Yoga and Hip Surgery – My Experience
By Dr Penny Moore
As I write this, I have just passed the six-year anniversary of a total hip replacement. A recent appointment with my orthopaedic surgeon indicated that the surgery continues to have been a complete success, with no visible wear in the joint.
I believe that the role of yoga in my experience was crucial in the lead up to the surgery, the recovery from the surgery and the ongoing maintenance of my hip health.
It took me a while to find a surgeon that I trusted and who saw yoga as a legitimate part of my preparation for the surgery. He sent me to a physio on his ‘preparation’ team who tailored their exercises around what I was doing in my level 2 Iyengar classes. The physio was open and welcomed what was happening on my yoga mat and keen to combine the two for my benefit.
I had a spinal anesthetic for the surgery. The anesthetist said that he ‘loved yoga backs’ as they were strong and provided plenty of space between the vertebrae for him to insert his needle.
Immediately after the surgery, my knowledge and practice of pranayama helped me enormously with the management of my pain. Being able to focus on my breath and connect it to what was happening in my body was extremely beneficial.
The physio in the hospital where I was a patient also said that she ‘loved yoga students’. She said that the connection that yoga students have with their bodies makes working with them as physiotherapy patients much easier. Yoga students understand how their bodies function and the impact of physical activity on the various body parts.
I was in regular contact with Stephanie my yoga teacher after the surgery. She helped me plan and modify poses to use at home in conjunction with my physiotherapy program.
Yoga helped me when I hit the inevitable rough emotional spots in my recovery. I was able to breathe, move through the physical challenges as they arose, and take each step (literally) at a time. I also knew that I was part of a wonderful yoga community (my teacher, my classmates, my school) who provided me with support whenever I needed it.
I was very nervous about returning to class. Could I still ‘do it’? Would the implant ‘hold up’? Would I look silly? That apprehension melted away after I stepped back onto my mat. I let my teacher, Stephanie, know in advance that I was returning so that she could prepare. Iyengar yoga provides so many opportunities for modification of poses that I never felt unsafe. I had support when I needed it and equally encouraged to challenge myself when the time was right. At no stage during my recovery did yoga make me stiff, sore or make me go backwards.
I am still the student in class with ‘stiff hips’, but that doesn’t matter. I am strong and my classes help nourish and maintain my joints.
I have been very fortunate. I have had 6 years without pain. I have no sign of a limp or problems with leg length. Even the deterioration in my other hip has halted due to the success of the surgery and my recovery. I firmly believe that yoga played a crucial part in this success. I would encourage anybody in the same situation to closely incorporate yoga into the surgery planning, preparation and recovery phase.
You will need a surgeon who has an open mind (I had one), a skilled and committed yoga teacher (thank you, Stephanie!) and a willingness to trust your yoga practice (body, mind and breath) to travel with you through your journey.
Penny Moore, August 2017