Into the Mystery

By Alison Pignolet

I’m having a total replacement of my right hip April 18. It’s been a long journey to making the decision. Even further to saying it out loud.

After all, I’m a yoga teacher, movement educator and body nerd. I live healthy. I love nature. I wear minimal shoes. 

I worry I’ve let you down. How can I need a hip replacement? What did I do wrong?

The truth is that I’ve lived the life I’ve lived in the body I have. And I believe I’ve been able to lessen discomfort, delay the surgery and prepare this body for the best possible recovery.

Which is why I keep wondering if I am doing the right thing. Because some days, my hip feels good. Maybe it knows the surgeon’s knife and saw are coming and is trying to stay in my body.

I was diagnosed with arthritis in both hips more than 10 years ago when I was also diagnosed with a torn labrum in my left hip. I was told to come back for plastic and metal if physical therapy didn’t ease the pain.

I did the PT. I became a yoga teacher. I studied anatomy and therapeutics. I found Yoga Tune Up®. I learned to see and understand movement and the importance of strength. And I reduced my pain.

But I still had ornery hips.

Over the last year, my right hip has become increasingly stiff and dysfunctional. My range of motion has declined. I have pain ranging from mildly annoying to occasionally severe.

I started not doing things I enjoy to avoid problems with my hip. Instead of finding joy in movement, I became fearful.

So I scheduled the surgery. Now it is around the corner. I still have moments when I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing. That makes me uncomfortable.

I’m afraid my students will lose faith in me and what I teach because I couldn’t yoga/move/strengthen my way to normal functionality.

But in truth, I believe my movement practice and what I teach have kept me agile and mostly pain free as the joint disease progressed. If I didn’t do what I do, I don’t think I’d be wondering if now is the time to replace the hip. It would be obvious.

I also believe I aggravated or accelerated the wear on my joints with the way I practiced yoga early on. In those days, I reveled in my flexibility and ability to go deep and hang out there. I didn’t think strength was important. I ignored pain, thinking it meant I just needed to stretch more. To try harder. I didn’t believe yoga could hurt me.

I don’t do that anymore and I don’t teach that.

Yoga brought so much to my life. I don’t question whether it was and is good for me. This is why I now encourage props in class and we always find strength in our poses. This is why I teach you to feel and map your body with therapy ball work and to notice what’s moving when you move. I believe these are the components of a lifetime yoga and movement practice.

So, here I am. On April 18, I will be having a total replacement of my right hip. Is it the right thing to do? I think so. Will it be worth it? To quote Geoffrey Rush’s character in “Shakespeare in Love”: I don’t know, it’s a mystery. I certainly hope so. I’m choosing to step into the mystery with the intention of regaining my joy in movement.

Off I go, into the mystery

PS. For those of you who want nuts and bolts: I’m having the anterior approach. My surgeon’s name is Michael Bloomfield with the Cleveland Clinic System. The surgery will be robot assisted. If all goes smoothly and I come out of anesthesia well, I will be able to come home the same day. But I’ll be prepared to spend the night at Hillcrest.

I welcome your calls, texts or emails!

I will miss you all and look forward to returning to the yoga room with you.