Saturday, August 9, 2008

Restorative poses for bad knees - Restart of yoga practice with Nuvana

I arrived home after a long journey from Frankfurt. The return journey from India is most unpleasant, as it is difficult to get any sleep. Next time I will try Tylenol PM. For the first time in 6 years I had no trouble at customs. I was first to pick up luggage and first to be directed to the bus at PDX (Portland International Airport). I was prepared to explain the yogs props, including a bolster, halasana bench, belts and ropes. But no questions except for the usual "do you have any food items?". I had none to declare, so I received a simple directive to the exit.

Historically, I am part of the crowd usually from India and other "third world countries', that is directed to extra checks including opening and Xray of all bags to ensure we are not carrying banned food items, drugs or anything that may interfere with national security .

I have had a word or two with customs and the city of Portland a few years back when I and several of my Indian employees who used to live in Portland were given a difficult time at PDX. "Third world, developing nations, Aliens" - I hope some day these terms would just melt away from our society. For now I keep holding on to my indifference, but coming through US customs at PDX is one of my most stressful moments.

I returned to my usual jet-lag, where around 6 pm I am out like a light. The break in Frankfurt helped, as the nap lasted just a couple of hours and I was frequently woken by my kids, which helped. My knee pains returned. They started 8 weeks ago and have become worse, especially my right knee, which I had injured nearly 20 years ago in a skiing mishap. Walking up and down the stairs is excruciating.

I decided to skip yoga classes and wait till my Friday session with Nuvana. I am certain now that long plane rides of more than 4 hours hurt my knees. There is only so much "sucking up of my knees" I can do throughout the day. For those not familiar with this term, it is frequently used by Pune Iyengar teachers to instruct you to pull your knees up.

Nuvana started with a Dandasana, by the window. It is a built in bench at the base of the window in the room we practice. Its high enough to get my arms on the bench to allow me to pull up straight, with my back and behind completely touching the wall. Then some blankets between my knees and a hard push on my feet to get the legs completely straight. This puts pressure on the glute muscles, the calves, and the back of the thighs, stretching the back parts of your legs to release the knees. You can see a portion of this window bench in the pictue.

Next was a Viparita Karani , with my legs strapped at various parts and the buckle directions alternating. The picture says it all. This pose lasted for nearly 15 minutes and ended once my legs were pretty numb. "You achieve a different kind of blood circulation" remarked Nuvana and it is actually helpful re-aligning the ligaments on the knees that get mis-aligned as we live our life in bad posture hell.

I felt immediate relief, not to mention increased blood in my brain, making me more alert. Usually this is a relaxing pose - it seemed to make me more alert and aware. We followed this sequence with a BadaKonasana, sitting high on blankets and then Nuvana wrapped the ropes around the knees, and I had to pull those ropes out, while tightening the loops to give space between the knees. It was followed by a supported Navasan, with my back on the steps of her stairwell and legs at an angle supported by a chair, shoulders rolled back, with the steps for support. Its interesting how objects and items in her house become props.

We ended with a "knee traction". I lied down on my stomach with the knees on a blanket and then a rope is wrapped around the knee and pulled back while my foot and calf was pushed down towards my back. This traction is simply amazing and can release locked knees. Its brilliant. After several iterations of this action, I was done. As I rose up I could hear the crackle of knees being released. It was a good crack! I could immediately feel the relief. There seem to be some feeling of pressure, but the pain was gone.

I imagine my knee pain is mostly due to bad posture which over time can cause the pain to build up in the knees. I could get into some life analogies here but this time I shall refrain. The readers are invited to draw their own analogies, and if you do have some please comments.

Comments are always welcome; though I have come to know the regulars on here and I thank you all for visiting and spending time. I hope these posts help you. They certainly help me. If you haven't, please do try an Iyengar yoga class from a certfied Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Next week my classes at Sunset will resume. I have heard good things about Nina's substitute Jen. I am looking forward to taking a class or two from her in Nina's absence. Nina is blogging her experience in Pune at Nina's Yoga Life.

Please visit another interesting blog called Yogue Style by Insiya Rasiwalla Finn from Vancouver, Canada.


The Yogi

1 comment:

Insiya Rasiwala-Finn said...

Hi Nitin, thanks for the mention! I sympathize with the usual trouble at customs, thats when that yogic patience and intention helps... eoin and i hope that your knees feel better. we are going to be in portland in august, will keep you posted