Yoga and Pain Management – “J” and Congestive Heart Failure
This week was a special magical week for me in terms of pain management. The connections I had with my patients felt very deep. One patient that I saw a three times was "J." J is an African American woman with chronic pain of 3-4 due to bilateral leg edema and congestive heart failure. J is a remarkable women – articulate, intelligent, caring to a fault. J shared with me on her first visit that she was not good a visualizing so I used feeling states and joyful memories to help her bring her pain down.
The second visit, J was having a lot of trouble breathing so breath meditation was not feasible for her, and she seemed to have trouble accessing the same methods we had used the day before. Something prompted me to ask her what she had done for a living. She shared that she was an advocate for juveniles in the juvenile justice system. She began to relay stories of the "lost" kids she had tried to help, and it was obvious to me that she carried a lot of grief and heaviness in her heart for these kids. My assignment to her was to allow each of their faces to come to mind, to bless them, and to release them. She promised she would work on it. Then she told me that I had been blessed by God to be able to reach people at such a deep level. She told me she hoped I realized how special I was. I was so moved by her words and the experience I found myself crying.
The next day I engaged J in some gentle joint-freeing exercises in bed. Though it was tough for her she was thrilled to be able to move her feet. and legs. It had been a long time since she had been able to do so. I decided to try some breath visualizations with her – body scan and alternate body breathing. She did this successfully, though she worried about her lack of ability to do it perfectly. She shared with me that she had a vision of sitting outside holding hands with a man she though might have been her late husband and a baby. They were all holding hands. She asked me if she was crazy. I assured her it was completely normal to have visions during meditation. Though her pain came down only a little she felt comforted by the practice and her ability to move her body more. She said, "Maybe God let me have this pain just so I could meet you and tell you how special you are."
The beauty of this work is that both the healer and the patient are healed by the experience. So humbling. So beautiful.