A couple of years ago, I had an operation on my knee as I had a condition which generated inflammation and swelling in the joint. These are some of the notes that I made at the time together with what I think now. Operations are like a self inflicted injury, the mindset is different from injury because shock is less but there still is a trauma to body.
When I reflected on the healing process on 4th March 2011, 4 weeks after the operation, I came up with some points.
- I thought I would shift seamlessly from having an active yoga practice to having a restorative yoga practice. What happened was that for 2 weeks is that I couldn’t do any yoga apart from lying on my front on a bolster and breathing. My mind and body was too restless for meditation or pranayama. I was surprised at this, after all potentially this the best time for it. Actually, I didn’t have the energy to make that first step and trying to find the energy only made me feel really bad about myself.
- I found the best thing was just watching some videos on TV, reading some books.
- What they don’t tell you when you have an operation is that you will have a totally different body before and after. I expected there to be discomfit and pain but what I didn’t expect was to have almost no proprioceptive contact with my body. Every time I did the usual things to put myself in touch with my body I had a really strong reaction and I didn’t have the energy to deal with that reaction. I found that the general anaesthetic took a while to really leave my system, for me this seemed to be around 4-5 weeks.
- I worked with taking it slow and working with what is rather than what I think it should be. This was really important as it was easy to get frustrated by the perceived lack of progress.
- I modified and adapted the physio’s exercises to my own needs. This was also important because physiotherapists work in a different way to yoga. They are happy to push through the pain to get you moving as there are now lots of studies that show healing times after operations are much improved by early mobility. It was when I went back to the gym that things really turned the corner for me. I found that the gym was a place where I could do a little bit to get my body moving, mostly because I was able to sit down at the machines and rest when I needed it.
Lessons for the future.
I would wind down the physical practice a few weeks before the operation rather than carry on up to the operation, just do meditations, affirmations and breathing exercises. This would give my body time to adjust to the idea that things could be different. It’s also important to have internal resources which don’t rely on movement.
I would put together a recovery program with another yoga teacher and get them to help me with it. It’s really hard trying to do it on your own.
I can recommend the CD which comes from the book ‘Body, Breath and Being’. You can get details of the book here (it also includes links to the MP3 files). It has 2 tracks which I have found to be really effective for learning to let go.