Eating Humble Pie: My Meniscus Tear and How I Healed My Knee

Last year I ate some serious humble pie.

As you probably know by now, I teach alignment-based yoga to keep muscles and bones moving in optimal directions, and to keep my students out of pain and feeling good.

I also have my MS in Kinesiology with a focus on Rehab Exercise and I have passionately studied therapeutics for years.

So I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I was squatting near my daughter who was in the pool, I got splashed and I got up fast only to discover I had blown my knee out and couldn’t walk.

I had to get surgery on my knee, to cut out the piece of cartilage that I had shredded.

meniscus tear - healing knee yoga

“You should take up yoga”, a friend jokingly commented.

Hmm I said. It was all I could think of to say.

This was the first of several incidents of its kind before I did the surgery. So here are the lessons I eventually took from the experience…

Meniscus Tear Lesson #1: Don't be a Wallflower

Don’t wear clothes to a pool party, wear a bathing suit, and jump in. Especially don’t wear clothes you don’t want to get wet.  Duh.

But of course, this is not really the main lesson. As I learned in my alignment-based yoga training, one little slip rarely causes an injury.  Usually it’s been a long time coming, that joint is unstable and misalignment, and the incident points us to our weakest link.

In a way, injuries are a gift because we can start to focus on aligning in that area.

I had spent the previous four months deeply engaged on my computer.  I was having a blast, learning about Pinterest, and email programs, and blogging, and setting up online courses.  I was feeling gratified from serving this community that I love, and I was somewhat obsessed.

I was doing my bare minimum home practice and shirking hiking and other cardio altogether.

Protecting our knees has to do with engaging the muscles of our shins to make sure we’re not hyper-extending, and working your outer arches of your foot.  We can do this in part by hiking up hills, or doing the elliptical, or biking. If you have a very flexible body like me, yoga is not enough to keep your joints strong – especially if you’re pregnant. And if you’re going to do wacky poses while you work, like Eka Pada on the Deskasana (sorry, that was for you yoga geeks), you better be working your muscles.

Meniscus Tear Lesson #2: Create Strong Boundaries

No matter how much you want to give of yourself, don’t give up on taking care of yourself.  If you lose your health, which is easier to do than we usually think, you’re mostly going to have to be taken care of. Saying no can be very powerful: it allows you to choose what’s best for you.

Like every true principle of nature, this can be be applied to the body as well: create strong boundaries with your muscles to protect the weakest links in our body, our joints. In a way, you’re saying no to being “weak-kneed.”

shins in thighs out alignment for meniscus tearA simple way to activate the muscles that create strong boundaries around the knee is to kick off your shoes once an hour, flex your feet and spread all 10 toes – including your pinky toe.

Spreading your pinky toe energetically toward your outer heel creates a “racing strip’ down the outside of your shin. This is your peroneal muscle that “hugs” your shin in toward the other one.  This means you’ve created the boundary on the outer knee, called “shins in” – saying no to vulnerable, misaligned knees.

At the same time, to stabilize the inner knee, push the inner thighs apart. This is called “thighs out”.

Doing shins in/thighs out is like “wrapping” a hurt knee, and will help you feel better right away – plus, over time, will help you create stability. 

I know, it’s pretty impossible to learn alignment by reading a blog. That’s why you should take a free Foundations class with me and we’ll work on your knee issues together. Isn’t the internet cool?. I hope to see you Saturday!

Meniscus Tear Lesson #3: Get Help.

About 6 years ago as I write this, I had my baby. She was just the cutest thing ever (I know, everyone thinks that, but…), and much to my surprise, I left my yoga mat in the dust for a couple years. 

I remember the moment I came back: I was at a workshop with my teacher, trying to get in to a deep backbend that I had always enjoyed before. I was a little frustrated with me and said “use your power!” and I said “I can’t. There’s a bone in the way.”

I had developed a twist in my pelvis that confounded the chiropractors and massage therapists and physical therapists. Although with my yoga alignment I could stand in perfect alignment and they would say “wow, it’s gone!”, something was pulling my whole upper body to the right and I had to be constantly fighting against it.

I thought I could fix it myself.

I finally found someone who did Heller work (a kind of deep bodywork related to Rolfing) who said that he sees this often with Cesareans, when the scar pulls everything to one side. He said you have a window of about a year after a C to prevent adhesions.  

It really does take a village. Keep trying. Keep learning about your issue.

Whatever physical issue you’re working with in your life (we all have them), trust that there’s someone who knows more about it than you do and can make healing easier.  Get a teacher, a guide, a mentor, a healer.  Ask for help. When we walk away feeling better than when we started, we’ve found someone worth working with for a while.

When we get clear on what we need and we’re ready to ask for it (out loud!), the universe seems to bring it.

I was worried about the surgery for meniscus tear. I put it off for months, and in that time sometimes I suddenly couldn’t straighten my leg because it would catch. It was my right leg, so for a few days I couldn’t drive.

On the day, it was in and out, no crutches after, and then I just worked to do alignment-based yoga consistently so my muscles would stabilize. I never had a knee problem again. I still feel grateful to that wonderful doctor!

Meniscus Tear Lesson #4: Don't Abandon Your Self

About 6 years ago as I write this, I had my baby. She was just the cutest thing ever (I know, everyone thinks that, but…), and much to my surprise, I left my yoga mat in the dust for a couple years. 

I remember the moment I came back: I was at a workshop with my teacher, trying to get in to a deep backbend that I had always enjoyed before. I was a little frustrated with me and said “use your power!” and I said “I can’t. There’s a bone in the way.”

I had developed a twist in my pelvis that confounded the chiropractors and massage therapists and physical therapists. Although with my yoga alignment I could stand in perfect alignment and they would say “wow, it’s gone!”, something was pulling my whole upper body to the right and I had to be constantly fighting against it.

I thought I could fix it myself.

I finally found someone who did Heller work (a kind of deep bodywork related to Rolfing) who said that he sees this often with Cesareans, when the scar pulls everything to one side. He said you have a window of about a year after a C to prevent adhesions.  

It really does take a village. Keep trying. Keep learning about your issue.

Whatever physical issue you’re working with in your life (we all have them), trust that there’s someone who knows more about it than you do and can make healing easier.  Get a teacher, a guide, a mentor, a healer.  Ask for help. When we walk away feeling better than when we started, we’ve found someone worth working with for a while.

When we get clear on what we need and we’re ready to ask for it (out loud!), the universe seems to bring it.

As far as my meniscus tear, I was worried about the surgery my doctor recommended. I put it off for months, and in that time sometimes I suddenly couldn’t straighten my leg because it would catch. It was my right leg, so for a few days I couldn’t drive.

When I finally decided it was time, it was in and out, no crutches after, and I just did alignment-based yoga consistently so my muscles would stabilize my knee. I never had a knee problem again. Do not give up on healing and thriving!

Thank you for spreading the Ma love!

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