How I Became A Yoga Therapist with A Bionic Knee.

“When setting out for a journey, do not seek advice from those who never left home.” ~Rumi~

In this article I share my personal story of healing from a time when I learned more about being a client with surgical tissue trauma and body pain, than I learned from nursing and yoga study. I completed my knee replacement with full recovery that led me to the last sequence of my self-paced Yoga therapy study – and that is how I became a Certified Yoga Therapist with a Bionic knee.

PREP FOR SURGERY 

We all know the importance of rehabilitation after knee replacement surgery, but I knew my healing success would start long before my surgery. I knew I needed some ‘prehab’ time to connect my body and mind for this major surgery. Not only does medical research say this, but deep in my core I knew that I had to start prepping myself. 

In the summer of 2019, I happily retired from my nursing job.  After returning from a Florida family trip, I started my quiet mission – surgery prep. I put on my ‘nursing hat’ so that I could assess myself and discover what I needed.  I checked in with my life’s reality and drew a line. From the top of my head, I did an assessment on the spot. Then I wrote my recommendation and set a prep surgery plan. To be honest, it was successfully carried for only about 85%, but it was still very beneficial. I practiced in early   mornings time (6:00AM). My prehab plan included strengthening my muscles, increasing my lungs/ respiration and practicing meditation.  This was time well spent. My core was ready for many side to side turns in post-surgery, and my thighs held me well lowering to the toilet seat. This prehab recovery routine was a game changer and helped my post-surgery recovery move ahead of schedule. 

HOW TO DO IT? 

Two – three months prior, I followed my prehab plan every day at home. Developing a regular yoga movement practice is your first line of defense against the effects of surgery and laying in bed as you recover. I used a series of Warrior poses with gentle somatic arm movements. My mind joined me to carve my imaginary path from recovery bed back to yoga studio, teaching yoga in only eight weeks post op. This visualization technique has been shown to be incredibly successful in injury recovery and my result was the ability to be teaching yoga in only eight weeks post op.

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Woman in Warrior Pose — Image by © Cory Sorensen/Corbis

NUTRITION 

No single diet plan has been shown to be the best, but a well-balanced diet with good sources of vitamins and minerals matters. Vegetarian and even vegan diets are safe around the time of surgery, but make sure to have adequate protein which is the fuel for rebuilding tissues after surgery. No matter what you eat, a well-balanced diet featuring healthy foods should be the focus. I stacked my fridge with good proteins and ready-made dishes for the first week. I was organized to face all food emergencies. My medical freezer drawer had a bag of frozen peas (good alternative for ice pack), many sizes of jelly- based bags for hot/cold usage, and my favorite drink in the fridge– a case of Kombucha.

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TRY TO QUIT ANY ADDICTION BEFORE 

I do not smoke. Please be aware that smoking can significantly increase complications and impair wound healing; quit any addictions before. Replace alcohol consumption with drinking fresh vegetable juices or smoothies for additional micro-nutrients and an immunity boost. 

HOME RECOVERY SETTING

I turned my home into a recovery room/physio space and kept all basic items handy. My favorite items were: a shuffling walker and a half bed side rail to support my body to get up or for turning my body side-to-side. Thank God for them!

MEDICATION/ SWELLING 

Keeping my pain under control was my medical priority. You can’t carry on your daily physio if you have strong shooting pain and uncontrolled swelling over your knee. I listened to my body well, kept my own MAR (medical administration report) and alternated my medication for the best outcome. I realized that body movement has a better effect on my knee than a cold pack, I did an alternative approach – cold/ warm pack with amazing results. I simply listened to my body.

REHAB VIA MOVEMENT

As the weeks progressed, new more complicated recovery moves/exercises were introduced to me. I attended Rebalance MD Physio on Fridays for about six weeks, and had my regular checkup visits + x-ray done with Dr. James McInnes, my surgeon.

Rebalance MD Physio on Fridays

I was blessed to have my husband 24/7 by my side. He became my nursing assistant, cook, housekeeper, shopper, driver, and physio assistant. Not every day was full of sun. He used many tricks to motivate me: music, videos of our favorite vacation destinations, or a clip of our grandchildren. There were more than a few days that I did my workout with tears almost streaming down my face. These moments, when I was losing my hope for a fast, successful recovery and blaming myself for putting me on this journey, are not so easy to talk about.

DARKNESS OF MIDNIGHT 

An unexpected occurrence came about six weeks post op. I started feeling deep back pain, radiating pain shooting to my leg. I knew this condition from yoga books and training, but I have never felt it in my body before. Due to limited mobility, sitting or laying, walking about 5 mins per hour, my body misalignments spoke clearly.

“Pain is a language!”

Real growing pain was inside me. I called for help to see my health practitioners: massage therapy, physio, chiropractor and naturopath, plus acupuncture. To be honest, I got relief from each of them. However, the pain was complex – it would shoot from one place to another and I didn’t know why. I felt hopeless. I cried overnight asking for guidance to help me out from this unexpected misery I found myself in. 

Acupuncture + Massage session at Clearwater Wellness Clinic by Rechelle McLean.

HEALING FROM WITHIN 

I activated my self-healing by watching many YouTube videos to get new ideas. But I found too much information. It was too confusing. There was no simple and easy way to fix my back! I kept trying to work out which was the best approach to take. Sometimes you need to stretch, sometimes to strengthen and my body was screaming for one “roll me over and heat me up”. If I only could have my Epson salt bath! 

Following my post-surgery instruction, no bath was allowed due to high risk of infection. I rejected this idea in the first place. I went back to my physical activities. In spite of all  my body exercises I was capable of doing it, with rolling my back on a massage ball, my pain persisted, even worsened. I felt like it became a cluster of pain, muscle, tendon or pinching nerves, “who knows?” all together. Then, I dared to act.

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I dreamed of having a deep soak bath. 

A MISSION TO ACCOMPLISH 

In my despair, I stood in my bathroom eyeballing my space, and ’the nurse inside of me’ started putting it all in her care plan. I saw a way to submerge/ immerse my lower body for a seating bath only. I put all safe measurements in place and I lowered myself into a warm seated Epson bath. My surgical leg, carefully wrapped in a double plastic cover and tapes, was sticking out from water to heaven. Later on, after stabilizing my body in a tub, I lowered my leg onto my already prepared leg support to fully enjoy my bath. 

Once I felt the healing warm sensation around my lower back, I CRIED. For the first time, not from pain or discomfort, I cried from feeling the pleasure of relief. It marked the end of my misery; I knew I started healing my lower back pain. In this self-healing journey, I combined all. I followed my inner wisdom, and in a few days, I was escorted by my husband who carried my yoga props for me. I entered the yoga studio to lead the first class since my surgery. 

RETURNING TO YOGA TEACHING  

This day was planned and marked on my calendar a few months prior to my surgery, not knowing what I had to endure. I faced my fears and overcame my healing misery, now I faced my full class as a yoga teacher with a bionic knee, smiling and holding onto my chair for support. I brought victory and a sense of accomplishment back to my life! This is a brief story that led me to pursue my yoga therapy study to know more about how to integrate yoga wisdom into traditional ways of healing for the best outcome – full recovery! 

Rainbow over my head driving in for my first yoga teaching.

RECOVERY RULES IN A NUTSHELL: 

● IF IT HURTS, DON’T DO IT (a little soreness is ok, shooting pain is not). Keep your pain under control.

● You will have some ups and downs, but you should generally keep improving after surgery. If you are not improving overall, this could be the first sign that something is wrong; contact your health team. 

● BALANCE your rest and active time. Don’t over exert yourself, but don’t be a slug. Watching Netflix all day will not heal you. Keep moving forward, progressive walking is a great after an operation to start, plus home rehab/physio. 

● GOOD PROTEIN base – nutrition matters. Eating nutritious foods helps your body heal and improves your immune system as your body recovers. 

● EVERYONE’S RECOVERY is different, and every form of activity or exercise has its own risks. Listen to your body and respect the healing process. 

● PRIOR TO SURGERY  create your own healing/ recovery team and call them if needed: your smart, life experienced friends, your yoga instructors, medical professionals, people you trust. Always consult your surgeon if you have concerns about your recovery, do not ignore signs. 

“Good luck on your recovery journey!” 

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Written by Veronika Prielozna, MA, RTY500, C-IAYT, IEHP 

Final note… 

Six days after her yoga teaching class with her new knee, and eight weeks post op, Veronika entered the Yoga Therapy Training Program.  She was able to complete the study requirements in record time, and was granted with a certification to begin her new rewarding career as a Certified Yoga Therapist. She continues offering her yoga teaching and therapy services. Her YOGA RECOVERY + CARE provide assistance to all people recovering from accident, surgery or life trauma. This service encapsulates her essence, significant work/ life experience and study wisdom. 

 

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