Recipe for Hysterectomy Recovery: Use Props
Recovering from a hysterectomy can be a daunting process. There’s an emotional side to it: the loss of a major organ. A hysterectomy can also precipitate the sudden onset of menopause. On the physical side, the suggested healing time is six weeks which is a long time to be dealing with discomfort and restricted activity. Mentally, it’s a time for taking it slow and easy, perhaps a difficult discipline if there are children to look after and home and work to juggle.
Yoga is then the perfect companion in hysterectomy recovery. The reflective practices can done in the first week post-op: pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra, and gradually propped restorative poses added in. Here’s a plan that I followed with the help of my friend Sandy Edwards.
Do you think that the teacher of the yoga student pictured to the left might have been to a Judith Lasater workshop?
You can make your judgment based on the number of props supporting the student. American yoga teacher, Judith Lasater, is arguably the Prop Queen of them all.
And, yes, my yoga teacher/friend, Sandy, did in fact attend a JL workshop in New York 2006.
That happened to be a fortunate confluence of events for me. There was my total hysterectomy operation. And, then there was Sandy, fresh from her workshop. She needed a guinea pig on whom she could practice the art of therapeutic propping. I volunteered to be a case study.
The two of us assessed how far along I was in my recovery. Fortunately, I was doing well. My surgeon had been able to do the operation laparoscopically. Only four tiny incisions showed on my abdomen. We chose a sequence of seven simple poses to support the stage I was in–three weeks post-op.
In the first pose pictured here, I am propped up against a wooden bench, leaning back against bolsters and blankets. The pose is a version of supta baddha konasana. My arms are supported by even more bolsters and blankets. I love the way Sandy has used the eye bags for a little more weight to help my hands to relax. It was particularly enjoyable to have my heart and lungs lifted in this way. I felt like a flower opening to sunlight.
In the second pose here, I’m counter-posing the slight backbend I did with a supported forward bend–upavistha konasana. The addition of blankets over my forearms and hands was an extra warming feature on a particularly wintry day. This version of a forward bend creates a beautifully introspective equilibrium.
These next two poses, pictured above, are versions of setu bandhasana. They gave a gentle stretch to the front of my body. I was advised not to overstretch the pelvic-abdominal area because there were many internal stitches that would take months to heal. But once again, I loved the feeling of opening up. Using the weights, the sandbag on my legs and one on my forehead, created a feeling of groundedness.
The version below of viparita karani shows me propped up to the maximum. There are two bolsters at the wall supporting my legs, with a sandbag atop. My eyes are covered by the blanket and just the end of a sandbag over my forehead. I found it comforting, too, having the belt keep my legs together.
The side-lying version of savasana felt totally supportive, more so than it might have lying on my back.
There was the bolster cushioning the front of my body, especially my abdomen. And then, there was the back bolster supporting my lumbar and kidneys. The extra touches, blanket between my legs, over my head, and eye bags for my hands created space, quiet and grounding. Every part of my body releasing to gravity.
Finally, no yoga sequence should be complete without a meditation. By the end of the medium-length timings in this sequence, I was ready to sit quietly for ten minutes. In this practice, we aimed to cultivate a serene mind in the way the sequence unfolded. Then, the healing properties of the practice organically manifested.
I was able to do a 10-day coastal walk in the Kimberleys by week seven in my recovery process. (If you can, add a Broome holiday to your hysterectomy recovery program, especially if you are having your surgery done in the winter.)