Curtis McKallip Jr.
I am a middle-aged computer programmer who started to develop pains in my left wrist and tingling sensations in that arm several years ago. They were diagnosed as tendinitis but were severe enough to make me stop using the keyboard. During this time, I tried massage, swimming, and light weight training with little or no effect. One day I attended a lecture and met a yoga teacher who taught a form of yoga called Iyengar Yoga. Up until then, I had never seriously studied yoga (and never knew there was more than one kind of yoga) other than occasionally doing a few stretches which could hardly be classified as poses. I obtained the class schedule from her and made plans to attend. My first class was held at her house and was a strenuous one-and-a-half hour workout in which we did standing and reclining poses that left me sweating and exhausted, but feeling good inside. I have taken martial arts training but this was completely different. The focus of Iyengar Yoga is on opening up parts of the body such as the chest and hips in ways I never knew existed. Many people think yoga is just about relaxing and meditation. These do play a part in Iyengar yoga, particularly at advanced levels, but they are generally practiced after the body has been opened up through the various poses.
I described my arm pain to my teacher but she put me on no special program. Instead, I participated with the class twice a week. The forward bends and downward-facing dog pose seemed particularly helpful, but all the poses have a synergetic effect on one another and so it is difficult to say one or two specific poses were responsible for healing my arm. After about 3 months my arm felt much better. During this time, I rarely used the computer so that my arm could heal. I waited another 3 months just to be safe before taking it back up. I continue to practice once a week for maintenance conditioning and have had no recurrence of the symptoms. It has now been 4 years since I had the symptoms.
I believe imbalances in my body were partially responsible for my injury. This yoga is a very precise and specific yoga which builds strength as it balances and opens (the teacher is very careful about not using the word "stretch") the entire body starting with the skeletal structure and working outward. I feel like this enables the body to support the arms better when they are extended in a typing position.
Iyengar Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga taught by B.K.S. Iyengar in India and teachers in major cities around the world. The teachers are well informed about anatomy and various health conditions that can be aided by doing yoga. There are also several books available including "Light on Yoga" by Iyengar himself and "Yoga: The Iyengar Way" by Silva Mehta.
However, having a teacher is very helpful in imposing a regular discipline. Without a critique from someone who knows the poses it is easy to do them poorly even if you try to watch yourself in a full-length mirror. The teacher emphasized constant adjustment in the pose and this really seemed to awaken my body and open it up.
I hope that my experience will prove helpful to others who are struggling with the problem of repetitive stress injury. Iyengar yoga classes may in some cases cost less than alternative treatments and be just as effective while providing the side benefit of general well-being. If you are concerned about being able to do the poses in the first place, don't worry - the teachers are trained to work with all levels of ability. No matter where you start there is always a sense of slowly improving the poses over a period of years anyway. As you work with them they become progressively easier to do. In the Western world we are conditioned to think that results come only with perfection. In my case, results came with just beginning the activity and working with it. So if you give it a chance, this may be a method that can bring results for you in healing RSI injuries.
Last Updated: 02/18/98