Pre-Fusion Yoga

Pre-Fusion Yoga: sounds like a new kind of yoga (or cuisine, or music), but it’s not.  It’s simply the name I am giving to a private yoga session I taught to Jan Dahl just before Christmas.

We started out with breathing!  Breathing, and more breathing.  This may sound mundane, but, actually, it was extraordinary.  Everything about the yoga session was off-the-charts extraordinary.  Why?  Because Jan was about to undergo a Complete Spinal Surgery where surgeons would be fusing her spine from T4 to her sacrum.  Jan used to take yoga classes from me 12 years ago when she still lived in Seattle. She managed her lower back pain through yoga, massage, and physical therapy.

The pain that became manageable via yoga originated from a severe condition of scoliosis.  When Jan was 11 years old, she was put in a full body plaster cast for thirteen months. In her adult life, through yoga, Jan has been able to maintain a great level of physical function.  She has a very active life and managed her pain until about 5 months ago when her scoliosis progressed and Jan’s lower back pain became increasingly difficult to manage. An MRI revealed she had two ribs sitting inside her pelvis. Doctors described her situation as a “spinal collapse”.  Breathing had become difficult and the pressure on her inner organs was at a critical stage.

I believe it is yoga that has kept me healthy and mobile for 40 years. (Jan)

Our yoga session was a kind of “good-bye” to Jan’s body, which would soon undergo a complete transformation via the Complete Spinal Surgery.  There are many movements she so loves which she will no longer be able to do, such as side bending, twists, and arches and we did all of those one last time!  On the bright side, I reminded Jan there are so many movements she will still be able to do once she fully recovers (6-12 months recovery time), such as forward bending with straight back (this is quite do-able with props such as a chair or wall) and all the symmetrical poses such as side plank and perhaps even a modified headstand, etc. In time, Jan will be able to do her yoga again and rediscover a new body.  I can’t wait to be there with her, when she is ready, to help show her what is possible!

Jan is one of those people who smiles the whole time she does yoga because it feels so good to create space and breath freely.  Her yoga and meditation practice are strong and during our precious session, other than breathing exercises, we did the following:

  • Side bending with focus on stretching upwards
  • Supported twists (we had to be very careful, but lying twists worked out really well and brought smiles!)
  • Cat/Cow
  • Bridge Pose
  • Fish Pose: lying over a rolled blanket or bolster
  • Regular Fish Pose
  • Backbending by lying over my “headstander” bench
  • Headstand (great to use the “headstander” for this because it didn’t put any stress on her neck and headstands help create space for vital organs of the torso)

    Christine Dunbar doing a headstand using the "headstander" bench.  It is a great way to do a headstand without having to put pressure on your neck.  Jan practiced this way for our session.

    Christine Dunbar doing a headstand using the “headstander” bench. It is a great way to do a headstand without having to put pressure on your neck. Jan practiced this way for our session.

  • Full Back Bend with Jan holding on to my ankles  (This one brought tears to my eyes as I watched Jan, with her charismatic smile, get into her backbend!!  I know how good they feel and how much she has loved this movement.)
  • Plough Pose  (This was her request!  Plough has always created space in Jan’s spine by eliminating compression and, further easing pain.)

Thank you for your notes of support as I begin this journey to rebuild my spine and revitalize my life and future. (Jan)

The yoga session was incredibly emotional for both Jan and myself.  For Jan, it was saying goodbye to the body she has lived in for so long and heading into a new chapter of her life.  For me, it was a testament to the healing attributes of yoga! Our session was also a reminder of how Jan would soon be saying hello to a newly supported straightened spine, one that would stand tall and allow Jan to explore new interior spaces with her breath.

With lovely Jan Dahl after our yoga session!

With lovely Jan Dahl after our yoga session!

Post Script:  MaryAnn and I went to visit Jan at the hospital last Friday.  Her surgeries went well.  It has, however, been a very challenging time for Jan.  The surgeries were more difficult than she ever imagined and she was feeling discouraged.  We worked with Jan’s breathing (because it hurts to breathe!), helped her with her morale, fed her some good loving energy (we did Reiki for her), and encouraged her on how well she is doing!  Even if you don’t know Jan, please include her in your prayers and send her some good healing energy!

Your support and prayers make all the difference. Bless you. (Jan)


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9 Responses to “Pre-Fusion Yoga”

  1. Kathleen Conroy Says:

    What a lovely update and post, Fran. And how fortunate for Jan that you could put together such a rich yoga experience before her surgery. I’m sure it helped her get through it.


  2. Herb Says:

    You do beautiful work, Fran. Thanks for sharing.


  3. frangallo Says:

    Thank you both, Kathleen and Herb! Again and again, I am reminded of how powerful the yoga practice is. Jan is a pretty amazing woman and I am grateful that she gave me permission to write this blog, so I could share her story with others. Fran


  4. Rick Says:

    My utmost best wishes for Jan, for her surgery recovery, and for her attainment of a supportive back. It is a testament to both Jan and Fran that they’ve come together at this time in their lives to help along he process. Jan, may new floods of oxygen inspire muscles and vitals to achieve greater vigor!



  5. Bev Says:

    Wow!! I don’t know Jan but she must be a very brave woman. And, you, Fran, are a true friend. I will keep Jan in my prayers. And I’d love to meet her someday. Thanks for sharing this lovely story.




    • frangallo Says:

      Bev, I hope you get to meet Jan one day. She is a pretty amazing woman! As you say, she is very brave. I feel blessed that Jan came into my life. She is a teacher for me, for all of us. And I am grateful that she gave me permission to share her story.


  6. Jeroldine Hallberg Says:

    Thanks for sending this. I shared it with my niece Jamie who has scoliosis. She has steadfastly refused surgery, seeking other ways to address the pain. It might inspire her to see another person’s journey. Love, Jerry


    • frangallo Says:

      Hi Jerry, Once Jan is strong and fully recovered, perhaps you can talk to her or have your niece talk to her about the journey. The surgery certainly is extreme and should only be considered under an extreme situation (such as Spinal Collapse). Jan is indeed an inspiration to us all! love, Fran


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