In January of 2012, I needed medical care. After the surgeon went over all the possible outcomes and complications of my procedure, he looked at me and said: “No yoga for a few weeks after.”
I could understand his viewpoint – his wife did an intensely asana-based style of yoga and I definitely would not be able to do anything like that for a long time. But the style of yoga I practice, SATYANANDA YOGA®, is thankfully an adaptable one. I was thankful I had so much practice helping my students modify practices for their needs so now I could do the same for myself.
Right after I awoke from the anesthesia, I started doing actual yoga poses in the recovery room – a series called pawanmuktasana 1, the gentle movement of the major joints through their full range of motion. I did toe bending, ankle bending, and kneecap contractions – these would help prevent blood clots from forming in the legs – and hand clenching and wrist rotations. The nurse must have noticed the latter because I heard her say to someone that I was doing really well in recovery.
I went home soon after that and continued my yoga practice. Throughout the first couple of days I did the pawanmuktasana 1’s at regular intervals and added the basic breathing practice of natural breath awareness. I’d often told my own students that natural breath awareness changed brainwave patterns, facilitating release of mental stress and of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Time to put the practice to the test! And it worked – as I simply observed the natural ebb and flow of my breathing, I felt much calmer, my body relaxed, and I felt the aches melt away. As the days progressed I added full yogic breath to get air down into the lowest regions of the lungs in order to prevent mucus buildup there, and also viloma. In viloma, one inhales only partially, then holds, then inhales a little more, holds, and so on until the lungs are full. With the exhalation, one lets the breath go. Interestingly, when the breath let go, so did all anxiety about the healing process, and I was in a much better mood when I was finished.
And even when I didn't feel like moving at all, I could do meditation practices. These helped me rest more fully and I am convinced they lessened my need for pain medication.
Now, over a year later, I am fully healed. My yoga practice helped me remodel my scar tissue and regain my full range of movement. I am more convinced than even of the healing power of yoga, and I am eager to share this benefit with anyone who needs healing.
This post was adapted from a newsletter article for the North American Gurukul. You can read the original post on their website.