Although board-certified plastic surgeons highly recommend that their patients slowly resume their exercise routines after undergoing cosmetic procedures, they also acknowledge that the right exercises can help to speed up the healing process and improve the surgical outcomes of their procedures.
Procedures such as abdominoplasty and liposuction can take a toll on the body’s core, making exercise difficult during recovery. And breast procedures come with their own set of post-operative recommendations, as does facial rejuvenation surgery.
Yoga is a practice that involves physical and mental activities that are used to train the mind and the body effectively. Plastic surgery consists of the infliction of a physical wound in order to make an improvement to a particular area of the body or repair some damage from a physical condition or accident. There are also skin surface-based surgeries, but these surgeries tend to be short and quick, thus not affecting the individual too much.
The downtime required to heal properly and safely is understandably difficult, particularly for anyone who leads an active life. However, as crucial as it is to rest and allow your body time to recover, it’s also important to move to keep circulation going (and to stimulate your mind!).
Advantages and Disadvantages of Post Surgery Yoga
Some of the advantages of yoga after surgery can be seen in patients who have undergone procedures like tummy tuck surgery. Yoga involving Ashtanga and vinyasa poses greatly helps in improving blood circulation and thereby lowering the risk of blood clots that can occur post-surgery. The breathing techniques practiced in pranayama are also very helpful in lightly engaging the abdominal muscles to improve blood circulation and reduce swelling after surgery.
However, it is advisable to use yoga straps while performing the vinyasa poses to avoid exerting excess pressure on the operated area. Patients who want to practice yoga post-surgery should always do so under the guidance of a trained professional.
Some of the disadvantages of engaging in yoga after plastic surgery involves not being able to practice strenuous forms of yoga, like Bikram yoga or fast breathing techniques, especially after abdominal surgeries. These can put unnecessary strain on the operation site and cause post-surgical complications.
Talk To Your Doctor First!
No surgery and recovery are one-size-fits-all, and you should speak with your plastic surgeon before jumping into any type of routine—even gentle yoga. Your surgeon can recommend activities that are safe and give you a realistic timeline for incorporating different levels of exercise into your routine throughout your recovery.
The best advice when talking about yoga after surgery risks is to listen to your body. Start out performing some of the simpler yoga postures and as soon as you feel any kind of discomfort or pain, stop and rest your body as soon as possible. Try again after a few days, and pay close attention to your body and the way it reacts when performing the easier postures before you attempt any of the more complicated yoga postures.
Moreover, make it a point to consult a specialist when performing any kind of exercise after surgery to avoid the aggravation of any internal muscles or organs. Yoga after surgery should not be performed before 6 weeks after the surgical operation to allow enough time for healing of any internal wounds.
Now let’s look at some of the best forms of yoga that can help in the recovery from plastic surgery.
Restorative yoga is a gentle yoga practice that incorporates slow, supported movements and meditation to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and promote rest and restoration. This yoga technique is reported to help with digestion, sleep, tissue repair, and even depression and anxiety. In fact, restorative yoga may be one of the few forms of exercise that’s safe and effective. As you heal, you will need to focus on self-care, and restorative yoga may be a great place to start—as long as your plastic surgeon is on board!
Restorative yoga is much gentler, encouraging the use of props like pillows and blankets to facilitate relaxation. In fact, because of its physiological benefits, research suggests that the use of restorative yoga-based practices can actually decrease healing time.
Diaphragmatic Breathing With Mantra Meditation
Diaphragmatic breathing is your most efficient and effective ally in the recovery process. It takes only 90 seconds of deep breathing to begin decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure and stimulating aspects of your nervous, endocrine, and circulatory systems that promote relaxation and restoration.
Take a comfortable position sitting or lying down. To establish diaphragmatic breathing, focus attention on the lowest lobes of your lungs and the corresponding lower-rib movement. When you inhale deeply, your lower ribs externally rotate, expanding outward. When you exhale completely, your lower ribs internally rotate, moving in and down. Once you’ve established a long, deep breath, begin repeating a mantra to coincide with each inhalation and exhalation. A mantra is a single word or phrase intended to help shape our thoughts in positive ways. Take 10 or more long deep breaths, repeating your mantra in synch with your breathing.
Supported Fish Pose
Lie supine on a bolster or large pillow so that your entire back, shoulders, neck, and head are supported. As long as you don’t experience low-back pain, extend your legs straight out on the floor. Otherwise, you can modify it by bending your knees. Let your arms rest out to the sides to create an opening sensation.
This pose releases chest, neck, and shoulder tension. Once approved by your surgeon, this can be effective for gently releasing scar tissue and adhesions in people recovering from breast surgeries. As long as you’re comfortable, remain in position for 10 or more long, deep breaths.
Legs Up The Wall
The legs-up-the-wall pose, known as Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, is arguably the most popular restorative yoga pose. To get into this posture, simply sit on the floor with your right shoulder and right hip a few inches from a wall. Lower your left shoulder toward the floor and swing your legs straight up the wall with your back and head resting on the ground.
The body reacts to the stresses of surgery by producing a high degree of edema, especially in the legs. By changing your relationship with gravity and raising your legs above the heart, you promote venous blood flow that reduces swelling.
If having your legs straight up is too much for you, modify them by resting them on a chair seat with your knees bent. If you experience discomfort in your neck or back, place a thin pillow or folded blanket behind your head and/or hips. Remain in this posture for at least 10 long, deep breaths.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
You can do this exercise from a sitting, standing, or lying down position. You can also do it flat on your back with arms and legs slightly open.
Establish diaphragmatic breathing and maintain it throughout the exercise. On inhalation, close your eyes tightly while clenching your teeth to tighten your jaw. Exhale to release (but you can keep your eyes gently closed if you prefer), softening your face, jaw, and tongue.
Inhale fully, expanding every part of your rib cage, and hold your breath, creating tension in your chest, upper back, and neck. Exhale to release completely. Inhale and squeeze your hands into fists, tensing all the muscles of your arms. Exhale to release. Inhale to squeeze the muscles of your bottom and pelvic floor while tightening your abdomen. Exhale to release.
Inhale to curl your toes while trying to activate all the muscles of your legs. Exhale to release. Take 10 or more long, deep breaths while resting in awareness of a state of complete relaxation.
The goal of this exercise is to actively create a sense of relaxation throughout your body by first tensing each area to establish an awareness and connection.
Yoga can be a great way to heal from surgery. However, as with any exercise after surgery, make sure you take it slow and do not push yourself. In our New York MedAesthetics, we offer a fully integrated aesthetic surgery office and medical spa to help you every step of the way. The combined experience of Dr. Tehrani, nursing staff, and medical estheticians will determine the most appropriate treatment and recovery plan for you, creating the healthiest and most beautiful you.
Come in for a consultation to discuss and define your goals. Your treatment options will be explored, and a long-term strategy will be designed for you. We pride ourselves on individualized attention to your needs!