Monday, July 29, 2013

Back on my Feet!

Today was the my first day back to standing poses without my restrictions. Very exciting! Generally, it felt so good to allow my body to gently extend further, although there were a few disappointments.

Surya Namaskar
To stay true to my 'don't bend not past 90 degrees at the hips' rule, I have been doing Sun Salutations with a block under each hand. I also released my right leg backward, and bent my left knee as I lowered my hands to the blocks. The nice not-restricted feeling of reaching my hands towards the floor, was tempered by creaky, stiff muscles. I don't know why I was so surprised! I am moving like a stiff-as-a-board beginner. Very humbling. 

In Surya Namaskara B, I have been doing a looong squat, while my partner moves through Warrior I on the the right side. My quads still need strengthening. I was happy to leave the squat behind (who likes squats??), and it was a treat to step forward into Virabhadrasana I on the right side for the first time in months. My hip is still sharply painful with downward pressure on the right foot. 

Ardha Chandrasana
When I did Half Moon pose on my operated leg, I dropped into a familiar, joyous sensation of flying. I actually felt more stable, and more fluid in my right leg, than on my left.  The more ease I feel on the right side, the more I notice the beginnings of same downward spiral on the left, starting with the same tight, sore feeling in the adductor. Standing on the left, my hip feels tight and held, the SI joint close to seizing. Damn.

Virabhadrasana 1 and 2
Both Warriors feel tighter and stiffer on my left hip. A bit discouraging. Still, I will keep working with a vision of fluidity, encouraging the freedom in the right hip inform the left. I'm sure it will help that with the left hip, I know what I'm dealing with. I have many more tools at my disposal. I hope I can keep it healthy for a long time. 

Shades of Past Practice
In gently stretching my muscles into the poses, two things were apparent. 

1. As my right hip becomes more fluid, my left hip is probably going to tighten up. I will do what I can, with diet, exercise, and visualization, but... It's kinda sad I don't get to enjoy two healthy hips at once until after I get my left hip replaced. But. It is what it is.

2. I remember doing standing practices, something like six months ago, feeling very distracted. After I'd corrected Zack the umpteenth time, he diplomatically asked if my mind was a bit busy. I centered myself, and burst into tears. "I can't be present - it hurts too much!", I said. I'm so lucky to have left that pain behind!

I love my practice for many things, but especially as a barometer of the changes in my body from one day to the next, from one year to the next. I am so blessed to have achieved a high level of fitness and facility before my hip seized up. To be able to move forward again is such a phenomenal gift. I am dancing in my head ALL the time these days, and can't wait to get into the studio. I'm looking at teaching some classes in the fall.

I have so much more appreciation of my body and its abilities. This is such a journey of staying present with what is.

Today's Quote: 'Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got til it's gone." Joni Mitchell

Monday, July 22, 2013

12 Week Surgeon Visit

I went to see the surgeon on Thursday, the day before my 51st birthday. As usual, it was a bit underwhelming. He started off by saying the X-rays showed my left hip looks good, but the right one is pretty bad. After my shocked "What??" he said, "oh, was it your right hip I did?". I think he was having a busy day.

My Left Hip
He says the left hip will also need to be replaced, eventually. He assured me that since I've already been through it, I'll know when it's time. I'm still hoping to postpone it as long as possible with diet and yoga. It is the irony of my healing process, that as I joyfully find more movement and fluidity in my healing right hip, I can feel the deterioration growing in the left. 

Range of Motion
The doc didn't even mention taking the restrictions off, although I've been feeling it's time for the last week or two. We even took the stinky tall toilet seat off a few days before my appointment. He said I can never cross my right leg over my left, without risk of dislocation. I wasn't expecting any 'nevers'. But he did give me the green light to stretch, gradually and carefully.

I asked him whether I can get back to mountain biking, bouncing on the trampoline, and acroyga. He said biking is okay, but single track or road riding are preferable to downhill mountain biking. He said I could break either hip by crashing on rock. Bouncing on the tramp is fine, but he recommended against seat drops or flips. I also asked him about acroyoga, which he said was fine, though I don't think he knew what I was talking about. 

A Gift
The surgeon's way of helping me decide what to do or not do, is by telling me that I've been given a gift, and it's up to me to choose how to take care of it. High impact activities, like running or playing basketball, will shorten the life of my new hip. Not that I was about to take up basketball, but I would like to be able do some leaps and jumps in dance class. I figure he doesn't know the added benefits of yoga practice. That engaging the tensegrity body, and strengthening muscles to support joints, will prolong the life of my new hip. I hope. 

Happy Birthday to Me!
Anyway, I had a wonderful birthday. There are so many things I haven't been able to do. I put my own sock on my right foot. I didn't have to use the sock pull, or ask Zack to do it. I dried the lower half of my right leg, rather than letting it air dry. I don't have to reach my right leg back anymore when I bend down to feed the cats, or cuddle a dog. I'm getting better at walking up and down stairs just like everyone else, rather than taking one step at a time.

It's not over yet...
I still have pain in my hip, and I can tell I need to be cautious about stretching. I'm dying to try cartwheels and handstands, but I'm going to wait until things feel completely healed. I have been reading a bit about dislocation after THR. It sounds like something I'd really rather avoid. 

I can't wait to get back to dancing, to riding my bike, to doing acroyoga. I could, if I allowed myself, dwell on the fact that there are certain yoga poses and dance moves I'll never do, or have done for the last time. That it looks like I won't be downhill mountain biking with my wonderful family. And that one day I'll have to pay another $2000+ for another ceramic hip, and go through all this again. But really, I am SO lucky! I could still be living with the pain and stiffness I had just over three months ago. I could be hobbling through the woods when I walk the dogs, gingerly stepping over logs because of my restricted movement. Instead, I feel like I'm preparing to fly!

Today's quotes: 
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat HanhPeace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Things I'm happy to say goodbye to.

Well, I had this beautiful long post all written, and it vanished into cyberspace. Has that happened to you? Kinda took the wind out of my blogging sails for awhile. I'll rewrite it - I think - but in the meantime here's what I've been simmering on lately. 

Welcome Post-Surgery Changes

1. No more tension in my right hip
When standing, I would often notice the external rotators of my right hip (aka my right butt cheek) clenched. I would relax them, only to notice them tense again moments later. I'm sure this was a holding pattern in reaction to pain. Now, though my hip still hurts a bit from the surgery, this butt-squeezing has melted away. When I check in, I notice myself standing evenly on both feet, with no extra tension. There is still a little tightness, but I'm thinking I need to do some hip-swaying dance to relax my hips, get them swinging with my stride again. Bellydance, anyone?

2. No more pain at front of my right ankle
The morning after dance class, and after karate, as well as during yoga practice, the corner where the front of my ankle joins the top of my foot was sharply painful. The pain would abate, only to return the next week. After surgery - gone.

3. My toes touch
My right leg has been outwardly rotated at 45 degrees for a few years now. I remember the moment of deciding that forcing it to stay parallel in yoga practice created more pain in my hip, and wasn't useful. The muscles in the inner thigh are weak, and I get a certain knotting of the muscles at the front of the right hip when I walk uphill, which is the proper muscles remembering to work. But it is a joy to stand with my feet in Tadasana, mountain pose, all 10 toes facing the same direction. I love setting up for Urdva Danurasana, a backbend, and just touching my toes together before I press up, to make sure both feet are parallel. Like rediscovering an old friend.

4. I'm taller!
I measured myself about a year ago, and I was 5'8". I couldn't believe it. I've been 5'9" since I stopped growing as a teen. I couldn't figure how I'd lost a whole inch. I think two things contributed. First, the compression in the hip joint with the deterioration of cartilage. Second, the pain was causing my hip flexors/psoas to shorten, making me stand with my pelvis tipped forward, my lower back arched. i realize how much, as I rehabilitate and stand straighter. There is a sweet, spacious feeling  across the front of my hips into my belly. So I measured myself just for fun the other day, and there I was 5'9" again! I feel like I was given something back I didn't know I'd lost.

5. I can run!
Well, not like I'm going to do a marathon anytime soon, but at least I could run for the bus if I had to. At some point in the last couple of years I stopped being able to run. It's hard to explain why. It was partly pain, but also I just felt to stiff to run. I spontaneously broke into a run the other day, just because I could. Only from the car to house. It felt wonderful!

6. More mobility = more enjoyable walking
Sashia on the pipeline
I realized on my walk today how much easier it is to walk up hills, and on uneven terrain. Before surgery, it was getting tough to step over logs, and I felt a bit unstable and scared of falling. The tightness in my inner thighs hindered my mobility, as did the limited range of motion in my hips. Last week I graduated from sticking to the pipeline (an old, unused pipe that's like a sidewalk behind our property), to following trails and deertrails up the hills and through the underbrush. I'm not completely healed up yet, but I'm so happy to be able to move again.

Isn't this an amazing journey? I feel blessed to have fallen into that hole of reduced mobility and pain, and be lucky enough to come back out again. It changes you, living with pain. It's different, learning to be a person who has to say 'sorry, I can't', instead of one who says 'sure, let me do that!' 

It's good to know both sides, to learn empathy for others. I have much more understanding these days of seniors, of others with disabilities. I am better at slowing down to help, to be patient, to offer a kind word. I know what it feels like not to be able to trust your body. To wonder whether or not to say how much you hurt. Sharing our pain, and our joy, is the way to empathy and compassion.

Today's Quote: There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from. - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross