The report from the most recent MRI on my right knee is filled with words I don’t understand — and not just because they’re German. ‘Subluxation’ is the same in English and auf Deutsche. ‘Chondral degeneration’ and ‘joint effusion’ are pretty close. ‘Arthrose’ translates neatly to ‘osteoarthritis.’ And meniscus is readily understandable with a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c.’
The meaning of the medical terminology is opaque in either language. The effects on my life, however, are obvious — and leave me wondering about what osteoarthritis and a host of complications mean for meditating.
This calls for a change
I can’t currently sit cross-legged, the traditional posture for meditation. Sitting in so-called easy pose has never been simple for me, but it’s now entirely impossible. The external rotation of my right hip is super limited and my right knee feels unstable being bent and dropped outwards. Actually, it barely ‘drops’ at all.
Attempting to sit in easy poses leaves my right knee achier than usual. And experimenting with external rotation often angers my hip.
But it doesn’t mean I don’t meditate — I just lay down.
And because I’m still practicing mostly at home and mostly through Zoom instruction, I avoid any sense of being judged. I also get to modify and adapt and shift during the practice as much as I want, without worrying about disturbing others.
There are two meditation teachers I return to time and time again — and both have some free offerings!
Drawing on the Tibetan school of Buddhism, Kirat incorporates mindfulness and introspection into the sessions she guides —and her British accent is super soothing. She teaches regularly through Heal Haus (I practice with her online through this NYC-based studio every Tuesday!) and Alo Moves. Kirat also has weekly free mediation sessions, which she publicises through her newsletter and on Instagram.
Daughter of the teacher who brought restorative yoga into the mainstream (gotta love Judith Hanson Lasater!), Lizzie’s monthly free sessions are all about ease. They’re mostly like the relaxation bit at the end of a yoga class, but she sometimes incorporates restorative yoga postures. Sign up for Lizzie’s Sunday Savasana Series newsletter for registration info.
I’m also enjoying the stretching series of videos from Versus Arthritis, but those are a lot less meditation-y and a lot more physio-like.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic, incurable condition, so I know it’s not going away. I’ll be managing it for the rest of my life with targeted exercises, moderate activity, regular stretching, and pain meds (Aleve has supplanted Advil as my go-to).
I’m hoping that the range of motion returns gradually and I’ll be able to get better external rotation through my left leg. But I know that even if easy pose is never accessible, I won’t let the limits of osteoarthritis curtail my meditation practice.
And besides, isn’t lying down more comfortable than sitting?
So what do those words mean?
Subluxation = partial dislocation
Chondral degeneration = cartilage deterioration through wear and tear or injury (or both)
Joint effusion = excess fluid in a joint; sometimes known as ‘runner’s knee’
Meniscus = a ‘cushion’ of cartilage between the ends of bones in a joint
Osteoarthritis = degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone that causes pain, stiffness, and loss of range of motion — not to be confused with the disabling autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis, although both are commonly just called ‘arthritis’ in English
Thanks to a personable and patient surgeon and a couple excellent physios, I mostly understand the content of the MRI report — although I’m still not sure of all the terminology. Does ‘Vorderhorn,’ which translates as ‘front horn,’ mean there’s a unicorn in my knee? 🦄