For a yogi, holistic medicine and surgery go hand in hand

Kocher David
Dr. Mininder Kocher talking with David before surgery on Oct. 14

In any yoga class David Vendetti teaches, there’s sure to be laughing, tears and abundant hugs. David co-owns South Boston Yoga — New England’s largest yoga studio — and teaches every class with positivity and true heart. His unique style has garnered him awards, invitations to travel and, most importantly for David, the respect of the 200 students who come through his studio every day.

Teaching students and training teachers day in and day out requires a healthy mind and body, which had become more and more difficult for David after suffering from 10 years of mild lower back and hip pain. “I learned that chronic pain is not only a physical burden but also an emotional one,” says David. “As the pain got more intense, I tried everything,” he explains. “I saw two physical therapists, two different body workers and a chiropractor.”

Then two and a half years ago, things took a sharp turn for the worse. David flew from Boston to Athens to teach a workshop and threw out his back right after checking into the hotel. “It felt like something horrible was happening,” he remembers. “The pain moved to my neck, down into my back and finally settled very painfully into my hips.”

Seeking medical help after years of pain

Though the pain dulled enough to allow David to teach the workshop in Greece, over time it got worse. Certain techniques he learned from studying yoga, bodywork and anatomy provided a few days relief, but the pain would always come back. “At a certain point, I knew something was really wrong. I didn’t think I’d be able to walk much longer.”

David OutsideDavid scheduled an appointment to see his primary care physician, who sent him for MRIs on both hips and referred him to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mininder Kocher, associate director of Sports Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. Kocher reviewed David’s history and scans and diagnosed him with a congenital disorder of both hips called femoral acetabular (FAI) or hip impingement.

Kocher explained that unlike a normal hip, where there is smooth gliding motion of the round head of the thighbone (femoral head) within the hip socket (acetabulum), the lip of David’s hip sockets protruded more than normal, causing friction. Over time, this friction between the femoral head and hip socket wore away the cartilage and tore the labrum — the cushion or seal that lines the hip joint on both sides.

Kocher recommended minimally invasive surgery on both hips to repair the labral tears.

“I asked Dr. Kocher what decision would he make if these were his MRIs,” says David. “He said he would have the surgery. That was enough.”

Though he had never had surgery before and dreaded being away from his teaching, David left the surgeon’s office ecstatic he had found an answer to years of pain.

“Dr. Kocher was the first person whom I felt was on the mark, completely coherent and really honest. He told me that whether I had sat at a desk or run marathons my whole life, I would have the same condition. Talking to him was the game changer for me.”

Two hip surgeries and back to yoga

On Sept. 10, Kocher performed arthroscopic surgery on David’s left hip. David came out of anesthesia quickly and was home by 5 p.m. that day. He spent the next two weeks off his feet and on an anti-inflammatory diet full of ingredients like turmeric and wheatgrass.

“Dr. Kocher was the first person whom I felt was on the mark, completely coherent and really honest. He told me that whether I had sat at a desk or run marathons my whole life, I would have the same condition. Talking to him was the game changer for me.”

Recovery went so smoothly that David had the second surgery on Oct. 14 and plans to resume a regular teaching schedule in November.

David class
David teaching class at South Boston Yoga

He is using his time in recovery to post restorative yoga, breathing and strength-training videos online as well as “tips for the bed-bound,” focusing on how his healing can help others.

“I’m so grateful to know what it means not to be able to use your body. It helps me be a better teacher by supporting students who may be going through something like this. I want people in my community to learn from my experience that surgery can be an important component of holistic medicine.”

Learn more about the Boston Children’s Child and Young Adult Hip Preservation Program.