In case you were not aware…last month I had a bilateral (both sides) total hip replacement. This was something I had managed to postpone for over a decade with my yoga practice but I had decided now was the time to do it as I was getting so physically restricted by impingements & my level of pain was getting in the way of my life. Since the surgery I have learnt so much about myself, I have appreciated my husband even more as he has cared for me so well, & I have learnt to accept being vulnerable..something I am not a natural at as I am usually so independent!!

The last month has been one of discomfort on many levels. There’s the initial physical discomfort post-surgery. Amazingly little pain but due to the swelling so much discomfort. Plus the ‘what have I done?’ questions that go through your mind when you wake up from the anesthetic to an immobile swollen body! There are so many restrictions on hip replacement patients to avoid dislocation. These include no bending forward past 90 degrees, crossing legs or twisting, & can be in place for three months upwards. This makes it hard to be independent! You also have to sleep on your back for the first few weeks (not that I could have slept on my side with the incisions being on my hips & the swelling!). I am lucky that having a long term yoga practice has allowed me to sleep more easily, as I understand this is a real issue for so many people post surgery. Obviously sleep is so important for healing as well as how well we cope so I was grateful for my yoga for the ability to sleep, & giving me techniques to help me relax when sleep was not available to me!

Another issue initially is the wobbliness!! Due to how they insert the new hips (I am just going to leave this here if you are interested!!!) you are not quite attached initially!! Every step for the first few days kind of wobbles at the top as your leg finds its balance..the crutches are essential! All the muscles have been stretched & moved so there isn’t much support from them for the joint to work. Plus there isn’t any strength in the leg at the top which makes it so hard to lift your own leg. Initially I relied on nurses & my husband to help me move my legs off & on the bed as it took me a few days before I could lift both by myself!! This makes getting in & out of bed very interesting!! I looked a lot like this 

It was also amazing how wide my hips swelled after the assault of the surgery! I have never been naturally curvaceous, but I certainly was after surgery…but two dimensionally!! I was wide from the front & back but still narrow from the side! All swelling from the assault of the surgeries. This was what caused most of the initial discomfort. especially when the bruising came out..& I was bruised from waist to knees in various places! Sitting on ice packs becomes something to look forward to…I even slept on them!! The main issues initially were the discomfort of the swelling & bruising & the wobbliness of the hip joint itself!! Due to how they insert the hips, they aren’t  very stable initially yet you are encouraged to weight bear so every step is wobbly & even lifting your leg is extremely hard work! However it soon got easier & I was so grateful for my health & fitness as I am sure I healed a lot faster due to them.

Within 10-14 days I was looking more like a drumstick in the thigh…. my own knees & just a swelling around the mid to upper thigh where the incisions & work had been done. By this point I was stronger on my legs, could get myself in & out of bed in a more dignified manner & could even potter around outside for longer…standing for up to 40 minutes at a time. Obviously still on crutches!! I had more respect for people in my vinyasa flow classes though as even the slightest bit of movement left me feeling as though I had done a 100 squats!! Only two weeks post op & I was pottering around on my crutches confidently doing a few thousand steps a day & now at four weeks I can do quite a bit without crutches. Although I am doing what I am told & still using them when outside the house. I even went out for the day yesterday & with a wheelchair to sit in when I needed to rest (it’s a few weeks before I’ll be sat on the floor!!) had a lovely day in the sunshine at Shrewsbury food festival!  By 3 weeks I had built my walking to 7000-10000 steps a day in small amounts & was using one or no crutches for small distances at home…surface surfing from worktop to wall but feeling so much more confident. I managed then to get out more confidently in the world too…a visit to a garden centre & even to the Ring o Bells pub to see students!

One thing this experience has really taught me is the inadequacy of disabled facilities. Although toilets should be accessible, provide support for lowering and rising yourself & be of a certain height. It is amazing how many are not. I am lucky to have a husband who pre planned & photographed any disabled facilities that we planned on visiting…but otherwise I could very easily have been caught short. There is a real need for these to be of a particular standard. If you have, run or could influence this situation please try and use the facilities in a wheelchair or on crutches & see how you manage…even how doors open, whether they stay open or need holding open are often not considered. It is one of the things that make you nervous of being out & about as a hip replacement patient as we are often still under the dislocation avoidance restrictions for three months. This would affect people returning to work, using public transport & just being able to have a life. Yet it would be so simple to provide a useful space…often the problem is the lack of thought not the lack of opportunity.

However, on a more positive note, this weekend I made it to my sister’s food festival in Shrewsbury! It was so nice to be out and about (even if I relied on a wheelchair for a lot of sitting down!). I’m sure the lovely weather helped me feel better too! The journey over the last four weeks has been an interesting one…learning to be vulnerable, to be curvaceous (I had shapely hips for the first time in my life due to swelling!!) and to be patient. I have got used to laughing at myself…a skill which came in useful so many times. I think on these healing journeys we often have the choice to laugh or cry…and laughing can only be more positive. A positive mindset really makes healing more pleasant & I am sure, faster.

food festival pic

However I have missed my yoga mat soooo much!! Spending time in healing allows you to appreciate all the things we normally take for granted. Being able to get to the floor still seems so far away as I am restricted in my movements due to the initial risk of dislocating my new hips! However every day is a day closer to being able to downward dog again!! I am so looking forward to that blissful release of muscles melting on my mat. It has been an education in how much my physical body misses its yoga practice … my shoulders feel tight (not helped by crutches) & my back grumbles a bit in the morning. How do non yogis live in their body without constant discomfort & niggles! Or maybe us yogis have higher standards in how we expect to feel!! I am not used to waking up feeling restricted & physically grumpy.

I am glad of years of yoga practice for the psychological benefits too. The mindfulness & meditative side of yoga has really aided in my recovery thoughout…helping me to appreciate the small gains & stay positive throughout. The breathing practices were great & provided me with a yoga practice when the physical side of things was not feasible. Allowing me to centre & find that quiet space which often eludes us when we are in pain or discomfort.

Many yoga principles as well as practices helped me. I kept in mind that it is all temporary, that this too shall pass, that every step and every hour take me to an easier place. Breathing practices kept me centred & as calm as possible. Meditation & practicing focus was a great centring practise for me. From the day of the surgery my actual hip joint was pain free…& I can already do balancing postures such as dancer & warrior 3 without pain. Which I could not pre surgery. These experiences are all part of our journey. They teach us how to deal with obstacles, how to be patient, as well as how to be a patient!! They teach us to be grateful for the amazingness of our body. To appreciate our innate knowledge of how to heal. They teach us to be grateful for the small things…walking upstairs, sitting down. This journey has allowed me to be embodied…in my body… in gratitude as well as in discomfort. This is an important lesson for me in my life.