Written by Brook McCarthy

A double-hip replacement in February, candidly recorded in her blog, and a willingness to examine her own situation makes Eve Grzybowski uniquely qualified to teach on the Byron Yoga Centre yoga therapy teacher training. Oh, and three decades of teaching experience.

For most, a single-hip replacement is an ordeal. But Eve states matter-of-factly, “Undergoing bi-lateral surgery means there’s just one surgeon, one general anesthetic, one rehab.”

She dismisses the suggestion that she is brave for having such radical double surgery, saying, “having my hips done sequentially – recovering from one lot of surgery and returning some months later for more – now that would be brave.”

Eve discovered yoga in 1971 and trained in the Iyengar system in 1980. In the early 1990s she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the hips. “I was devastated. I thought this was the kiss of death for my yoga teaching,” she says. “I wanted to be the healthy, vital yoga teacher, not one with deteriorating hips.”

Eve’s natural hyper-flexibility and her enthusiasm many years ago for sports such as tennis, cycling, jogging, and mini-triathlons may have contributed to the wearing down of her hip joints. As the osteoarthritis wore away her hips’ cartilage, surgery became a matter of ‘when’. 

After surgery on February 1, a six-day hospital stay and twelve days of intensive physiotherapy, Eve has returned to her home on the mid-north NSW coast to continue her rehabilitation in the ‘yoga shed’ on her property. 

“I’m doing my physio exercises every day and will start hydrotherapy to help loosen the muscles after all the tightening done with the physio work. My yogic mindset helps me concentrate, my pranayama practice was invaluable when I was bed-ridden, and I’m looking forward to slowly easing back into asanas and, eventually, into teaching.” 

Eve’s background in Iyengar yoga will no doubt prove invaluable in her recovery. BKS Iyengar’s medical classes at the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute in India have helped countless local and international students. His daughter Geeta carries on his legacy, combining therapeutic yoga with Ayurveda natural medicine. In the Institute’s medical classes, the student follows a program designed by one of the senior teachers and supervised by their assistants.

Eve started teaching remedial and special needs yoga back in 1993. “Teaching one-to-one is very different to general classes,” says Eve. “The student is not so passive, there is no ‘fixing’, and there is a platform for mutual healing between teacher and student.

“A special close relationship develops in one-to-one yoga and the student is more inspired to begin or continue their personal home practice, to become their own teacher.” 

Eve notes that rote learning is a necessary stage for new yoga teachers to lay down foundational knowledge. Developing a personal practice and learning the art and science of developing effective sequencing takes several years. It can be overwhelming for a new teacher to take on the many different types of students in a large class.

For older, more experienced yoga teachers, learning to apply yoga therapy is a natural progression after seeing various injuries and conditions in class, and a way to teach one-to-one, even in a large, general class. 

“Yoga has an extensive toolbox of techniques and an experienced teacher with a long-term personal practice can adjust and modify each asana to suit each individual. 

“An experienced teacher will see individual bodies in the class and give each person an asana suited to their particular ability, condition and age. Judy Krupp, the other guest teacher on the course, puts it as ‘reading bodies and their imbalances’. Even in a general class, the teacher will prescribe particular adaptations of each pose to each student and encourage students to be responsible for their own needs.”

For Eve, being her own student means many more months of physio exercises and a gentle exploration of her healing process. Having recently moved to a large property in the country has given her the time and the place to luxuriate in longer asana sessions alone and with the friends with whom she lives.

“My experience with osteoarthritis, the accompanying pain and the depression that chronic pain can bring, and having now undergone this surgery, I feel I am better able to identify with students battling health problems, to be more compassionate with myself and others, and to be a better teacher. I feel I’ve earned my stripes as a yoga elder! My main message is that everyone can benefit from doing yoga, starting early, keeping it up and not letting go of it. It serves you at times like these.”

Click here to find out more about the Yoga Therapy course which starts on July 11.

Check out Eve’s recovery on her blog.

Watch Eve’s first steps, post-surgery, via this youtube clip.