Yoga and Reconstruction: a story of Body and Mind

Ice-hockey, for those who might not have seen a game, yet alone played it, is a game of contrasts. It is a game of grace and speed, and it is a game of violence. And from a young age I was hooked on this sport of contrasts: this game of skill and savagery. Hockey is classed as a ‘collision’ sport, where the full-contact nature makes it a league ahead. Hockey is ruthless on the body: shattered shoulders, wrecked backs, but most of all, it is the knees. For this is a story about my knee.

I started playing from the age of ten and found I had the right attributes. I progressed quickly and entered into the Junior program for the Guildford Flames professional hockey club in England. I was to play there for seven years until a week after my 17th birthday. That was the week I tore my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in my right knee.

Late in a game against our local rivals from Basingstoke, I took a pass from a team-mate and broke down the left wing. Sensing the opportunity I cut hard to my right as I angled in to shoot. I remember nothing of what happened next, it would take the hours that followed to piece together circumstances. Hit by the opposing defender as I made my cut, I did not have time to feel the pain of a torn right ACL. Heading at full-speed and completely off balance, I ended up flying headfirst into the opponent’s goal-post and was knocked out cold.

And so starts my journey from a cold ice-rink in England to a warm shop-house in Paya Lebar…

The resulting concussion from the hit, alongside the ACL tear, would be the end of my hockey career. I threw myself into the recovery process, but the lost year in rehabilitation would leave me too far behind my peers. I immersed myself in other sports, boxing throughout University and my 20s, and taking up Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in my 30s in Singapore.

It turns out, I am not very good at choosing sports. First my right ACL was torn again at Jiu-Jitsu at 34. I worked hard to recover. Showing that I am an exception to the idea of wisdom increasing with age, and in a moment of ego and sheer stupidity, I tore it again barely 13 months later sparring at Muay Thai. Back to square one.

It was time to think again. Age takes things from us; and with a thrice repaired right knee, it was time to give up my Thai boxing career. Guided by a superb Physiotherapist, I swam, I cycled, and I ran as I made my slow and painful recovery. Most importantly, my Physio introduced me to yoga.

This is why I am here. Yoga changed my body, it repaired my poor knee. But my yoga journey is a story of mind as much as body.

Happy MayDay:

Alex Williams

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