in my body and that I had the power to release it. Near the end of our time together, my therapist recommended I try taking a yoga class to continue these types of stretches on my own.
From 2007 to this point I had gained and lost 100+lbs so the gym was nothing new to me. I thought shoooooot, I had previously been running, doing Zumba and weights, yoga would be easy. Plus it seemed like just stretching for old people ha! My only experience of yoga was my mother doing the same VHS flow in our living room every morning, I thought it was weird and totally laughed at her then. But I went to a class at Fitness Connection Garland and put my mat in the very back of the room, I turned to the lady next to me and said, “I have no clue what I’m doing, do you mind if I watch you?” Neither of us knew at that time that she would end up being my boss at Youfit and hiring me as a yoga teacher later but that’s another story of serendipity. TBH, halfway through that class I wanted to leave. I thought, “Amber, what the fuck did you get yourself into this time?!” ha! It was HARD! I was dripping sweat, I was shaking. I saw other people in the room and they looked so peaceful, I wasn’t enjoying it. Then we got to that mini naptime at the end, I was confused and looking around the room. This had never happened in any other group fitness class I had taken. My immediate reaction was to leave. I’m not burning calories or stretching anymore, class was over. But I didn’t. I left feeling great and I couldn’t really explain it. I continued going to Rodney’s yoga class every week, I looked forward to it and could feel it in my body when I missed.
I was really trying to educate myself and take my health into my own hands at this point in my life. I was reading on autoimmune disorders, specifically fibromyalgia since there had been a diagnosis of that before, and how I could support my body naturally. What foods caused inflammation and mucus in the body? My mom is a superrrrrr out there hippie who has always preached about herbs and holistic healing so I started to research down that route. The information is always there if you seek it. I also spent time connecting with other women online who had had this same surgery and learning how I could best educate and help to prevent others from going through what I had. I knew that meant I would have to speak out about this really embarrassing issue I had and it wasn't going to be easy.
This is female genital mutilation and human experimentation for big pharms financial benefit that isn’t being talked about by mainstream media because it’s owned by the same people profiting. This procedure is still being performed and pushed by doctors (who are still getting financial kickbacks for selling it as safe when there are many pending lawsuits.) Looking back and with the information I now know, I should have had a second and third opinion before surgery. I should have had urodynamics and pelvic floor therapy first. I should have done a google search of “polypropylene mesh implant” (hernia mesh is the same material.) I shouldn’t have even been a candidate for this surgery. Look, we could “should” all over ourselves all dayyyyyy but that won’t get us anywhere. I did the best for myself that I knew how at that time.
As a yoga teacher, I’ve learned that we store our emotions in our body. You cannot separate the spiritual from the physical. If you have something going on in your mind, in your life, in the spirit realm, it will manifest physically in your body. I had been storing fear, guilt, shame, trauma in my body from my childhood that was causing my original issue. My muscles were constantly tight and contracted in this area. Had I gone to pelvic floor therapy or been introduced to yoga first, I might have learned that despite hearing all the time about tightening and strengthening muscles, it is in fact beneficial and necessary to relax and soften too. Stepping out of that fight or flight mode. I use the example in my classes of receiving a massage. Have you ever received a massage and about half way through you realize you’ve been clenching your butt cheeks the whole time? Or you’re driving and you’re gripping the steering wheel with your hands, your shoulders are inching up towards your ears? We do this unconsciously all day long. This experience opened my eyes to so much truth that I might not have seen otherwise and led me to where I am now. The practice of yoga has taken away most of the pain in my body, I no longer take prescription pills, my diet has changed to less inflammatory foods so that helps too. I’m mindful of my body and ask her what she needs. The physical practice of yoga can be done anywhere, anytime. You don’t need music, a fancy studio, or expensive pants. Yoga means union or to join. The breathe to the body. The spiritual to the physical. It’s one of the very few practices that almost every doctor will recommend because every body can do yoga. I hear all the time, “I’m not flexible!” Doesn’t matter. There are different modifications you can take. Yoga meets you where you’re at and the poses are never the goal, just the vehicle.
Part 2- To Be Continued