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Teaching With a Detached Retina

I am a 50-plus yoga teacher who recently underwent surgery for a detached retina. Most of my students are in my age range, so our practice is comparatively gentle. What postures should I avoid or what precautions should I be aware of as my students and I all try to remain flexible and strong?

Read Aadil Palkhivala's reply:

Dear Linda,
For the cautious or frailer student, I avoid inversions completely. I realize this is a radical viewpoint, but safety is very important—and we are talking about nothing less than your eyes.

For more eager students, I do introduce inversions, as follows: The basic precaution is to avoid the build-up of pressure in the eyes for the first year after surgery. A rule of thumb I use is that, after the doctor has given full permission to do all exercise and yoga, including upside-down poses, I ask my students to wait at least three more months before attempting them, and then do them for only a few seconds (five to ten) during the next three months. If no further problems arise, then increase the holding time for a few more seconds (15 to 30) during the next year. Then increase inversions to one minute and never exceed this.

To remain flexible and strong, teach the Purna Yoga Hip Series (the six supine hip-opening asanas: Supta Padangusthasana, Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana, Parshva Supta Padangusthasana, Supine Internal Rotation with knees at 90 degrees, Supta Janu Padasthilasana, and Eka Pada Supta Virasana (with the non-Virasana knee bent, foot on the floor). To keep the hip joints limber, teach Gomukhasana (Cow-Face Pose). Teach Garudasana (Eagle Pose) to keep the shoulders limber, and Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) and front bends to keep the spine limber.

To strengthen the body in general, I suggest the classical version of the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations), not the jumping version. Do this with the back knee on the floor in Vanarasana (Lunge Pose), on both sides, and repeat three times during the first two weeks. Then increase the number of repetitions by one per week until you are up to nine. In addition, a daily practice of standing poses, done with concentration on strengthening the quadriceps and lifting the pit of the abdomen without contracting the diaphragm, will be very useful.

Recognized as one of the world's top yoga teachers, Aadil Palkhivala began studying yoga at the age of seven with B.K.S. Iyengar and was introduced to Sri Aurobindo's yoga three years later. He received the Advanced Yoga Teacher's Certificate at the age of 22 and is the founder-director of internationally-renowned Yoga Centers™ in Bellevue, Washington. Aadil is the director of the College of Purna Yoga, a 1,700 hour Washington-state licensed and certified teacher training program. He is also a federally certified naturopath, a certified ayurveda">Ayurvedic health science practitioner, a clinical hypnotherapist, a certified shiatsu and Swedish bodywork therapist, a lawyer, and an internationally sponsored public speaker on the mind-body-energy connection.

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