30 Days of Yoga: Weeks 2 & 3

Well well well… confession time. I’ve dropped the commitment and let life get away with me again! There is definitely a mental block for me when it comes to practicing at home. The good news, I’ve been going to yoga classes 2-3 x a week so its not as if I’ve not been doing yoga.

Reading through Marianne’s PDF booklet of the blog posts, week two was ‘Keep this party jumping’ and there were some good tips on how to integrate a home practice into a busy life.

One of the key messages I took away from the guide was that “I am bringing a wise inner teacher who always knows what is best for my body”.  This is a good one to stop and reflect on.  I am a wise inner teacher and if I listen to myself I know that:

  • I really do want to have some sort of a daily practice and be a bit more disciplined about it. Sometimes I’m a bit lazy or am struggling to put my wellbeing first.
  • Right now ‘a little every day’ is better for me than ‘a lot every now and then’.
  • I need a more challenging physical practice as my health is deteriorating at the moment, I’m putting on weight due to the new medication I’m on and I’m getting ‘soft’.  My current practice of going to classes 2-3 x a week isn’t enough.
  • My home practice at the moment is very much freestyle and a bit unruly. I do what feels right and often end up doing physio exercises on the mat (habit). I’m not loving being on my mat at home, I think because of my history of using a home practice to do physio exercises. This mindset can be changed. Part of the intention I set was to bring joy to my practice.  Perhaps I can do this via listening to music as I practice.
  • I like to break out into random stretches doing my day, half of my stretches are yoga moves. I like to do yoga everywhere.  Sometimes I even mediate on the tube!
  • I’ve been pretty exhausted in the last few months and I need to cut myself some slack. Sometimes no yoga is my yoga.  Yoga Nidra helps immensely when I’m over tired.

The good yoga news since my last update. I’ve booked in to work with a teacher in Prague who will be teaching me the basics of the Prana Vashya yoga sequence. This is the yoga practice I used to do before I hurt my hip all those years ago. The sequence is quite athletic which is why I’ve decided to learn it slowly while based in London. I’m hoping I can build it up in 2016 and be at a point where I can return to Mysore (India) to study it with my Indian yoga teacher and international yoga friends.  It’s nice to have a goal.

But back to the present.  Er…30 days.  Where did my commitment go?  I think tiredness and my lack of routine has killed my commitment, so its time to focus (once again) on routine. Something I know my body needs/wants and something I struggle to follow.  I’m going to give up on trying to do my home practice in the morning and introduce it as an early evening or before bed activity. This is when I typically go to classes anyway, so its what my body is used to.  I think I’ll also consider going back to the videos and the practice Marianne has given me, aiming to do that particular practice 1-2 x a week.

I’m going to go back to day 10. 20 days to go.  Lets see how I get on!

When will the story end?

I’ve been thinking about this blog and what to do with it now that I’ve fixed my hip and am theoretically living happily ever after. Do I stop writing? Or shall I continue? It’s been 18 months since surgery and the hip is doing brilliantly, it plays up maybe once a month for very short periods of time. Most of the time though my operated hip is better than my ‘good hip’.

I thought about stopping the blog but the truth is I’ve not fully recovered. I’m still very unfit and my muscles still lack tone which means that other joints still play up and I’m still in physio for my ankle, knee and shoulder. I don’t have my physical yoga practice back (asana) and, most importantly, I’m still in a process of finding myself. I’m not the 27 year old I was before my hip problems started, I am not a disabled person anymore (thank goodness)… but if I’m not the person I was before my hip problems – who am I now?

I remember putting off starting this blog for a long time because I was superstitious, I thought that if I wrote about what was going on, then my hip problems would stay with me. I think I’ve stopped writing for a similar reason.  But I have found that writing is very helpful over the years. It has been a good way to express what is going on and I hope that it has helped some of the people who are reading it too.

So after much thought I have decided to keep writing for now. My goal in the next 6-12 months is to get my healthy body back, work out who I am post hip surgery and to regain my physical yoga practice. Hopefully, with a bit of luck, hard work and determination then that will be the end of the story!

And so it goes on… another injury for the list!

Since arriving in the UK my right ankle and my right knee have been playing up. I’ve been walking 1-2 hours a day and navigating London’s tube stations which involves a lot of steps. I’ve been spraining the ankle regularly for a long time now but don’t recall actually injuring the knee. Something has happened in the last few weeks and now the knee bothers me when I walk, go up steps and when I get up from sitting. I have a sneaky suspicion it might have been the yoga classes I went to (sigh) and the increased activity levels from having a fixed hip (hooray). As usual I gave it a couple of weeks to settle by itself and as things were getting worse I went back to the physiotherapist I saw when I first arrived in London.

The physiotherapist did a lot of tests on the knee and ankle and has determined that I am lacking in strength in my hamstrings, calves and hips. This combined with the loose ligaments means that my knee joint is getting irritated and she suspects I may have torn my meniscus. She said if it doesn’t get better I may need to go see a surgeon. I told her very firmly that it WILL get better. Hopefully by strengthening around the knee and addressing alignment issues, the injury will heal on its on.

I got a bit tearful during the appointment due to the disappointment of my body letting me down once again, the thought of more surgery and adding another problematic joint to the list of joints that need managing. The cost of private physiotherapy in London is very high, it’s worth every penny but it is an expense that I was hoping to avoid. For some reason I thought if I spent enough time in India doing yoga therapy and got enough distance from New Zealand, then my body would settle and I’d no longer have to deal with these sorts of problems. Apparently not. But I must not forget how far I’ve come and the progress I’ve made since my hip operation. I’m on zero medication, my activity levels have increased significantly, the CRPS symptoms have gone and my hip has almost fully recovered.

How things pan out in London is going to be fully dependent on my attitude. If I choose to make a big deal of this, focus on the negative and get frustrated with the pain – then it will be a problem. If I accept what is happening, listen to my body and follow the advice of the physiotherapist – then in a 6 months or so I should be in a much better place.

The physiotherapist stressed the importance of doing my physio exercises consistently FOR LIFE. I’ve got a pattern of going to physio, doing the exercises and then stopping when I feel better. Then I loose strength and injure myself again. It’s a boom-bust pattern that is painful and expensive. The idea of doing physiotherapy exercises for life is very depressing as I find them incredibly boring. To break the cycle of boom/bust I think I need to do my physiotherapy exercises as told for 6 months (suck it up) and find a way to integrate appropriate exercise into my lifestyle. Then once I have the strength built up and the pain is settled, I should be able to take away the training wheels (of physio) and maintain my condition without help. I was hoping that yoga could do this, but I don’t think yoga is going to be enough. The physiotherapist said I don’t need yoga as I have enough flexibility, she suggested pilates instead. I don’t think she realises that yoga can be strengthening, but I get her point. I think in the short term I’ll do swimming and cycling, then when I’m working I’ll transition to a gym. There is a great gym near my work that has lots of classes (including yoga), a swimming pool, lockers..etc. its expensive but its money well spent in my opinion. I’m not giving up on the yoga as its too important to me, but I appreciate now that yoga alone is not going to help me and is potentially harmful for me right now. So I’ve decided to stop going to classes until I’ve got more strength to protect the joints.

A change of pace

I’ve been in London a week now and things have been pretty good. I think the cooler climate has been good for my joints and trading sandals for proper shoes (with orthotics) has made a huge difference to my ankles, knees and hips. I’m in generally in a lot less pain and have been able to stop taking paracetamol (teylenol) regularly. My liver will be pleased! My neck has also improved but that might be due to the better ergonomics of my laptop setup. 

I’ve increased my walking considerably, and while I’ve been sore the hip has coped really well. I’m living in a household with a dog so have been walking at least 60min a day. Yesterday I walked 7km (approx 2hrs) and it’s amazing how different the hip is now that I’m almost 9 months after the surgery. It really does feel like I’m a new person! Before I was in pain all the time, took a lot of medication and was unable to walk for more than 10min without the pain getting unpleasant. 

My fitness is still terrible though and my legs are very weak, but I’m sure that will improve with time. I can feel the muscles in my feet are getting stronger and my inner thighs are doing some work. I’m not 100% sure my biomechanics are quite right so I’ll see a physio this week to fine tune my rehab and help me get back to yoga classes. I’m quite keen to give barre classes a go too , and when I’m feeling more confident in my recovery I’d like to return to the gym. 

Things aren’t perfect though and I’m often reminded of “what was”. I get tired easily and need to sit down to rest fatigued muscles. I was in the supermarket on Friday and the hip got stuck and clicked very painfully for the first time in months. I’m pretty good about not panicking when this happens, but it does make me a little uneasy. But as things continue to improve week by week, I’ll stay positive. I believe having a positive mindset is a key ingredient to a successful recovery.

  

Ligamentous Laxity

The other day when finding out that I’d torn a ligament in my shoulder I asked my physiotherapist “What is with my joints?” “Why do I keep getting hurt so easily?”.  She said its because my ligaments are too lax.  I’ve had a few treatment providers tell me over the years that my ligaments are lax and/or my joints are very loose and I’ve never really understood what that meant until recently.

The biggest and most important piece of information I’ve learnt from talking to my physiotherapist is that to avoid injury I MUST exercise and stay strong.  Usually the ligaments hold the bones together and create stability in the joint.  Because my ligaments are lax, my muscles have to do the work for them. The reason why I’ve had so many issues this year is because I’ve been unable to exercise due to the hip pain, my rehabilitation programme ended and I wasn’t able to keep pushing through the pain by myself.  So I’ve lost a lot of strength and now my body is starting to fall apart!

I didn’t realise I had this problem until this year and it has been a big “ah ha” moment for me.  I understand now that yoga came too easily to me, I was doing things in my first month of yoga that take some people years of practice to achieve (I didn’t know this until speaking to my teacher earlier this year).  I understand that why the list of injuries from childhood to adulthood so very long; I’ve injured ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and wrists.  I also understand that my feet aren’t flat, the ligaments just don’t hold them up when I’m standing up.

But having lax ligaments has got to have some advantages:

  • I’ve got great range of movement (ROM) in my hip where most people with FAI and associated joint deterioration struggle with loosing ROM and get very stiff.  Not me.  I’ve lost some ROM, but I’d say its probably still better than the average.
  • I’ve not had to do any stretching as part of my physiotherapy and rehabilitation programme.
  • When I sprain my ankles the bone can hit the ground and my ligaments won’t tear.
  • Yoga can be easy.  This is a double edged advantage though as stretching is not good for people with lax ligaments (with the exception of hamstrings apparently).  When I return to the mat I will have to be very careful to practice strength over flexibility.  I’ll also have to learn how to use muscles better and to stop before my end range.
  • I was very good at the limbo when I was a kid.  And I can win that drinking game where you pick up a coin with your mouth without putting your hands/knees on the floor.
  • Sitting on the floor is very comfortable. And I can lie on my tummy (on the floor) and watch TV easily.

OK… I know I’m clutching at straws, it is not really an ideal situation but it is very manageable.  My plan is to get through this hip surgery and then focus on the return to exercise.  I’ll go back to yoga however it will be a practice that focuses on strength over flexibility.  I’ll also return to the gym, hopefully get back into boxing and spin classes.

Here are some photos of things I don’t think I’ll be doing again in any hurry:

 

My month of yoga therapy comes to an end

My month of yoga therapy in Mysore is over. It’s not been easy and it didn’t end up being the magic cure I’d hoped it would be, but it was hugely beneficial. I feel like my battery has been recharged, I’ve met some lovely people, I’ve got a tan, I’m sleeping better and am physically much stronger now. I can feel muscles waking up all over my body which is great. My pain levels haven’t shifted much, which is disappointing, but given the amount of physical activity I’ve done it’s not bad at all. I had a few flare ups along the way but I managed these and they didn’t affect my holiday (or the yoga) too much.

I’ve now got a simple yoga practice I can do at home for one month and then I’ll need to start working with a yoga teacher at home. My home practice is a continuation of the strengthening sequence I did in Mysore, it’s going to be a challenge to find the time but I HAVE to do it! I’ve seen and felt the improvements from one month, so that will spur me on to do a second month. I’ve come this far, can’t give up. Walking is still an issue so my other goal is to swim 2-3 times a week. This will help with my cardio fitness, the weight loss and justify my gym membership. If I don’t start using that gym, the membership has to go.

What’s next… Well, a few days on a beach in Thailand to finish the tan and eat seafood. After that it’s back to reality and back to work. I’ve got 2 weeks left of my rehab program with the physiotherapist and an appointment with my surgeon. I’ll get a second opinion on whatever he says and then will make a decision. I’ll either have the surgery (if it’s recommended) or I’ll put the question about surgery behind me and get on with living my life with chronic pain. Both paths are a bit shitty but at least I can see a way through this mess. I’m looking forward to putting the seemingly endless medical appointments behind me and getting on with living my life.

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My kickboxing career is over – doctors orders!

I saw my GP the other week to discuss medication and the plan forward from here. I gave her an update on the clicking/locking, pain levels, sleeping… Etc. I got my medication tweaked slightly and agreed to be patient with my rehabilitation (which feels like it’s seriously plateaued). I mentioned the kickboxing and told her about the minor post-kickboxing flare up… she was horrified I’d attempted boxing and made me promise not to do it again. She was not happy at all. Oops. Not entirely my fault, the physio gave me the green light and we tested the waters carefully. The doctor wasn’t overly impressed with my physio. :-/

So my Muay Thai Kickboxing career is over before it started. I’ve been told to stick to more gentle exercises like swimming and yoga. …sigh… I really did enjoy the boxing. Such a great workout and oh so much fun!

Alas, the benefits (fun, fitness and a rush of endorphins) may outweigh the pain, but the risk of further injury are too high. It’s simply not worth it.