Stretching away the pain in the Vail Valley
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Edwards resident Ron Amass thought he had to give up skiing, kayaking and biking until he stepped onto a Vail Valley yoga mat.
The 44-year-old has always been a diehard athlete, but had always been plagued by tight muscles, which got worse after a fall from a roof three winters ago.
“I hurt my lower back, and I did tons of stuff to try and come back – injections, killing nerves,” he said. “I was ready to quit skiing, I had quit kayaking. I couldn’t work. It was to the point that putting my pants on in the morning was a near impossibility.”
Last August, he began taking yoga classes at the suggestion of friends. Now, Amass said his pain is greatly reduced, he skied this last season, has been riding his bike, and plans to kayak this summer.
Not only does he feel much looser, pain from a previous rotator cuff injury and knee discomfort from years of skiing is nearly nonexistent, he said.
“Before I couldn’t put my arms over my head. Now I can,” he said. “Also, my knees don’t hurt anymore. I wish I had started yoga when I was 12.”
Some physical therapists are starting to prescribe yoga for people like Amass as a part of injury rehabilitation. Yoga strengthens the core muscles, resulting in better posture, putting less strain on the back and abdominal muscles, said Keri Bergeron, physical therapist with Evolve Physical Therapy in Edwards.
She said many of the exercises done in yoga class are similar to the traditional strengthening exercises or stretches physical therapists usually prescribe. However, yoga not only gives extra attention to the core muscles, but the classes can help people stick with their exercises.
“It can be difficult to motivate people to do those things on their own,” she said. “I know I don’t have the discipline to do an hour and a half of yoga twice a week by myself. It’s easier to be motivated and feed off the energy of a roomful of people.”
People recovering from injuries might need to modify the poses the rest of the class does or use equipment that makes some of the moves easier, she said. And of course, always check with your doctor before using yoga as a form of rehabilitation, she added.
The majority of Bergeron’s patients have had positive results from their yoga therapy, she said.
One patient started going to yoga for about a month to strengthen a troublesome knee.
“She was very protective of her knee, and had had long-term knee problems,” Bergeron said. “She came back and said, ‘My knee feels great, I couldn’t do this before,’ and went into a (yoga) position that flexed the knee.”
And people recovering from different types of injuries may prefer different types of yoga. Some yoga focuses more on the spiritual, others are more active and others emphasize stretching and balance.
At a recent evening yoga class at Edward’s Dogma Athletica, participants crowded into the room ranged from experts flowing in and out of handstands to limber athletes cross-training for their respective sports, to those looking to unwind after work.
Tracey Van Curan was among them. She said yoga has helped her recover from shoulder surgery and quelled some knee problems, but now she mainly goes for the calming effect the class has on her.
“I need this to release the stress,” she said.
For Amass, it took trying several classes at different studios and gyms to find one that eventually helped him recover.
“I’m a very athletic person, and I wanted to feel like I got a workout. Some other classes just weren’t the right approach for me,” he said, adding that he was surprised at how much of a workout some of the classes are. “It’s a pretty challenging thing. They reduce me each time to a jar of jelly.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.
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