A month of yoga therapy (in 2011/2012)

Its been 2 years and I’m about to head back to India for another round of yoga therapy. I’ve just realised that I never finished writing about my last trip to India nor my trip to Thailand last year! I think this is partially because when I’m in Mysore (the town where I do yoga) it doesn’t really feel like travelling any more as it is so familiar. Also, because of the hip problems, sitting at an internet cafe writing my blog is actually quite painful and counter-productive. Regardless, apologies to anyone who was following the travel blog at the time. It is my plan to update the blog during this trip, however not as regularly as I used to in the old days.

To finish off the 2012 story, here is something I wrote about the my last trip to Mysore 2 years ago. Its been helpful for me to revisit this blog post as I’m feeling very nervous about this next trip. The hip hasn’t been so good since I wrote this, I had another major flare up of the hip pain (purple leg, swelling and hospitalisation) and have done months of physical therapy and rehabilitation. I’ve had another round of tests and while the condition of the hip joint has deteriorated, my doctor, physiotherapist and surgeon have all given the green light to do the yoga in India. The key is ‘strength over flexibility’ and let pain be your guide.
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My month of yoga therapy – written May 2012

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve written about my month of meditation but I haven’t said anything about my month of yoga therapy in India! I’ve been practising yoga on/off for the last 3-4 years, the off times are usually caused by the issues I have with my hip. Despite all the hip problems, I still keep coming back to yoga. I love it, it grounds me and keeps me healthy.

I discovered yoga while travelling in India and it is there that I met my wonderful teacher Mr Vinay Kumar of Prana Vashya Yoga. Having already been to see Vinay with hip issues (I’d freshly torn my ligamentum teres) and had great results, I was in no doubt that I would benefit from another visit to get past the rest of the post-surgery hip pain. I managed to get 2 months off work and was about to book the trip when I ended up in hospital with acute hip pain.

Its kinda silly… my pain had been spiralling downwards for months. I went to see a new Osteopath on the Wednesday, was in a lot of pain for a couple of days because of his treatment but when I got out of bed in Saturday afternoon I felt amazing. The referred pain from poor alignment/limping..etc had miraculously vanished and all I was left with was pain right in the middle of the joint. In true Julia style, I over did it. Too much standing, sitting and walking plus a sailing trip led to a very full feeling joint, swelling and increased pain levels. I had an exam coming up and was busy at work so I hired crutches and kept pushing through the pain. Unfortunately I pushed myself to the point I wasn’t sleeping or eating properly… it got pretty bad. To cut a long story short, my leg started going purplish and the swelling/pain made it hard to look after myself and I ended up in hospital. Yes, I am the kind of person that sometimes needs a kick up the butt to listen to my body.

Despite 10 days in hospital, 6 weeks of bed-rest and a gradual return to work over 1 month (part time work/bed rest) I still wanted to go to India to do the yoga. My family and friends were worried but I was determined to go because I knew in my heart it was the right thing.

So in December 2011, still on crutches and taking a lot of medication for the pain, I travelled to Mysore to study with my teacher. On arrival we had a catch up and discussed the plan for my stay. I ended up doing 1hr of Pranayama (which is like a breathing meditation), and 90 mins of yoga therapy a day. 6 days a week, for just over 4 weeks. The focus was on strength (over flexibility) and ensuring I was resting when I was not in class.

The results were AMAZING. Within the first week I felt the circulation come back in my left leg which was a huge milestone and a relief. By the end of the trip I was off my crutches, walking without a limp and I was having pain free moments for the first time in a year. I managed to get off all my daily pain medications and I was only taking pain killers as required, sometimes going days without taking any medication.

These are amazing results in a short time, especially given what I’d been through in the few months before I arrived in Mysore. My surgeon was flabbergasted when he saw me on return from my trip. This was great because before I went away I could tell he’d pretty much given up on me and thrown me in the ‘too hard chronic pain’ basket. I think (hope) I am giving him a new perspective on alternative therapies.

So, what happened next…. Well, I came back to New Zealand with instructions to keep up the yoga therapy but found it very difficult to maintain the commitment while living my regular life. It was hard enough going back to work for 8hrs a day without adding 90mins of yoga and 1hr of pranayama. I got pretty sick for a couple of months and took this as my body telling me to ease back. So I am disappointed to report I haven’t been able to keep it up as well as I’d hoped. I’ve lost quite a lot of strength and the pain is creeping back. I do continue to practice my yoga, I go to classes once a week and do short practices at home. The focus is on strength and I am working towards another trip to do yoga with my teacher, hopefully this time we can cement the improvements I make so they last longer.

First Day of Yoga

Here is a picture of me just before my 1st day of yoga. As you can see I was very excited, a little anxious and very sleep deprived. The first day went well, it was a led pranayama class and then in the evening it was all about establishing the starting point with my hip. That night it was off to Mahesh Prasad for my favourite curry (Palack Paneer) and some Masala PadPad (aka indian pizza). All this good food cost me approx $3 nzd

Settling in

Once again woke early, poor Gia who is doing teachers training has to leave for class at some crazy hour. I think her class is at 5am or something crazy. After she left (it was still dark) I dozed a little and waited for the sun to come up, I tried to do some meditation in bed, but it was a bit half arsed so I got up got up around 7am and kick started my day. I had my first bucket shower, did my gentle yoga practice + a proper seated guided meditation from my iPod. This was followed by my first load of washing ala bucket. A yummy breakfast of milkless porridge (which oddly always tastes better in India). A bit of pottering around and then around 10am I wandered up to check out the new shala (yoga school).

Today I went to meet with my yoga teacher (Vinay Kumar) to talk about the hip situation and the plan for the month. I was really nervous for some reason so it was a relief to see his smiley, friendly face and I totally trust that everything is going to be ok. Its quite hard as usually when I come here I am in better condition and its about the yoga. It will be quite a different visit this year. I am going to have to be OK with not being able to play with the other kids!

The plan for the trip is for me to pranyama in the mornings and one yoga asana class a day. I will do a special sequence in the evening back bending class. When I am not in class I have to ensure I get lots of rest and don’t over do it. So, its another dose of patience and taking it easy. Given I was on bedrest for over a month only 2 months ago… I think this is a realistic plan!

So, I am feeling really happy. Its lovely, warm and sunny and there are lots of friendly familiar faces at the yoga school.

My only biggish challenge at the moment is the squat toilet! Anyone who has hip issues will agree – squat toilets are freekn painful and less than ideal if you’ve got hip pain. It’s already getting easier though and the pain usually settles down within 5-10 mins so I am not too concerned. I think once I start the yoga the squat will be less of a problem.

An article about my teacher (Vinay Kumar) who is obviously very flexible!
Front door to the shala (yoga school). Its a lot stricter here than in NZ yoga schools.

Hello INDIA! (again)

After a fairly uneventful journey from Bangkok, I am back in India. This is my 3rd trip to India and once again I am here to study yoga with my teacher in Mysore. My flight got in at 11.30pm last night so I got a hotel near the airport and I am currently relaxing in Bangalore before travelling to Mysore (it is a 3-4hr journey). Its pretty cold in India at the moment but here in Bangalore it is still warmer than a NZ summer. I think its going to be a great month!

The view from my hotel room
Breakfast Indian Style

So, the plan for today is to get a driver to take me to Mysore. I’d usually prefer to take the train (more interesting), however my bags are heavy and I don’t want to risk hurting my hip before I start the yoga.

Yes, the hip…. as some of you know, a couple of years ago I tore a ligament and the labrum in my hip joint (gym accident). I had surgery in Oct 2010 and was expected to make a full recovery within 3-4 months. A year after my surgery I still hadn’t managed to get back to full activity. In October, after a series of events (incl sailing, a drunken walk home and pushing through the pain) I ended up in hospital. This put me back to square one of my recovery. Its been a few months now and I am hoping that some gentle yoga, curry, warm weather, fresh coconuts and sunshine I will be able to make some good progress on my recovery. I’d be very happy if I could get past this speed-bump and get my active lifestyle back. But, I am trying hard not to have any expectations so that I can avoid disappointment if the yoga doesn’t work out. I figure, worst case scenario if the hip doesn’t want to play the game I will have a lovely holiday in India and hang out with my international yogi friends. 🙂

Right, I better pack my bags. In the next few days I will update the blog as its been a while and I have two trips to Thailand to write about.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas.

Travelling Kiwi hits the road again

So, after a period of non-travelling Travelling Kiwi FINALLY got to go travelling again! Ok, its not that bad, I did actually sneak in a little trip to Thailand before starting my new job in April 2011.

Anyways, after a lot of drama in NZ in Oct/Nov/Dec (incl 10 days in hospital and over a month of bedrest) I locked in my plans to return to India to study yoga with my teacher in Mysore. The purpose of the trip is to try and heal my problematic hip. I figure the mixture of a warm climate, Asian food, fresh coconuts and yoga will do me the world of good. My employer has been VERY understanding and despite me having all that sick leave they are allowing me to take another month off to try and fix my hip and get a good rest. Luckily for me, the cheapest ticket to India was via Bangkok so I get to see my family in Thailand on the way over.

So, I am leaving NZ on crutches and am hoping like hell I don’t need them when I come back!

Bye bye Mysore… I will miss you!

Today my ‘extended’ holiday ends. For some reason (probably the acute gastroenteritis) I am more than ready to go home to New Zealand.

It’s going to be a long journey home… I have a 3-4hour drive to Bangalore, will wait a few hours there before flying to Singapore (4hrs), have to wait there for over 12hours (I may go into the city if I feel well enough), then I fly to Christchurch (10hrs), then I have to wait a bit (2hrs) then fly to Wellington (1hr). All up, door to door I expect the journey will take about 34-36hrs (starting at 4pm, so it will be a long day), not great given I am still feeling rather rubbish – but I am grateful I am well enough to go home (it could be a lot worse!).

So, my holiday was pretty much all about the yoga… it is crazy (to me) to think I have only been practicing yoga for a year. I have learnt so much in this first year and am so very grateful to Vinay Kumar who has really sparked my interest in the practice. I guess google should take some of the credit too as that is how I found Vinay! Sometimes I wonder if I had rocked up to a different yoga shala last year and studied with a different teacher if the story would be different… I really do feel lucky that things worked out the way they did!

This trip I have learnt a lot, I have also come to realise that I have so much more to learn. Last year the progress I made was very dramatic as I had never practiced yoga before (see posts Dec08-Jan09 if you are interested). This year I was more prepared for the trip and the progress was a lot more subtle. I am feeling good, my flexibility is better, my hip is 90% fixed, my pranyama has improved dramatically (to the point where I think I almost like it!) and best of all I am really curious to learn more about how yoga works. I’ve taken away a lot from this visit that I will be able to work on/play with during the year… it’s going to be a great year. I am lucky I also have a great yoga shala to go to in Wellington which also has wonderful teachers – this makes leaving Mysore so much easier!

So, farewell Mysore. I will miss you – but don’t worry, I’ll be back!

My crazy crazy dog friend

I almost forgot to post about my crazy crazy dog friend.

Some of you may remember from last year I wrote about the crazy dog I used to see on the way to yoga class in the morning. This dog was a nut case and amused me… she’d come running up to me every day and try and jump on me. She was kind of cute and I am sure she has A.D.D (attention deficit disorder). Anyway, a few days after I arrived in Mysore I saw her one morning on the way to yoga – she has changed a lot in the last year!

She has obviously had puppies (saggy boobs) and she has chilled out a lot… when she saw me looking at her she ran up to me to say hi, then she quickly lost interest and went about her business sniffing rubbish. I’ve seen her around quite a bit since then, she just ignores me now… but that is ok, she will always be my crazy crazy dog friend.

I think its kind of cool how I can come back to Mysore and recognise not only yoga students from last year… but I also a few of the resident dogs and cows! Here are some photos of Crazy:

2009/2010:

2008/2009 (see last years post).