Does Yoga Heal?

Can I still do yoga? Here’s a Q & A session with my instructor Espi Smith.

Espi says painful moves should be avoided
Espi says painful moves should be avoided

Me: What adaptations should I make to my practice?

Espi: I guess that depends on how you define the word “yoga”. If you are looking at only the asana (postures), they you will need to modify your physical practice to account for your injury. In your case, you should avoid standing and kneeling postures as well as some seated asanas that involve the outside of your foot putting pressure on the floor. If it hurts, it’s a definite no-go!

She uses a greater understanding of internal energetics and anatomy since being injured herself
She uses a greater understanding of internal energetics and anatomy since being injured herself

However yoga is much more than a physical practice, its a way of looking at life. Pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, proper diet and positive thought will all help keep you happy and healthy throughout your recovery.

Me: Anything I should definitely avoid?

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

Espi: Anything that puts unnecessary pressure on the foot. Remember to listen to your body and not your ego, if there is pain it’s a sure fire way of knowing that you’re upsetting a part that should be healing.

Me: Do you know anyone who’s survived injury to continue their practice?

Espi: Yes, me! A few years ago, before I’d let go of my ego and gotten over my competitive side I decided that I couldtry and jump from Down-dog to Crow (an arm balance that requires a lot of strength).

Good communication is the key to maintaining the fitness lifestyle
Good communication is the key to maintaining the fitness lifestyle

Turns out I had a lot more momentum than strength. I face-planted on the floor with all my might and wound up in hospital with a neck-brace on and some very worried-looking doctors. Luckily I hadn’t broken anything I just had soft tissue damage.

A positive attitude is important
A positive attitude is important
The injury left me with a huge fear of inversions and arm balances. It took a couple of years of very grounding practice to give me the confidence to practice my arm balances and inversions again. Under the careful instruction of my teacher during my teacher-training, I got back into it.
Me: Can injury make people who enjoy exercise feel cut-off and even make them drop out altogether?
Espi: I think this is very much to do with each individual’s attitude towards being injured. If you see it as being betrayed by your body and allow yourself to feel that you have been kicked to the side-lines then yes, your are likely to become isolated.
It's all about mind, body and spirit (artwork by Molly Pepper)
It’s all about mind, body and spirit (artwork by Molly Pepper)
However, if you adopt a positive attitude, respect the road to recovery and speak to your teacher/instructor about the things that you can still do, then you’ll still be able to enjoy the fitness lifestyle.

Me: How can meditation help?

Easier said than done!
Easier said than done!
Espi: Meditation allows you the time to get out of your conditioned mind. The one that tells you that injury means “being out of the game”.
When you do it, not only will you get the chance to clear all the negative emotions that surround being injured, you also bring a deep sense of relaxation to the physical body.
The muscles and the nervous system will get a well-earned break and this will help to relieve any built-up tension and waste products that come up as a result of injury.
Finally, thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak about this on your blog, Emma. Rest, relax and remember to breathe. You’ll be healed in no time.
For more information on Espi, check out her website here.
 
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Cleared for take-off?

I’m discharged.

X-ray from six weeks ago - fifth metatarsal fracture clearly visible
X-ray from six weeks ago – fifth metatarsal fracture clearly visible

The six weeks is over – the bone is officially healed.

I was given the news after a one-hour-45-minute wait, during which time I’d met a prison officer who’d broken his arm in two places falling downstairs at home (“my daughters help me”) and a carer who’d smashed both his elbows out walking his golden Labrador when she spooked and pulled him to the floor (“Lucy hasn’t left my side since”).

I was brushing a woman’s hair and fastening her pony-tail when I was called over  – she couldn’t reach around and neither could her mother (“C’mon, this lady here’ll do it”).

Mr Bhalla, who examined me, explained I had “good flexion”.

Long waits are inevitable at the bone clinic
Long waits are inevitable at the bone clinic

How did he know the bone was healed?

“You ran in here”.

Apparently no physiotherapy is necessary as my recovery is good – and walking will do the trick.

The shoe can come off – good news – now I just need to find some suitable ceremony for dispersing with it or maybe I could make it into some Modern Art installation?

Gettin' a groove on - but it'll be another six weeks before I can run again
Gettin’ a groove on – but it’ll be another six weeks before I can run again

What about exercise? Well, predictably, the high-impact ones, the ones that cost the least money to do – ie running and Guerrilla training – will have to wait another six weeks (“It’s three months after a fracture”).

The pay-in-advance ones – swimming, cycling, cross-training, spinning etc – they’re all fine.

Funny how getting injured didn’t automatically make me any  better-off financially to make these adjustments!

Yoga? Fine as long as I don’t stretch the foot, put all my weight on it.

Will the bone be more vulnerable? He doesn’t see any reason for arthritis.

It was good to see the original X-rays (on the computer screen) – especially with the realisation that this time the clean oblique break shown in them had healed.

Mr Bhalla explained the fracture was not near the joint and that, apparently, is “good”.

Things are changing, blossoms on the trees, the sun’s out – a contrast from the filthy coldness I contended with when first injured.

My foot’s changed too – healing happens.

Now join me as I continue towards my running goal.

Eve of the Fracture Clinic

Well – tomorrow’s the biggee!

He's smiling - will I be?
He’s smiling – will I be?

Time for my 6-week check-up at the Fracture Clinic.

Good news – I no longer hobble. Or even limp. The bone soreness is still there but the grotesque elephant-man swelling is gone. The outline of the tendons can be seen. The OAP-style bloating of the ankle has vanished too.

And I’ll be honest with you, when they said six weeks I couldn’t really envisage any improvement whatsoever.

But there has been a coming-to-terms-with-the-situation – or acceptance – and you’ll have gathered I’m a pretty impatient person.

No Love Like Shoe Love!
No love like shoe love! But when can I ditch it?

In “The Lore Of Running”, Tim Noakes, MD, says; “Finally, after some months (!), the athletes learn to accept their injuries and to modify their ambitions to accommodate the inadequacies of the mortal body.

“When this occurs, the athletes are likely to be over the injuries.” (My italics)

So is Time really the great healer?

There is still plenty of work to be done regarding this foot – very much a Work In Progress. And plenty more to go on this Blog.

The science behind a lifestyle screw-up
The science behind a lifestyle screw-up

Now I just need to know I’ve got the right questions for when I finally get to see the doctor!

  1. How can I know if the bone has healed?
  2. What physiotherapy will I need? (So far I’ve been offered nothing at all)
  3. Do I need to keep wearing the shoe?
  4. What advice on exercise? When can I start doing it again – eg – running, guerrillas, high impact.
  5. What are the chances of this injury happening again?

I just want, above all, to be treated as if this injury, small though it is, is not inconsequential.

Okay it’s not life-threatening. I can still work.

I just want some acknowledgement of the impact it’s had on my life. As if I haven’t imagined the whole thing.

The one thing I really don’t want right now is disillusionment.

Once again – watch this space.

Honk That Duck

I’ve finally grasped the nettle – and visited ParkRun.

They're off!
They’re off!

Basically, for the uninitiated, it’s a 5km (just over 3 miles) run which is timed – all you have to do is register on the website and print-out the barcode it gives you.

I could see the runners rounding the first bend even from the road.

Despite it being nearly a month since the fracture I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever run again!

When you get a Personal Best you get to squeeze the duck and make him honk!
When you get a Personal Best you get to squeeze the duck and make him honk!

In the band-stand I joined Natalie, who’s studying Sports Therapy at university.

“You’ve got to take your time, with the healing process,” she told me.

 “It is difficult, but it’s nature isn’t it? You’ve just got to let it take its time, because there’s no point you going back too early – you could fracture it again.”

Do You Feel It Too? (Photo by Peter Morgan)
Do you feel it too?
(Photo by Peter Morgan)

She added that I’d need the help of physiotherapists too; “Once the bone has knitted you’re going to have damaged areas, (around it) you’re going to have to work on those.”

Another woman – Sarah – appeared at my side – “Where’s the ParkRun duck? I’ve got a personal best!”

Despite having done around 14 ParkRuns, I wasn’t aware of this.

When I get my next Personal Best I won't be celebrating alone
Honk me!

Yup, you grab that duck and you honk him!

Once this was done, I joined Sarah in the ParkRun café, on this occasion a church hall.

Exercise has figured very prominently in her weight loss regime: “I don’t think I’d have lost as much as I have without my running. I’ve still got two stone to go, but I’m hoping if I just keep running it’ll come off eventually.”

So how would she cope if she couldn’t run? “I would be devastated! I’m just starting to get to that point where I’m actually feeling fit – so I’d feel well gutted.”

Alison, another runner, has had problems with shin-splints and, since having her two young sons, sometimes has issues with her hips and back (“It’s very frustrating when you’ve got very limited time, and you’re a busy mum and working, then that’s the one thing that you’ve got and you realise you can’t run”).

Dogs can join in too
Dogs can join in too

She has this advice for those who, like me, have been told that rest is the only cure: “It depends on what the rest is. It could be rest from any physical activity, the jumping up and down stuff –  so, although I’d be resting, I’d still be doing Pilates, I could go for a swim. You know, it’s finding the alternative activity and having the flexibility in your own mind.”

Feeling decidedly more positive, I’ve now resolved to remain part of the ParkRun community through marshalling.

And one day, well, I’m determined I’ll get another PB – and honk that duck!

For more ParkRun info click here

Mistaken Identity

I need to summon my inner super-hero!
I need to summon my inner super-hero

If one more person refers to me hobbling I will scream. Whatever happened to limping?

A broken bone in my foot has catapulted me to OAP status. (What next, incontinence pads?)

Bear with me. I’m wondering if I’m alone in all this – and I know I’m not! (And more to the point, it’s hardly life-threatening).

I feel as though I have positively morphed from an independent person who could influence their identity through exercise to what I perceive as a flabby invalid to whom the very option of exercise is denied.

Detail from The Hostile Forces, Beethoven frieze, by Klimpt
I don’t want to look like this!

At what point was the moment of transition? The moment the fracture actually happened? Or the actual diagnosis?

Was the huge-breasted, flabby-armed, big-bellied entity I dread becoming born in the snap of the bone?

I was in denial until diagnosis.

It came hours after being X-rayed in A&E – initially in the form of an apologetic-looking nurse calling my name and telling me I needed “a shoe”.

Carrie Bradshaw wouldn't like the latest addition to my footwear collection
Carrie Bradshaw wouldn’t like the latest addition to my footwear collection

A doctor met me in the corridor and took me to a consulting room where she showed me the X-ray – and the fracture.

The good news was I didn’t need a plaster-cast – just the goddamned shoe – which, bulky and OAP-like, was velcroe’d on.

Now I’m no Carrie Bradshaw – but the latest addition to my footwear collection is nothing short of hideous.

Of course there’s always the option of not wearing it all. I go through phases where I kid myself that, because my boots match, the fracture never happened.

Therapeutic shoe similar to mine - French manicure optional
Therapeutic shoe similar to mine – French manicure optional

In more accepting moments, there are still problems.

After all, the shoe I wear to the office on my healthy foot actually has a thinner sole than the one on my injured one. (Heels are definitely out).

So – unevenly shod – I’m more likely to limp anyway!

Or am limping because I’m wearing a therapeutic shoe which everyone can see?  Indeed I often feel duty-bound to do so for that very reason!

This patient needs patience
This patient needs patience

And the latest news? Apparently we’re all too sedentary – “sitting is the new smoking” and “the couch potato culture has spread to the workplace”.

Standing up will at least use up some calories.

Well, normally I’d welcome a story like this – but injury means a nice little calorie-burner like standing up for longer periods of time is not really an option for me.

Read the article here

And I’d like to think the foot will heal at some point so I can help Get Britain Standing  (Have a go at their Sitting Calculator – I wouldn’t dare!)