Yoga is a huge part of my life. I embrace it not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally. Or at least I try. The yogic principles set the tone for my daily living and I honestly think this, combined with my meditation practice, got me through the accident and rescue with pretty much no pain or panic (it was actually a surprisingly magical experience). It was important to me to continue my yoga practice even with a broken ankle. Obviously, I have many physical limitations so asana (or poses) can be a bit of a challenge but yoga has so much more to offer through the eight-fold path. However, the physical aspects of a yoga practice are a living, breathing part of our being, meaning they can be modified in ways to support our bodies regardless of our physical limitation. .
I wanted to share some of the ways I've kept my yoga practice central to my life while I recover mentally and physically.
|My husband did so well feeding me while I was unable to cook for myself. This is the black bean burger and chop salad he served me for lunch the other day.|
once I realized the work my body had to do in order to heal I cleaned up my eating. My meals consist of fresh fruits and veggies (organic when at all possible), organic oatmeal and granola, plant-based protein powder (a supplement I opted for since I couldn't cook for myself early on), whole grains and legumes along with plenty of water and herbal teas (and no alcohol). I also started taking Biotin, a Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc supplement, large doses of Vitamin C, Symphytum Officinale (aka Bone Knitter) and occasional shots of aloe vera gel. I want the best fuel I can get so my body will have the building blocks it needs. Hopefully it's helping.
2) Meditation: My meditation practice was a work-in-progress prior to the accident but being laid up has given me the opportunity to recommit and refocus. I learned meditation years ago during a visit to the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland, California. I practiced off and on (mostly off) for many years until I went to yoga teacher training at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, California last year where I lived for a month. Twice a day we meditated for 30 minutes and I've done a semi-decent job of sitting once a day...about 50% of the time. Being incapacitated has certainly freed up my time and reminded me that meditation is a required component in my life. It's kept me from dipping into depression while being cooped up inside the RV day in and day out.
|Learning from author Peter Russell at yoga school.|
|My finds after a visit to the used book store, Mountain Eagle, in British Columbia.|
I'm certainly not going give up reading the variety of books I normally enjoy, even if they do affect my mood in a slightly negative way, but I am more focused on giving my mind and body all the positive vibes I can right now. Here are some of the books I've been reading: Wherever You Go There You Are (Jon Kabat-Zinn), Yoga Beyond Belief (Ganga White), SunLight Chair Yoga: Yoga For Everyone! (Stacy Dooreck), No Man Is An Island (Thomas Merton), Teaching Yoga Essential Foundations and Techniques (Mark Stephens), Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (Anne Lamont), Police (Jo Nesbo)...yes, a little fiction is sometimes in order.
4) Pranayama: Breath work is one of the pillars of yoga. It's also the one I dislike the most. Maybe it's because I often feel like I'm sitting there gasping for breath. Or maybe it's because sometimes it's really hard to breathe, count, hold, and remember which nostril I'm supposed to breath out of next. But prana is our vital life force and exercising our breath can be nothing but beneficial. Pranayama prepares us mentally for our other practices by concentrating our focus and awakening our soul. Trust me, I have some weird aversion to pranayama and sometimes "cop out" by only practicing deep yogic breathing but the key is to keep on keeping on. Practice other forms of breath work (some will likely require guidance...maybe through a yoga teacher, ashram or perhaps a respected online instructor...check out these pranayama specific videos at Grokker.com (free), yogadownload.com ($29 annual membership with Groupon) or doyogawithme.com (free)) and you will reap it's benefits. After surgery I was given an incentive spirometer to help clear my lungs and to prevent fluid build up since I'd be on my back for weeks. It reminded me of my (neglected) pranayama practice and just how important it really is not just for healing, but for life itself.
5) Asana: Most of us are somewhat familiar with yoga modifications. After all, not everyone can touch their toes or perform hanumanasana (the splits) so we use props, perhaps a strap, block or blanket, to help us deepen our poses while preventing injuries. Well, this injury has certainly tested my creativity and ability to find modifications that are "doctor approved". For the first two weeks I couldn't do much due to the severity of the fractures, surgical incisions that needed to mend and cast blisters that I didn't want to tear. I was on strict orders to not bear any weight on my right leg. But I was fortunate in that the physical therapist who saw me before I was discharged showed me a few safe exercises I could do without much pain. I asked about incorporating a few yoga poses, which I showed her, and got the green light. Over the next few weeks, as my blisters healed and the bones mended, I was able to do more poses, always listening to my body and embracing its limitations.
Here are the exercises I was given by my physical therapist. I was encourage to do these daily two days after surgery:
The first thing she showed me was how to lay on my stomach. After 3 days of being fairly immobile, flat on my back, it was such a relief to change positions. I could stretch my front body and release the tension built up in my lower back. Initially I was only able to do this on a bed (or platform) where my toes could hang over the edge. I soon started using my foam roller to support my leg so I wouldn't be putting any weight on my toes (causing pain).
|Sphinx Pose: Great for opening the shoulders and chest while stretching the spine.|
|Full Cobra. Same principles as above with a deepening of the back bend and full front body stretch.|
|Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana). A safer pose than down dog (since I can only use one leg) extended puppy pose is a great way to stretch the spine and shoulders.|
|Seated Forward Bend (Paschmottanasana) is a great way to stretch the hamstrings, spine and shoulders. It also stimulates internal organs and can aid in digestion (great for people who are bed-ridden) while relieving stress and calming the mind.|
Further reading on Yoga in Daily Life by Sri Swami Sivananda