Judy is in a rehabilitation centre at the moment ‘finding her legs’, as she is 15 days out from double hip replacement surgery. She is a veteran yogi and also trained as a yoga teacher, and probably has about 35 years of Iyengar yoga under her belt.
Judy’s doing another kind of training now with the physiotherapists at Hunters Hill Private Hospital. These stalwart practitioners run the residential patients through their paces and are both caring and strict – tough love, you could call it.
I was in the same facility as Judy over 3 years ago, and I noticed how much difficulty the majority of patients had doing their exercise routines. It wasn’t simply the problem of learning to walk again with a new knee or hip. It was more basic than that. Many of these people couldn’t connect with their bodies to make them do what was expected of them.
Imagine the phone is ringing and not being able to find it to answer. The physios would give the patient an instruction and he or she couldn’t understand or might misunderstand what was required – making re-training the muscles a long and tiring process. Some people gave the routines only a half-hearted attempt, just to please the physios, and their exercises became less effective.
Sometimes we take for granted the benefits we get from yoga: an upright posture which helps us to breathe properly; attention to breath which helps create optimum energy; and, a sensitive awareness that lets us connect the mind with the breath and the body.
When we are well we may not fully appreciate our good health, and that’s human nature. It’s when we are coming back from illness, injury or surgery that we can take advance of the investment we’ve made in our regular yoga practice.
Posted in anatomy, Healing, Health, Hip Surgery, Yoga practice, Yoga Therapy
Tagged hip replacement surgery, hunters hill private hospital, physiotherapists, Posture, rehabilitation centre, tough love
People keep asking me whether I can do everything I used to be able to do before I had my double hip replacement. What a hard question!
Here’s a shot of me in 1990 doing a backbend, pre-hip arthritis.
And, here I am 22 years later teaching my bionic hips how to extend.
Those of you out there with your perfecto-meters will note that as a 68-year old, my shoulders are stiffish, but, hey, I used to be overly flexible.
It’s a funny thing. When I had my natural hips, I didn’t get as much sensitive enjoyment out of them in this pose.
The thing is, just because you can do this pose well, it’s not necessarily going to make you happier, or a nicer person, or even bestow you with better health. I mean, I ended up with osteoarthritis, for goodness sake. I’m still working on the ‘being nicer person’ thing
If you find doing urdhva dhanurasana a bridge too far and would like to work towards it or feel some of its lovely openings, try the supported bridge pose on a block. And remember, yoga isn’t about doing things perfectly. It’s about quietening your mind to meet the nice person inside.
Source: drweil.com via Allison on Pinterest
Is there an epidemic of hip replacements going on? I know of three yoginis who will have the surgery done within a month time frame – mid-March to mid-April. To be fair, I also know women who haven’t done yoga who, for various reasons, had to have replacements.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know my story of bi-lateral surgery, performed more than 3 years ago. I had osteoarthritis for 18 years before finally having the surgery, and since the operation I’m a new woman.
I would say of my own history that participation in high impact sports was a big contributor to degeneration in my hips. Yoga actually was my main healing modality in the leading up to the surgery and in months of rehabilitation afterwards.
The strange thing that happens when life serves up a calamitous situation, i.e., arthritic hips for a yoga teacher, is that it’s an opportunity to glean whatever lessons there are to learn. Then there will be ample chances to share your experience with others facing similar problems.
Here are some more articles on the topic:
Yoga and Hip Replacement Surgery
Letter to Arthritis Hip Sufferers
Burdened By Weight
Oh my! My head is spinning!
I left paradisiac Mitchells Island at 9 am to drive south as I was scheduled for root canal therapy in Sydney in the early afternoon. The dental specialist that performed the procedure, an endondontist, did the 75 minute treatment while I was looking up at the ceiling watching Mr. Bean videos, hearing easy- listening tracks on the stereo, and, at the same time, trying to do mindfulness meditation. It’s a very trippy experience when half your face is frozen.
Now, as the novacaine is wearing off, I’m sitting in a Darlinghurst hotel room with Daniel who has injested a substance to clean out his digestive tract in anticipation (?) of an colonoscopy and a gastroscopy tomorrow morning at St Vincent’s Hospital.
For a little diversion, and to leave Daniel some time to do his business, I’m going off now to visit a colleague and friend at Prince of Wales, where she has undergone a double hip replacement.
Am I getting old such that I and many of my mates revolve in a constellation of medical appointments and procedures?
Or, rather, is it true, as the sign in a fancy Crown Street cheese shop said, age doesn’t matter unless you are a cheese?
One of the strange but ever present states of affairs in all beings is the desire to live forever. Even those in the presence of death every day have this illogical impulsion. This is what inspires the instinct for self-preservation in all of us.*
I just finished a must-read novel by Barbara Kingsolver called Flight Behaviour. Kingsolver is a master of metaphor and many of the word pictures she creates in this book will probably remain with me for a long time. I like an expression she uses in the book in which she describes most people as ’fetishising youth’.
It’s true, isn’t it that we try hard to keep our youthful looks, and even attempt to restore them by all manner of means… from colouring our hair (I do) to cosmetic enhancements (I don’t).
I admit to embracing yoga over 40 years ago because I thought it would give me good health in old age, especially since my parents died at an early age.
As of this writing, I’m in pretty good nick, but I know very well from having had both acute illnesses and chronic disease that I am as vulnerable as the next person.
Yoga isn’t a cure-all and not the elixir of immortality, but it is a worthy and dependable companion for the vagaries of life.
Tasam anaditvam ca asisah nityatvat
There is a strong desire for immortality in all men at all times. Thus these impressions cannot be ascribed to any time.*
*Patanjali’s Yogasutras, translation and commentary by T.K.V. Desikachar.
Posted in Healing, Health, Hip Surgery, Philosophy, Wisdom, Yoga practice, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Tagged barbara kingsolver, chronic disease, flight behaviour, immortality, t k v desikachar
I’ve been featured in an article in the August/September Australian Yoga Journal that’s entitled “Yoga at Any Age”. The gist of the article is that yoga has a myriad of gifts to offer and the value of them increases with age.
My particular input into the article emphasises that the hip arthritis I dealt with over the years propelled me into more reflective yoga practices. But it also helped keep me stay agile, mostly pain-free and able to teach yoga for the eighteen years I had the condition.
I learned a vital truth in the process: yoga is not an insurance policy to make you impervious to disease, ageing, and ultimately dying. But it can foster growing old and staying centred with ease and gracefulness.
Here are a few more benefits:
• Flexibility and mobility
• Comfortable sleep
• Pain relief
Svarasa-vaht vidusah api tatha arudhah abhinivesah
*The survival instinct is self-perpetuating and as such is dominant even in the learned
*Patanjali’s Meditation Yoga, translation and commentary by Vyn Bailey.
Tomorrow is a 2 year anniversary of my release from Hunters Hill Private Hospital where I did 12 days of rehabilitation after my double hip replacement surgery.
On my return home, my husband Daniel made a great video clip of my walking up the stairway without needing to use a stick. He put some backing music to it – Patsy Kline’s Walking After Midnight – and stuck it up on the Internet as a YouTube video.
I tell people now that if anyone is having qualms about the surgery, they needn’t. Just get a great surgeon, do the rehab with the physios afterwards, and day-by-day, health and fitness will come back.
I feel grateful now to be able to do so many activities again that had gotten eroded before the surgery. I’m able to teach and practice yoga, garden, cycle, go bush walking, and I’m completely free from pain. I’m thankful that the technology exists to end the suffering of hip arthritis, and that I was able to avail myself of it.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein
Update: I found the YouTube video (funny how you can lose track of these things). It’s here: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49He3WJSFE8&feature=colike). While you’re there you might want to have a look at our video of the Cattleroo, or either of Daniel’s weird videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/danielboris2
Symmetry in action, Urdhva Dhanurasana is a challenging pose for most yogis. If we could only get the backbend arc to be even from the top of the spine to the tip, then the experience would be pleasurable and gratifying. Anything less, we feel heavy, pinched and sometimes defeated.
Like many adults, by the time I came to do yoga, it had been many years since I’d done backbends. The first ones I attempted in a yoga class made me feel exhilarated. My teacher was a hard task master. We students did 25 Urdhva Dhanurasanas, followed by 10 “easies”. Those are when you push up into a backbend, come down half way, then push up again, times 10. Picture doing 10 quick push-ups as though you were upside-down and inside-out. It was exciting but ultimately exhausting.
Here’s a beautiful photo that Carole Baillargeon took of me about 20 years ago:
It took me decades to realise that I didn’t have to do a practice that included 25 Urdhva Dhanuasanas, 10 easies, 25 drop-backs from Tadasana, and 25 from headstand. You would think I’d have learned more quickly as I’d often have sciatica flare-ups, no doubt exacerbated by forceful practice. Call me lazy, if you will, but these days three thoughtful Urdhva Dhanurasanas, holding for a while to achieve that optimum even arcing of the spine – with certain muscles turned on and others turned off – that’s enough. I feel good afterwards and energised.
Here’s me venturing into backbend territory again exactly one year after my double hip replacement surgery.
If you’re a beginner, start small – maybe the little bridge Setubandha, sometimes called dwi pada pitham. Be sure to build up your arm and core strength so that when you’re ready to do upside-down bow pose your arrow will hit the mark.
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If you read “Yoga Suits Her” for inspiration, I hope I’m not letting you down by saying there was no yoga practice happening for me today.
This is because yesterday Daniel and I headed off for Barrington Tops National Park and here I am – with miracle of WiFi in our lodging – still connected to you.
I’ve heard about this part of the world ever since I moved to Australia from the US 35 years ago, so it’s a thrill to be here for the first time. The Park is part of the Barrington Tops Area of the World Heritage Site Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. The stunning mountain ranges of this park are formed from sedimentary rock estimated to be 300 – 400 million years old, said to be well before Australia separated from Gondwanaland.
It’s such a privilege to have access to this pristine region which tells you its story as you walk through the environment. Unique flora and fauna speak of adaptations to a climate that has created features as varied as alpine meadows and mossy swamps.
As I walked through the bush yesterday and today, I felt gratitude for: 1) the successful hip surgery I underwent last year that lets me enjoy an active life again, and 2) the incredible beauty of our Australian national and state parks, some of them maintained these days in collaboration with the indigenous original owners.
Under threat of global warming, and the recent news that the world output of CO rose 6% last year, the biggest increase on record, it makes me wonder if the next generations will get to enjoy the physical beauty of this country and the easy way of life we almost take for granted.
Yoga is portable. If you have been attending classes for umpteen years and have not yet made the transition to doing yoga at home, you may not have made that discovery. So, here’s another incentive talk
Nowhere is the portability of yoga practice more appreciated than when you’re on the road. Even in the most modest lodging, you’ll find space to do a few back-saving postures.
The “hanging partial squat” or “bed chest opener” are so necessary after driving Highway 101 for many hours, as we are on this vacation. The stunning coastal scenery and adorable historic hamlets are mesmerizing, but won’t distract you from being stiff and sore at the end of the day.
The piece-de-resistance is of course legs-up-the-wall, as demonstrated by Eve (in pajamas), straight legs and splits versions for tight hamstrings and back.
Just these four poses might be enough, at least until you get yourself to a good yoga studio for a class, as I’m looking forward to doing in a few days in the Sunset district of San Francisco.