Raven Sadhaka Seltzer: Offering Self-Healing Solutions for Back and Neck Pain
Sep 26, 2013 01:38PM
● By Kim Childs
At 16, Raven Sadhaka Seltzer suffered an injury that left her with a herniated disc in her lower back. Seltzer began to practice yoga, which gave her some relief from chronic pain, until another injury in the same area led to a diagnosis of spondylolisthesis, a condition in which vertebrae slip out of their proper position. Seeking to avoid surgery, Seltzer developed her own healing program from such methods as yoga therapy, Reiki and Ayurveda. Today she helps others as an integrative yoga therapist, wellness consultant and author of the new book, Back to Balance: Heal Your Spine, Heal Your Life. Seltzer spoke with Natural Awakenings about the methods detailed in her book.
How did you develop the program that you teach and write about in the book?
I started with my own Kripalu yoga training and added other methods from my training in massage therapy, positional therapy, Reiki and Ayurveda to create a routine for myself. Once the pain was gone I could begin strengthening and healing my spine. The program has worked so well for myself and others that I created the book, which allows me to “go home” with clients and students who want to know what they can do on their own to keep healing.
Who is the book for?
It’s for those with chronic pain in the low back or neck, the two areas for which spinal fusion surgery is recommended. While surgery may be unavoidable in some cases, the book can help those seeking alternatives to surgery or ways to relieve chronic back or neck pain. Also, some people use this book after spinal fusion surgery to deal with immobility issues and arthritis.
Can you describe the Back to Balance program?
It features stretching, strengthening, restorative poses, movements and breathing techniques, and the methods take about ten minutes in the morning or evening to get the best results and relief. There are photos at the end of each chapter illustrating the poses, and I include ergonomic guides and charts that people can use to track progress. I also give lifestyle tips about things like diet, sleep habits and sleep surfaces, because it’s typically not just one thing that keeps the spine in a chronic situation.
The 30 chapters offer something for each day, and conventional wisdom says that it takes 30 days to get a habit going. I hope my readers will continue with the parts of the program that work for them.
What if someone is in too much pain to exercise?
The first few chapters are about reducing pain, which sometimes requires medication or natural supplements like bromelain to reduce inflammation. I include poses to alleviate pain, which is created by compression on the nerves. If you can reduce the compression through gentle breathing, gentle motion and restorative poses, it can be very helpful. Later, we can begin to gently strengthen, stretch and add in the other lifestyle elements.
How have these methods helped your clients?
One young man in my corporate yoga classes sought me out for private sessions after suffering with chronic back pain for a decade. He took in the wisdom and followed the methods while taking my yoga classes and making more conscious lifestyle choices. After a few months, he felt better and told me that he never would have thought it was possible to live without pain.
Do you still have spondylolisthesis?
No, and that’s one thing that I’ve learned, which is that discs and spinal tissue can and do heal. My herniated disc had healed badly, however, leaving a lot of scar tissue. When the doctor told me I had spondylolisthesis, he made it sound like a life sentence. But I worked to strengthen the muscles in front of and behind the injured area, which held the spine in place. So I no longer have that diagnosis but I do have to maintain my spinal health, and that’s the part that people don’t always like because they want a quick fix. I’m pretty vigilant about keeping myself in good shape and being mindful of my body and movements. Once you’ve compromised an area, it’s always a little more open to injury, but I know what to do to get back on track when something unexpected happens.