First, let’s clear up one thing: Yoginis everywhere are getting breast implants, and it doesn’t affect their ability to practice. Ultimately, the surgery has little effect on your range of motion, and most women report being able to return to their yoga practice fully over time.
“Over time” is the operative phrase, though. How much time? Well, the breast augmentation surgeons at the Portland Plastic Surgery Group recommend that patients wait about 6 weeks before resuming any strenuous exercise — including your Vinyasa Flow class.
In the interim, those first 6 weeks can be an opportunity to ease back into your yoga practice at home, while paying very close attention to what your body is telling you. Below are some guidelines for how to recover safely without allowing your yoga mat to gather dust.
After 1 to 2 Weeks
This soon after surgery, your most strenuous physical activity should be walking. You won’t be working up a sweat on your mat at this point, but you will be overcoming the psychological hurdle of rolling out the mat again after being away from it.
Choose a couple of very simple asanas, like sukhasana (“easy pose”) or viparita karani (“legs-up-the-wall pose”), and focus on doing them very meditatively. Take the time to really settle into the pose by elongating the spine, checking your alignment from head to toe, and making tiny adjustments.
You could also devote some time to pranayama, or breathing exercises. Focusing your energy on your breathing calms the mind and naturally relaxes the muscles, and it can take your mind off any discomfort you may be feeling after surgery.
After 3 to 4 Weeks
You can gradually return to seated poses, twists, and poses that focus on strengthening the lower body (e.g., Warrior II). Things to avoid: chest openers and backbends, even the “easy” ones such as cobra pose or sphinx pose. These poses will put a significant strain on the chest muscles, while the body is still healing the area around your breast implants. Also, if your surgeon used a transaxillary incision in the armpit, be very careful about lifting the arms above shoulder level.
Hot yoga, such as what you’ll find at Bikram studios, is also something to steer clear of. The high temperature of the room increases blood flow substantially — which is something your body can’t handle quite yet.
After 5 to 6 Weeks
By now, you will probably start to feel like your old self again. You can ease back in to most poses, but be mindful of how they feel. Even the simplest sequences, such as a sun salutation, will feel a little different because the body needs to re-learn how to balance with the added weight of the breast implants. It’s nothing too drastic, but you will perceive a difference at first.
If you are an intermediate or advanced yogi, you may be tempted to return to inversions and arm balances. That’s potentially all right if your doctor says so, but it’s best to try a few full sequences and see how your body reacts before getting upside-down. And if you’ve lost some strength or flexibility, a yoga block can help you make just about any pose more accessible.
What matters most throughout your recovery is practicing with a clear intention. As long as you’re patient, honest with yourself about your limitations, and careful not to push yourself too hard, you can modify your yoga practice to give your body what it needs along the way.