Five years ago, I enjoyed yoga. Throughout my life, I have been the inflexible sort, but later found thrill in being able to touch my toes after a few intense months of yoga. And the day my heels touched the ground in a downward dog? Watch out, I'm walking in that pose. When we moved to Switzerland in 2008, all this slid away as I let language barrier overcome my laziness.
Two years ago in January 2011, after traveling in the air for two days, I woke up the next morning with a black dot in my vision. We wrote that off as tired eyes from jet-lag. I even decided, as a new year's goal, to head out for a yoga class at a gym. It was my first shoulderstand in years; the endorphin was what I needed, and the black dot in my vision went away. Two weeks later, I plucked the courage to make an appointment at the eye center to get my eyes checked.
It turned out that my left eye needed immediate laser treatment as there were tears in the retina. I still remember how the ophthalmologist hurried to look into her day's schedule and said that she'd skip lunch to treat my eye. I thought to sleep over it, but it would have been bad to wait, she stressed. Explaining to me in layman's terms, the wallpaper (retina) tore away from the wall of the eye, and she would have to "staple" the torn parts with laser. Such tears could lead to detachments, which in turn may lead to loss of vision.
The laser session did not take long. The aftermath, though, was not so nice. For the next few days and months, I was screaming at The Hubs for braking the car too hard because every little movement to the head caused immense pain to the back of my eyes. From brushing my teeth and taking dishes out from the dishwasher to sneezing, these little actions punched my eyeballs! Fast forward 2 years, I am now picking up my fat cats for cuddles, opening jam jars forcefully, and sneezing with my nose and mouth shut, even though I shouldn't. (Have you tried to change the way you sneeze?)
One of my goals for 2013 is to exercise and move more, but lacking severely in walk-able areas in the vicinity of our home in the US, I signed up for yoga classes in a center nearby. I don't enjoy any other sport activity, if you must know, and it's just as well since my eyes won't let me handle more.
The prognosis by a retina specialist back in Switzerland was not good: my eyes are degenerating and PVD (posterior vitreous detachment) is going to happen, sooner or later.
I remember the ophthalmologist warning me against doing inversions. Just how inverted is an inversion? There is a big no-no to headstands (which I never did do, anyway), but a mixed review on the basics such as the downward dog and having the head below the heart. Come to think of it, the already fragile eyes do not need more undue pressure, and blood rush is never fun. There is a countless number of bends involved in yoga. What can and can't I do?
Just this week, I attended two easy and gentle yoga sessions conducted by different instructors. The first one said downward dog was fine, while the second said not to try it at all. There will always be different opinions on this, so I have decided that it'd be wise to make myself known to every class instructor beforehand (yo, there's one here that can't do inversions, thank you), be sensible about my limitations, watch out for signs, and get my eyes checked regularly.
Whether or not I can reach my toes ever again, I am going back to yoga this year to simply move. My only wish is for my retinas to bear with me and stick around just a little bit longer.
Some sites I read: