MIRACLE ON 91ST STREET
The Miracle of Bikram Yoga
by JOSEPH PARENTI
February 26, 2015
Imagine waking up from a coma in a hospital bed and realizing that you're connected to three life support machines, unable to eat or speak and the entire left side of your body is paralyzed.
This was the situation I found myself in after my car was broad sided by a stolen vehicle traveling at 80 mph. I suffered a traumatic brain injury, three heart attacks and whiplash so severe my head and neck were twisted to one side and stuck in that disturbing position.
I was trapped in bed for over three months and in a coma for the first three weeks. I spent a total of seven months in three different hospitals trying to recover not only from those injuries but some additional ones caused by the neglect in the first hospital, namely advanced pneumonia and severe bed sores.
Once I was discharged from the last hospital, my body was a twisted mess. With my neck tilted in one direction, I unconsciously tilted my body in the opposite direction so my eyes and head would be level. Due to the head injury, I had weakness and terrible balance on the left side of my body and my left foot dragged while I walked.
My initial treatment was physical therapy, recommended by my doctors, which I did for seven months. It was a complete waste of time.
I started treatment with a chiropractor who diagnosed me with whiplash, muscle atrophy on my right shoulder and ankylosing spondylitis, which is an inflammatory disease that can cause some of the vertebrae in the spine to fuse together. According to western medical professionals, there is no cure for this condition, but treatments can decrease pain and lessen symptoms
After only a few months of treatment, at one time per week, my neck started to improve and have increased movement. Also, the atrophy I had in my shoulder started to heal.
After 13 years of chiropractic, I still had severe muscle spasms in my neck and my walking and balance was off-kilter. I needed to be treated by the chiropractor and a massage therapist once per week to minimize the pain. If I sneezed or strained myself, I would be in severe pain for at least a week.
A friend of mine strongly recommended the Bikram yoga and I decided to give it a try.
Bikram Yoga is a style of yoga created by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. This 90 minute class is practiced in a room heated to at least 105 degrees with about 40% humidity. All Bikram classes consist of the same 26 postures done two times and two breathing exercises.
Benefits of this type of yoga: systematically moves fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of your body, to each organ, muscle and fiber, thereby restoring all your systems to healthy working order. It increases your strength, flexibility, focus and determination. It also helps you to sweat and release toxins. A 90 minute class can burn between 500 and 1,000 calories.
When I first walked into the room, I was shocked by the intense heat. The teacher explained to me the two reasons for the heat. The first was to warm the muscles to make them easier to stretch and the second was to release toxins from your body. After my very first class, I was able to move my head and neck better than I had since the accident. I was hooked.
After only a few weeks of classes, at two times per week, I was able to reduce my chiropractic/massage visits to once every two weeks. After a few months of Bikram yoga, I was able to reduce those treatments to once per month. After six months, I was able to reduce it to an "as needed basis."
I have been practicing now over 13 years. The heat and the stretching continue to give my neck more flexibility. I attend class two to three times a week. If I go less than that, my neck starts to stiffen up and becomes painful. While still not 100%, my balance and strength on my left side have improved dramatically.
I highly recommend this type of yoga to anyone dealing with balance or pain and stiffness in their body. Bikram yoga - You need to try it at least once…and maybe do it for life.
I've detailed my accident and the journey of survival through three NY hospitals in my book, Miracle on 91st Street, Surviving the Impossible. This book proves the healing power of yoga and the power of steadfast determination and perseverance!