“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” EE Cummings
In our society we tend to measure life’s successes by certain milestones. There are many names for these milestones depending on what, when, where and why we’re working on improvements. In relationships it seems as though we look towards marriage, and we aren’t fully successful in our relationships until we are married, have children, buy a house, have a dog, buy a car….etc etc etc. At work we always look for advancement, a raise, a promotion. Crossfiters measure our successes in PR’s (personal records), faster times, bigger numbers, heavier weights. In the yoga world (especially in western culture) we look towards deepening our asana expression, becoming more flexible, having better breath control, just having a consistent practice.
I attacked my physical therapy in full force once I was out of surgery. Not only did I want my surgery to be a success, but I wanted to get back in the gym, get back on the mat, walk the dogs, cook, get my independance back…hell just live life. The adaptations that come about after loosing full access of a limb I had 100% access to prior was quite a culture shock to say the least. And I more or less had a choice in getting this surgery, I didn’t lose the abilities of my left arm having it shot off in battle, a car accident, illness, etc. I lost mobility because I chose to fix a tear that was partially limiting my choice of lifestyle. And talk about adaptations – try figuring out how to get in and out of a GHD with one arm for the first time…sorry there isn’t a video of this hilarity. Or figure out how to teach an asana class in a sling, or when the arm barely lifts off the side. It’s an interesting experience!
As of today I am currently six months post surgery. PT was cut off in March because insurance thinks that that’s all one needs to rehab post a major surgery (let’s not even go there). I’m been back in the gym and I’m back to teaching and practicing on the mat. And from what I’m hearing from PT’s, friends that have been through similar surgeries, yoga students, doctors, etc. – I’m doing really well.
Want to see some PR’s? That’s good…because I’m gunna give you an overview! And the list of what I can do has finally surpassed the list of what I cannot.
- Range of Motion – Almost 100% with one little sticky spot right at full extension over my head close to my ear. (So no presses yet.)
- Strength – I can actually do a few full push ups (crossfit standards), however I still perform them in workouts on my knees. Have pretty good pull strength. Can hold downdog, planks, forearm planks without pain. Can actually grocery shop on my own (that’s a BIG one).
- Stamina – Can work my full 12 hour shifts, walk the dogs, cook, and generally not feel pain in at the end of the day.
Apparently there comes a point after surgery where you tend to regress. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this phenomenon until it happened to me. At about the five month mark my shoulder felt worse than it did pre-surgery. I was in a ton of pain and even had to take the good drugs a few times to get some relief. Sleeping became a bitch again (I was actually sleeping through the night finally). Depression was definitely a reality. My usual motivation to do anything was quickly fading in to nothingness, and I was completely beginning to regret having the surgery. For those of you who don’t know me, regret is a word I don’t use lightly – I don’t believe in regretting anything since there is always a lesson to be learned and an experience to be had. This surgery came really close to my first regret EVER.
Rotator cuff surgery is not only a test of letting go of my ego, but of accepting what it is and doing with what I’ve got. I’m not getting paid to be a crossfitter, damnit. Although, I was training like I was getting paid before surgery. Missing WODs was like flipping a switch turning me in to a bratty toddler that would throw tantrums and pout. Add taking almost five entire months off from basically any physical activity that I had become accustom is a big lesson in how to breathe and take a break. It is increasingly important to take some quiet time, miss a wod, just sit still for longer than two minutes. Listening and actually hearing what my body needs is no longer a foreign language. No overhead presses, no snatches, no kettle bell swings – yet and no chatarangas (maybe ever again). And while I would’ve been a grumpy toddler about it, I’ve learned that it’s not worth it. I’m only six months post surgery for Pete’s Sake, and only out of the sling since Christmas.
Teaching yoga with only use of one arm was a definite challenge, however I believe that my teaching improved dramatically because I couldn’t demonstrate. Using my words in an effective manner so that others may hear and understand them hasn’t always come easy. Stumbling over my words and forgetting which is left and which is right is what I like to do. I believe it also helped to show my students the importance of moving beyond current limitations and still having a practice and a life.
Physical therapist become therapists on all levels when dealing with rehabilitation of loss of mobility. After spending as much time as I did/have with my group of PTs it’s impossible to not form a relationship and it’s impossible to not trust them. I’m getting a referral to go back to see them, not only to improve my shoulder, but because I truly miss hanging out with them and learning how to be a better athlete.