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The Eyes Have It!

A couple of years ago my optometrist discovered that cataracts were forming in both of my eyes. He predicted I would need cataract surgery someday. I was not looking forward to this ambiguous ‘someday’. I don’t like the idea of any intervention to do with my eyes, let alone putting in a prosthesis–a new lens.

I believe we humans have a basic survival instinct for wanting to hang on to all of our body parts, no matter that they are weakened by injuries or disease.

I came across this bit of writing six years ago, before I was facing hip replacement surgery:

You don’t get to keep everything you started out with.

Who wants to have that sort of truth be told? In your 40-50’s, your vision is likely to go. In your 50-60’s, your hearing gets wobbly. Maybe you can forestall buying reading glasses or hearing aids out of pure vanity, but you’re only fooling one person.

You may not be familiar with what a cataract is. It’s a condition that is usually age-related whereby the lens of the eye becomes more and more cloudy. The result is that an individual’s vision becomes blurry or even develops a brown colour tint. One survey estimates that 50 percent of those over 80 years old have a cataract.

The day arrived for my cataract surgery on Monday last. As I write this post I’m looking out through a new left eye special Toric lens that helps reduce astigmatism. That’s a condition that I have where my eye is a little less than round. 

I’d like to say that I can see clearly now, but I’m not quite there. Looking through just my left eye, colours are brighter. But there’s still some swelling, so my sight is somewhat blurred. This should hopefully get better in a few days.

Yogis would be well advised to observe the protocol that their doctors set out after cataract surgery. And, yoga teachers should be apprised of this protocol, too, as removal of a cataract is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in Australia. With an ageing population, more students will be showing up in yoga classes having had cataract surgery.

Don’ts

Here are the most important contraindications for post-op yoga practice:

In the first week or so, avoid any strenuous poses. This might include holding poses for long timings, i.e., standing poses, because this can contribute to elevation of  blood pressure. Other poses that might have this effect are the ones where you strongly contract your abdominal muscles–Navasana (boat pose), Bakasana (crow pose), Pasasana (noose pose), for instance.

Avoid doing any of the inverted poses. Some of the common ones are Uttanasana (standing forward fold), Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-leg forward fold), Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose), and, obviously, Sirsasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulder stand). If you bend only to 90 degrees at the hips, you can still get the benefit of stretching your shoulders and hamstrings in half Uttanasana at the wall.

Do’s

There are so many tools for healing in the vast array of yoga practices. It’s in the times when we are in recovery or rehabilitation that practices like guided meditations, pranayama and restorative poses shine the most.

I’ve certainly been drawn to yoga nidra and mindfulness meditation in this my healing time to soothe my nerves and boost my immune system.

Having said all of the above, I now admit to being a rule-breaker. Saturday night at the Wingham Akoostik Festival I was shaking my booty to the wild rhythms of ‘The Swamp Stompers’ and ‘Joe Camilleri and the Black Sorrows’.

Sometimes we have to leave a little wiggle room for wild abandon and celebration. Perhaps that’s good yoga, too.