“For me the main reason I wanted to share this story is that there are a lot of people who live with chronic pain and there are a lot of people who live with joint problems, and they might feel limited by the pain, and even the fear of the pain. Coming and exploring this with the guidance of the teachers has been really powerful for me in realising that I wasn’t as disabled as I thought I was. I would encourage anyone to try.”
Joe’s story is an incredible tale of transformation, from living with chronic pain in his hip, needing a walking stick and pain killers, to improved strength, flexibility, no walking stick and a whole lot more self confidence.
Joe, a medical Doctor and currently a Lecturer at the University of Bristol for Equality & Diversity with a focus on the specific health needs of minority groups.
Joe grew up with a femoroacetabular impingement (specifically a cam deformity) in his hip. This is where the femoral head isn’t a smooth, round surface like usual, instead it develops bony outgrowths. What this means for Joe is that his hip joint is unable to rotate and prevents flexion past a certain point. Joe suffers from this in both of his hip joints.
This condition was only defined about 15 years ago, and as a result, Joe has grown through childhood and into becoming an adult feeling pain and difficulty in his hips with no diagnosis. He came to believe that everyone suffered from pain in their joints, even when young! So he simply lived with pain as he believed that’s how people felt. He then discovered his hip condition which was confirmed to be a cause of young adult arthritis.
Before the age of 25 Joe had already undergone 4 operations and was told that one day he would need a hip replacement.
Following all of his operations, Joe was still managing pain in his hips. And unfortunately they began to deteriorate once more. Joe was unable to walk without a walking stick. As a result Joe’s mood and his self confidence suffered quite significantly, as well as his relationship. It also made work very difficult for him. “In order to manage the pain I take morphine and strong anti-inflammatories every day. And practice a lot of psychological work on pain to understand how it’s connected to my mood.”
The decision was to take a 5th operation which meant 6 months recovery. This caused Joe to suffer from depression. Joe had to leave his job, was physically unhealthy and had put on a lot of weight.
“During recovery I put on a lot of weight and was physically unhealthy so I wanted to improve my health when I moved to Bristol.”
Finding Hot Yoga
“I moved just down the road and saw Yogafurie studio. Interestingly the literature around hip impingement suggests that yoga could be detrimental. So I was anxious for a few reasons. One because there was this idea saying I need to work around the limitations of my hip. And another reason I was nervous is because I had never done it before, I had put on weight, I felt self conscious, all of those kinds of things. But the biggest thing I was scared of was coming and being in pain as a result of trying to do exercise.”
He first decided to visit the studio to discuss his situation. He found Ed really helpful, supportive and positive about Joe giving it a try. And so Joe did!
“I decided to start with the late evening classes of Dreamtime and Freedom Flow because they had an element of meditation which was good for my mental health at the time as I was still recovering from depression.” Joe quickly learned also that as these classes are relatively flowing and slow moving, he was afforded the time to move, feel and understand what was happening in his hips.
Joe reports that the instructors are great at checking in and signalling when a movement or posture might be a problem. What this means for Joe is that he could try the posture carefully and in his own time. Joe also noted that the instructors are discreet in how they offer variations for people with limited mobility and injuries – meaning that he never felt singled out or on show yet still felt like he had options.
Joe described how he has lost between 2.5 to 3 stone since starting Hot Yoga! Initially he had started off with 2 sessions a week and has since moved up to 4. Joe reports “I’ve graduated to the Core Deep and Classic Furie which I find a lot more challenging and help the most with weight loss.”
The progression has come not just in his yoga practice, but also his confidence in yoga, understanding how to move his body, and understanding his limitations more. He’s also found he’s not as limited as he thought due to being able to explore his limitations in a safe space.
The belief is that the hot element helps his hip joints. The heat has meant that Joe can get more movement out of his hips than if he was practicing Yoga at a normal temperature.
A particularly rewarding experience for Joe is when he comes to class feeling a lot of pain and then leaves with his hips feeling better. Joe reports that this is a great experience for him as he can manage this part of his pain without the constant need for painkillers.
At the same time he still attends the Dreamtime and Freedom Flow classes. “What I like about (Dreamtime & Freedom Flow) it sets aside two periods of my week where I focus on mindfulness which was a big part of my recovery from depression, it gives me two moments of my week where I am doing some mental exercise.”
Joe’s feels that these classes help him stay mentally fit as he suffered from very severe depression. “I came to class once when I was incredibly anxious that week. I think I was on the edge of a panic attack. The Hot Yoga really helped to centre me, gave me something to focus on, which helped me go home and go to sleep feeling relaxed.”
“I’ve never understood how people miss exercise, but when I’m away I really miss Hot Yoga”
Joe enjoys the regularity of the practice, having 2 set times that he has put aside for mindfulness and 2 set times that he has put aside for exercise. It helps him get through the week as he is at his most stressed.
Currently Joe is absolutely loving the Core Deep and Classic Furie as they are classes that he never thought he would be able to do and he actually enjoys them.
If you live with injuries or limited mobility, please get in touch with us. We are always interested in discussing your situation and seeing if our mindful practice of Hot Yoga might just be the remedy, as it has been for Joe.