Tag Archives: knee

Breaking the silence

I’ve been silent too long on these pages so I am going to force myself to sit in front of my computer and explain what’s been happening. Over the summer, the demands on my time and energy have pushed aside blogging. Something had to give. I’ve also felt that I really did not have a lot of insight to inject into the blogosphere, especially about my own yoga practice or yoga as a part of US mainstream culture or the DC yoga scene. I had a couple of drafts in the hopper and could never focus enough to get them done.

Honestly, I was battling through some injuries that kept me from going to yoga class. I developed a problem with my iliopsoas and SI joint, this time on the right side. I stopped going to yoga class and kept up treatment with my chiropractor. But I also developed a problem with my left knee about the same time (early September), which has gradually gotten worse. I first felt a twinge of pain in the knee, but did not think that it was anything serious [“Must have twisted my knee in my yoga classes”]. I started  taking Aleve in the morning and evening to get by. I saw my orthopedic surgeon as soon as I could get an appointment. He examined it and found some inflammation, but nothing showed up on the x-rays. He injected cortisone. I was supposed to wait 2-3 weeks and if there was no improvement, I should get an MRI and go back to see him. The idea being that I may have some cartilage floating around in there, and would need do another arthroscopic surgery to clean up my knee, as with my right knee.  My doctor told me to stick with doing stationary bike for exercise and keep my yoga simple so that I do not stress my knee joint.

I found myself in a kind of  downward spiral: I didn’t go to yoga class to avoid worsening my core (iliopsoas) issues, so my neuropathy worsened; my neuropathy led to bad body mechanics (walking), which causes pain in my knee; I didn’t exercise to avoid hurting my knee, which reduced my stamina and resilience; my general fatigue reduced my ability to manage and tolerate pain; my pain kept me from sleeping early and soundly and led to sleep deprivation, which turned me into a zombie during the day. That sounds like a familiar formula — I went through something like it last year.

I think I have things under control now, thanks to working with my chiropractor and my body worker, and monitoring my symptoms. I have never stopped doing my evening routine of self-massage, hip openers, stretches and restorative poses so I have not stopped doing yoga. If anything, it’s what keeps me going physically, emotionally, intellectually, psychologically.

And in August, my desktop’s hard disk went out, which required installing the Windows operating system, my applications, working files and music. I am still trying to get the computer back to where I feel that it meets all my needs. Fortunately, having a laptop kept me going with e-mails and other essentials.

In any case, I did not feel much like blogging during these past six weeks. I’ve wanted to make some changes in the layout and features, which have had only minor tweaks from the original WordPress template, but that’s going to have to wait for a while. Just maintaining my websites takes a lot of time.

Another use for Yoga Tune Up Balls

To protect my knees in compromising yoga positions, such as half pigeon, I normally stick a rolled-up hand towel behind my knee, pressed between my thigh and calf, to prevent my meniscus from being pinched.

Today I took my Yoga Tune Up Balls to class and used them in half-pigeon in place of the towel. With its uniform size and resilience, the ball fits snugly in the hallow created by my knee ligaments and seemed to generate more space in my joint. I will investigate what other poses which I can use the balls with.

I got the idea from doing one of Jill Miller’s lower body routines, in which I sit in hero’s pose, with the balls between my thighs and calves, and gradually work the ball position from just behind the knee to mid-calf, giving the muscles a massage by moving from side to side.

Progress report – fourth class

I went to my fourth class on Tuesday evening at Thrive, with Pierre again. I kept trying to throttle back on my practice, to keep from overreaching and getting ahead of my recovery. For the first time, I did some jump-backs and jump-forwards in my vinyasa, but only after warmly up thoroughly. I did notice a touch of stiffness and discomfort in my injured knee. I have to be careful when getting into kneeling positions, like hero’s pose (Virasana) and even child’s pose (Balasana) because my body weight rests heavily on my knees.

Pierre will not be back at Thrive for a while. His nomadic journey will bring him back to the DC area in February. He’s helped me feel more at ease with my injury and inviting me accept the healing process as a renewed exploration of my body: “With the breath, everything you do can be yoga.”

A second class on the mat

I went to Thrive again this evening, after giving myself 48 hours to recover from my first yoga session in four months. Tonight’s class was with Elizabeth Pope, a new teacher for me, who joined the studio after I hurt my knee. She’s been exposed to a range of teachers, from Kasthaub Desikachar to Ana Forrest. It was a good solid class for all levels so I modified most of the poses to concentrate on my knees. Where I really felt it was in my shoulder and upper arms: all the chararungas in the vinyasas were punishing me for wimping out during my convalescence and not maintaining my core strength. Elizabeth confirmed this conclusion by making us do multiple sets of abdominal exercises that left me barely able to lift my head and neck off the ground. I sweated profusely and had to take child’s pose on several occasions because my conditioning has lagged far more than it should have, especially in the last few weeks when I was struggling with resistance to going to the gym and the studio.

At long last, in class again!

I was finally able to fit in a yoga class at Thrive with Pierre Couvillion this evening. My first class since mid-August and almost two months after my knee operations. I forced myself to go by packing my kit and rolling up my mat this morning before I left for work and giving my wife instructions to take it to the studio when she went to her class in the afternoon. I knew I had to put some kind of imperative in the formula because I was building up all kinds of resistance to the yoga class and even going to the gym, even though I can feel the adverse effects that their absence is having on my body and temperament.

Pierre led a pretty straight forward class that was good for me because it was am all-levels class that emphasized grounding in the basics of good form and breath. I did not do anything crazy — no jump-backs or jump-throughs, no wheels or advanced inversions. I just wanted to feel easy and comfortable in my asanas, and focus on my knees to make sure that they were solid and fully engaged. Pierre led us through some fundamental variations in standing poses that reinforced the tracking of the leg muscles. I think the factor that had deteriorated the most during the break was balance.

In preparation for the class, I had a session of acupuncture in the morning that was supposed to help break up some of the scar tissue in my knee.

Slow going

It is so hard to get back into the habit of blogging and practicing yoga. I come home in the evening, and really have trouble mustering the energy and focus to tackle either of these activities that were so closely bound together for nearly four years. If I let my guard down, it’s 10:30 and I can just fit in a little meditation, some pranayama. Because of some family issues, I did not even make it to the gym this weekend for exercise. My knee injury broke more than my meniscus. I just feel pulled in so many directions, and then throw in the worries of the economic downturn and what it can mean in personal terms. It’s like an unstable weather pattern, just on the edge of downpours, stiff winds and flooding.

It’s getting close

I am slowly working my way back to practicing yoga. My orthopedic surgeon has given me a thumbs up on my recovery, and does not need to see me again. I have been putting in a daily average of 30 minutes walking and 30 minutes stationary bike for about a month. I’ve gone back to climb the eight flights of stairs of my office building. I’ve been doing some of the rehab exercises. I had a session of acupuncture on my knee today, and I’ll get a massage tomorrow, so I’ve been lavishing care on my body.

If I do a lot of walking, I will have a little discomfort in my knee the following day and it will feel stiff. I’ve also noticed recently that I have a lot of discomfort in my right sit bone, probably due to the hamstring. I can’t take sitting down for a long time.

I am aiming to start up yoga class again next Tuesday at Thrive Yoga. Pierre Couvillion will teach that evening. Although it’s a relatively advanced, all-levels, vinyasa flow class, I would prefer to have the watchful eye of a yoga therapist watching as I move through the poses. He told me he could indicate modifications of those poses that might be risky for me.

I really miss the community of the yoga studio, and also the disciplined structure that a regular practice builds into my life. Even though I should have more “free time,” I don’t seem to get a lot more done. I really miss the big muscle movements from the vinyasa. Aerobic exercise or weight lifting does not provide the same kind of satisfaction.

Another weekend, more recovery

I got to the gym twice this weekend, and put in two sessions of 60-minutes each on the stationary bike and another 25 minutes on the elliptical trainer. I lifted some weights, enough to make me sore two days later. During the week, I was able to do a few short sessions of rehab.

Earlier in the week, I got my sutures removed and the doc said that everything looked fine and to come back in three weeks. He suggested that I do some physical therapy to get back up to speed.

I also checked in with Pierre Couvillion who recommended that I take at least a month, maybe two, to ease myself back into yoga. Is he being overly cautious? Or am I just an ingrained overachiever who always has to push harder and farther.

Update on long weekend

This past weekend, I went to the gym and got on the stationary bicycle to build up strength in my leg and build up my conditioning. I also did several sessions of rehab exercises for my knee. I worked up to 60 minutes on the bike and felt no adverse consequences. I will have my sutures removed on Wednesday and I’ll be able to do some swimming after that.

At work, I’ve run into two other colleagues who had orthopedic surgery on their knees — I guess meniscus tears are contagious (he said ironically).

Coming back onstream



More graphics than you may want to see of my torn meniscus,
but I couldn’t resist.
Photo courtesy Dr. Graeter

Today is the first day in which I’ve been able to string two sentences together. I had my outpatient surgery on Friday afternoon, and was on pain medications until last night. I took off my surgical bandages yesterday, and now keep an Ace bandage to support my knee. I ice the knee as often as I can (15 minutes at a time). Yesterday, I was able to walk around without crutches. Today, I can climb stars. I can go down stairs only one step at a time, placing my injured leg first. The doctor says that I can start exercising on a stationary bicycle by next Saturday. I will get my stitches out early next week. I expect to be back at work tomorrow unless I wake up with a complication (say, overdid walking and stair climbing).

The operation itself went rather uneventfully. I had to wait about 90 minutes at the GW Hospital before they started the surgical prep. I guess they just want to make sure patients are on site and ready for the procedure, but it’s boring. I was briefed about the procedure and given post-operation instructions. I was wheeled into the surgery room and I was unconscious before I could take in the full surrounding. I just noticed that it was chilly.