Post-laparoscopy yoga sequence

Claria Yoga_upper back 2 BW

Laparoscopic surgery is one of Western medicine’s marvels, as it enables surgical treatment to be carried out using one or more small incisions without the need to be cut open. As a result, recovery time is less and post-surgery pain isn’t as prolonged or intense.

As with any surgery, abdominal laparoscopies still involve bed rest and cautious movement, which can cause the rest of the body to feel uncomfortable and sluggish. It is remarkable to see how much we depend on our core for most of our day-to-day movement.

So how do we keep the rest of our body agile after this type of surgery?

My surgery

Today is Day 5 following my ovarian laparoscopic surgery that involved the doctors making four incisions in my abdomen to remove a tumour from my right ovary. One incision was made over each of my ovaries, another in the middle of my lower abdomen, and the fourth through my belly button.

I was released after overnight observation, prescribed initial bed rest, and then encouraged to make very gentle attempts at sitting up and moving thereafter. The abdominal discomfort can be described as what I would imagine doing 500 sit-ups in one go would feel like, and then suffering from intense muscular pain as a result. I also had secondary pain through the shoulders, sides of my body and chest, which made it hard to breathe deeply. This was caused by prolonged periods of lying in awkward and rounded positions.ย 

By the second day, I was sitting up in bed and started to bring some very gentle movement and soft stretching into my morning routine to free up my shoulders, chest and the sides of my body, to give my rib-cage more room to accommodate my breath. I also focused on my neck, hips and legs. These stretches are helping my body to stay comfortable, whilst allowing my abdominal area to continue to recover.

Post-laparoscopy yoga sequenceย 

Each of us is different, our surgery will be unique to us, and how healing progresses in the body will also be individual. Take things slow, be patient and do not attempt these poses or any form of stretching or exercise without consulting your doctor beforehand.

1) Sukhasana / meditation pose

Claria Yoga_meditation pose BW

  • Take a moment to find your seat and centre yourself – if sitting is uncomfortable, kneel with a cushion or bolster under your sitting bones
  • Ground your sitting bones into the mat or cushion and start to climb up your spine, imagining that you’re stacking your vertebrae one on top of the other, slowly bringing your spine into its natural curvature
  • Release your shoulders away from your ears and gently bring your shoulder blades a little closer together, broadening across your collar bones
  • Aim the crown of your head up to the ceiling

2) Neck stretches

Claria Yoga_neck stretch BW

  • Keeping length in your spine, rest your right hand over the left side of your head, and allow your right ear to move towards your right shoulder
  • Without pulling or forcing, allow the weight of your hand and gravity to encourage length into the left side of your neck
  • You can experiment by turning your head so that you’re gazing underneath your right arm
  • Move your head around a little to find where the tightness sits in your neck, and then pause there
  • Release both shoulders away from the ears as you do this
  • Hold for ten breaths and then repeat on the other side

3) Garudasana / eagle arms (shoulders and shoulder blades)

Claria Yoga_garudasana BW

  • Bring your left arm underneath your right and cross them above the elbows (if this isn’t possible for you, then hug yourself, inching your fingers towards your shoulder blades – release your shoulders away from your ears)
  • Wrap your arms around each other, bringing the palms together, or the backs of the hands together, or aiming the hands towards each other if they don’t reach
  • Lift your elbows, move your forearms away from your face and release your shoulders away from your ears.
  • This will bring a stretch into your upper back, between the shoulder blades and maybe down your upper arms
  • Hold for ten breaths and repeat on the other side

4) Chest opener

Claria Yoga_chest opener BW

If you’re seated with your legs crossed, change the cross of your legs at this stage before you carry on with your sequence

  • Interlace your fingers behind your back (or hold a belt between your hands if you have very tight shoulders)
  • Release your shoulders away from your ears and bring your shoulder blades together
  • Start to straighten your arms if this feels comfortable for you, otherwise just focus on bringing your shoulder blades together
  • Hold for five to ten breaths and then slowly release your grip

5) Upper body release

  • With your arms in a relaxed T position, on an inhalation, open your arms aiming your heart up to the ceiling, gazing upwards if it’s comfortable for your neck
  • On an exhalation, round your upper back, being mindful not to crunch through your abdomen – wrap your arms around an imaginary beach ball, separating your shoulder blades, and bring your head and gaze down
  • Repeat five times, keeping your shoulders away from your ears

6) Gentle side stretch

Claria Yoga_side stretch BW

  • Press your left palm on the floor, and very mindfully and slowly start to stretch your right arm up towards the ceiling
  • Be very gentle with this, as you don’t want to overdo the stretch on your right side or compress too much on your left side – be guided by what you’re feeling
  • The objective is to bring a little length and space into the right side of your body, not go as deeply as you possibly can
  • Hold for up to three or four breaths and then slowly switch sides

7) Hamstring stretch (with a belt)

Claria Yoga_hamstring stretch BW

  • Lie on your back and extend your left leg out – flex your left foot
  • Bring your right knee into your chest and wrap the belt around the ball of your right foot
  • Keeping your elbows in contact with the floor, slowly begin to extend your right leg
  • Flex your right foot, keep a micro-bend in the right knee, and gently press your foot against the belt whilst creating opposite force by gently pulling the belt towards you
  • Hold for ten breaths and change sides

8) Outer thigh and glute stretch

Claria Yoga_figure four pose BW

  • Bend both knees at a 90-degree angle
  • Cross your right ankle above your left knee, opening your right knee out to the side
  • You have the option to stay here and use your right hand to press your right knee away from you
  • If you want go further, interlace your hands behind your left knee and gently bring the knee towards you – you may be able to use your right elbow to press your right knee away from you
  • Don’t bring your left knee too far in, so as not to compress your abdomen
  • Hold for ten breaths and then switch sides

9) Supta baddha konasana / reclined butterfly pose (inner thigh stretch and lower back release)

Claria Yoga_supta badha konasana 2 BW

  • Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall out to the side
  • If you feel you would like extra support, place blocks or blankets under your knees
  • You have the option to do a supported variation of this pose by placing a bolster or rolled up blanket underneath the length of your spine, and raising it using blocks
Claria Yoga_supta badha konasana BW

10) Supported savasana / relaxation pose

  • Place a bolster or folded blanket underneath your knees
  • Allow your feet and legs to release and fall out naturally
  • Release your arms alongside your body, palms facing up
  • Stay for at least a few minutes or for as long as you feel comfortable

Surgery takes a tremendous amount out of you. Bear in mind that the simplest action, such as getting yourself a glass of water can take all your energy to achieve. In addition, if like me you’re not used to taking medication, the after-effects of anaesthesia coupled with medication can have an effect on your mood and morale.

So be kind to yourself. Do things mindfully, gently and patiently. And remember that doing less is sometimes more beneficial than overdoing it.ย Focusing on just one of the poses above might be enough ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

  1. Shelley says:

    Thank you for this Claire. I’ve just had a laparoscopy and wanted some advised gentle stretches to get back into being active post-op and to see what my limits are. So this was perfect!

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Shelley,
      Thanks for your comment, I’m glad this helped! I hope that your recovery is a smooth one.
      Take care,
      Claire

      • Jessica says:

        Thank you! Like the others I came here after recent surgery. My body greatly appreciated this gentle attention, I will repeat this sequence many times over the next day. Wish you well!

    • Laura Shepherd says:

      Thank you so much for this, I have recently had laparoscopy surgery and now been put on hrt so really wanted to start yoga to help with weight, body changes and mood. This is perfect to get me started so thank you ๐Ÿ˜Š

      • Claire Ng-Martin says:

        Dear Shelley,

        I’m delighted to hear that the sequence has been helpful for you.

        I wish you well with your recovery.

        Look after yourself ๐Ÿ™‚

        Claire x

  2. Carol rai says:

    I had a similar surgery on March 19th 2020 ..so its been like 12 days..i feel i can do these physically…but mentally …. im a little scared…coz that stinging muscle cram like pain is still fresh…Doc say its fine ..uff..i need to het over my petty fear !!!
    Thanks for the insight will try soon

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Hi Carol, I understand being scared. I was too. Tiny steps and only when you feel ready. It’s just as important to be ready mentally as it is physically. Take good care and I hope your recovery goes well.
      Claire

  3. Tess says:

    I just had my diagnostic laparoscopy a day ago, and I wanted something light and easy to do during my upcoming cheerleading practices (since I have to sit out for a while). This looks like a great way to maintain some movement during recovery, thanks so much Claire!

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Tess, I hope you’ve been recovering well – I see it’s been a couple of weeks. I hope you’re able to get back into your cheerleading practices soon. Take care of yourself! ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  4. Jennifer Treacy says:

    Hi Claire, Iโ€™m due to go in for my surgery on the 25th of July. I was delighted to come across this post as I was worried as to how long it would take before I could resume my yoga. Thank you.

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Jennifer, I’m thinking of you and wishing you well for your surgery on 25th July. Be kind to yourself afterwards ๐Ÿ™‚ – I found gentle stretches such a help. Take care x

  5. Delaney says:

    Hey Claire, I just had the same surgery a week ago and was pretty active prior. Now most of my body is so stiff and aching from lack of exercise. This was great and my back and neck thank you!

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      That’s wonderful Delaney, I’m glad it helped. Wishing you well for your recovery ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. lorna borg says:

    Hello Ms. Claire
    Thank you for these tips. I’m due for a d&c and diagnostic lapa. on the 2nd and this will be spoiling my daily 30 routine including 5 sun salutations and 3 min head stand and seated pelvic twists. When can i resume them? in the mean i shall be doing your suggestions daily.

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Lorna,
      Thanks for your question. This is very individual and I’m sorry that I can’t provide you with a specific answer. Everybody’s recovery rate is different. Definitely listen to your doctor to start off with in terms of the timeline for starting exercise again. In terms of your daily routine, it depends on your body’s own healing process and also on how you feel in yourself. Your body will be moving into a completely different space whilst it’s undergoing surgery and recovery, and will take the time it needs to get its strength and mobility back. In spending time doing gentle stretches and exploring movement, you will know when the time is right to start your routine again and working your way back up to it bit by bit. I realise that this doesn’t exactly answer your question but I hope this helps somewhat. I wish you the very best for your upcoming surgery and hope that your recovery is smooth. Take care ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Teresa says:

      Lorna – How are you progressing? It sounds like we were at similar yoga levels. I see itโ€™s been a month for you. Can you share a status update? I go in for my surgery and would love to gather info on recovery milestones. Thanks for any information.

  7. Janice says:

    I just had gallbladder surgery 2 weeks tomorrow and I am so stiff. I also ha a sciatic problem so I needed to get back into Yoga. Your post plan ion Yoga stretching is perfect. I will ease back into exercise by listening to my body.

    Jan

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Hi Jan, I’m so glad you’re able to get back into some gentle movement. I hope your recovery is smooth. Take care of yourself xx

  8. Sharon says:

    Hi Claire … thank you for sharing your post surgery yoga sequence. I read through this a week before my total laproscopic hysterectomy +ovary removal. Now 7 days after surgery, I have been comfortably able to follow your sequence. There’s very little guidance for yogis about taking your first steps back into yoga after abdominal surgery and yours gave me the confidence and courage to get back on my mat, especially your photos with your dressings showing what is possible if your body feels ready. Thank you

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so glad you’re doing well after your surgery and that this sequence has helped you. I hope you carry on well with your recovery. Sending you healing wishes xx

  9. Sejal Shah says:

    Hi claria.
    Thanks for sharing stretching exercise.
    My laparoscopic myomectomy was done on 3rd Novโ€™2020 for fibroid and endometriosis. My recovery is very good now. But I have pain in muscles and joints since 15 days. Can you suggest should I do stretching exercise or not?

    Thanks
    Sejal

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Sejal, I’m glad to hear that your recovery has been going well. Please check with your doctor before you start any movement practice. You can do the exercises in my sequence very gently to help ease tension out of the areas that the exercises are targetting. You might be experiencing pain as a result of how you are sitting or lying down, and if you haven’t been moving a lot – that is what happened to me. Incorporating a little stretching practice, for a few minutes, into your day may alleviate some of the stiffness and tension that you might be experiencing. I hope this helps you. Sending you warm wishes for the rest of your recovery, Claire x

  10. Amanda says:

    Thank you for posting this. I had diagnostic surgery done on December 7 so itโ€™s been almost two weeks. I was an avid weight lifter but with the limit of ten pounds I needed something else to do and Iโ€™ve always liked yoga. Iโ€™m hoping this well help me feel like I did some sort of workout

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Amanda, I see it’s been over a month since you had your surgery. I hope that your body is healing ok and that you’ve found some movement and stretching helpful despite not being able to do your regular weight lifting. The stretching can help a lot with the scar tissue to stop it hardening. Take good care of yourself. Claire xx

  11. Selena says:

    Hello and thank you for this blog entry
    I was just discharged after laparoscopic surgery to remove a haemorrhaging ovarian cyst and this is a perfect stretching routine for me to to attempt in a few days.
    After an horrendous year Iโ€™m pleased to find your page and hope to learn a lot of relaxing coping techniques in 2021.
    Merry Christmas

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Selena,

      Thank you for getting in touch. I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through and am so glad you’re feeling ready to experiment with a little movement again.

      Take good care of yourself. I hope that 2021 is kinder to you.

      If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

      Claire xx

  12. Lizzie says:

    Hi Claria,

    I was so encouraged to find your healing yoga story and post laparoscopy sequence. I was surprised at how little I could find whilst trawling the net, on yoga following abdominal surgery. Thank you for sharing your experience and beautiful practice.

    Twelve days ago I had a laparoscopic anterior resection (removal of a colorectal tumour). I have 4 small incisions – above belly button, to the left and right in line with belly button and one right low abdomen. Then I have a larger 5cm incision where they removed the tumour on my lower left abdomen.

    I normally have a daily energetic ashtanga and vinyassa based practice, to which I am so truly grateful for, in terms helping me through all this on so many levels.

    Yesterday I feel I turned a pain corner which has offered some space and energy to start with some gentle practice on the road to recovery. Your post is just what I was hoping to find out there in the ether, to guide me my first steps back to practice.

    I was wondering how long it took before you felt able to resume a relatively normal practice post surgery. Was is more weeks or months? Whilst trying to be patient and listen to my healing body and mind – Iโ€™m have to admit that Iโ€™m missing my sun salutations!

    Wishing you a happy new year and may 2021 be a brighter kinder year for all! ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ™๐Ÿง˜โ€โ™€๏ธ๐ŸŒˆ๐Ÿ’ซ๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒป

    Lizzie x
    Devon, UK

  13. Lizzie says:

    PS Ooops, sorry for my mistake with your name Claire – I blame the pain killers! X ๐Ÿคช

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Lizzie, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so pleased to hear that you “turned a pain corner” as you said. Your body is starting to heal, which is wonderful. It took me almost a year before I was back to my own vinyasa practice. That may sound like a long time but I learned a lot about my body and myself in those months and found space for a softer existence for a while. My core strength needed help and so I spent months working gently on strengthening it little by little. It wasn’t long after surgery that I was able to take up calmer yin and restorative practices, which truly helped me with my healing. I could also modify certain flows to an extent, like sun salutations, but I had to be very mindful and work closely with listening to my body so that it got what it needed first and foremost. See how you feel, listen to your body and experiment gently. Everyone heals at a different pace. I wish you a smooth recovery, and hope that 2021 is peaceful and kind to you. Claire xx

  14. Ritu says:

    Thanks dear for best advises.

  15. Sally says:

    Thanks so much for these suggestions Claire. I’m day 6 post appendectemy/ ovarian cyst removal and was feeling very discouraged about losing control of my body again for a while. Have to say tho this, breakfast and shower and I’m ready for a sleep again!

    Sally

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Sally, I’m so pleased to hear that the sequence helped you in the early days after your surgery. I hope that you’ve been recovering well. Look after yourself x

  16. George says:

    Dear Claire, Iโ€™m about to undergo laparoscopic right colectomy and was looking for yoga asanas appropriate for after surgery. Thank you for sharing your own set of asanas and God Bless your continued recovery.
    George

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear George,
      I see it’s been a month more or less since your laparoscopy. I hope all went well and that the asanas have been helping you. I notice that you signed up for the sleep sequence so I’m taking that as a sign that you have regained some movement (?), which I hope is the case!
      Take good care and I’m wishing you all the best, Claire

  17. katie says:

    Thank you so much for this easy sequence. I also thank everyone who has commented on their experiences. Itโ€™s nice to not feel alone in this journey. Iโ€™m on day five post-op emergency lap to address ovarian torsion. I had always known about two ovarian cysts and felt a little like they were a ticking timebomb. When they went in, they discovered one was a paratubal cyst, and that my Fallopian tube had twisted. They removed the cysts and took the tube. Iโ€™m so happy and thankful they are out of my body. Recovery is much harder than I ever expected. Itโ€™s slow and humbling. I wish everyone who visits this page love and healing thoughts. Thank you Claire for the sequence and the community youโ€™ve created.

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Katie, thank you for sharing your experience here – I hope that the last few weeks since your surgery have been providing you with a space to heal. I understand very much how hard and slow the recovery process can be. I’m sending you loving thoughts for continued healing and gradual improvement. Take care of yourself, Claire xx

  18. LLR says:

    Thanks for posting this blog and the pictures that go with the text. I had a gallbladder removal about 3 weeks ago and I am looking forward for more active recovery.

  19. Mireille Whritenour says:

    Hello Claire
    Just found this article and your terrific sequence. I had laparoscopy surgery to remove a small portion of my small intestine. I started doing some of the less intense poses in the hospital and continued with the sequence and lots of dog walking once at home. The sequence really helped relieving some of the tightness and discomfort and gave me some energy. Thank you so much

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Mireille, thanks very much for sharing this with me – I’m so glad the sequence helped you! Along with dog walking ๐Ÿ™‚ Take care in your recovery. Wishing you all the best x

  20. Penny Fisher says:

    Post op Day 4, gallbladder removal. Getting a bit eager to recover. But really trying to maintain focus and stay intune with what my body needs both mentally and physically. I can across this regimen, and it helped tremendously. Thank you!
    I hope your healing went smooth, thank you for caring for others the way you do!
    May many blessings be upon you in Jesus name ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป
    Penny

    • Claire Ng-Martin says:

      Dear Penny,
      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so pleased that this regimen helped you.
      Keep well and safe, Claire x

  21. Ashley says:

    Thank you for creating this sequence. I will be having similar surgery to remove my ovary due to tumor. It is all a bit overwhelming, and I am mostly concerned about my mental well being with limited ability to exercise. The shared experience and reminder to be kind and gentle with my body is so helpful. Thank you again.

    • Claire Martin says:

      Ashley I hope that you’ve been feeling better over the last couple of months and I wish you continuing healing as you improve. Look after yourself xx

  22. Skot says:

    Thank you! Just did these. Had laparoscopic myomectomy a week ago. Felt good. Looking forward to getting back to normal… Read it took you about a year. Sigh. But still looking forward :).

    • Claire Martin says:

      Thanks for letting me know. I wish you continuing healing and hope that you’re feeling a lot different after these last few weeks xx

  23. Jill says:

    Good afternoon Claire

    I had a Laparoscopic appendectomy performed on 27/6/21 and was wondering when it will be safe for me to take up some gentle yoga exercises?

    • Claire Martin says:

      Jill, sorry for the delayed response. You may have already begun some gentle movement. I see that it’s been around 9 weeks since your surgery and as long as your body is responding well, you can keep the movement going and increase it depending on how you feel. Tuning in and really taking note of how your body is responding to your movement is key. I wish you well as you continue to heal xx

  24. Margarita says:

    Hi Claire! I hope you are doing fine. I am so pleased to have read your experience. I had laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis 2 weeks ago. Doctor said I could resume with my activities normally, however I tried some yoga asanas (urdhva mukha) and felt a bit of discomfort in the abdominal area.
    I have read the comments and your responses, I will be patient and take it easy now, and definitely try your sequence.
    Muchas gracias!

    • Claire Martin says:

      Dear Margarita, thanks for your message, I hope that your recovery is going well and that the sequence helps you ๐Ÿ™‚ Wishing you all the best as you continue to heal xx

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