Why Yoga Could Be Part Of Your Strategy
Yoga is extremely versatile. Each of us gains something different every time we come to our mat. From physical, to emotional, and to spiritual - yoga could be very beneficial in many different ways.
I was on crutches for 3 1/2 years due to complications of my psoriatic arthritis and a condition called avascular necrosis. During this time, I was unable to make it to yoga classes at a studio. My mobility was lacking, I was in so much pain and I physically couldn't keep up. During that time, after consulting with my healthcare provider, I began to practice chair yoga and gentle yoga sequences at my house. In the beginning, I wasn't able to get into child's pose, which is a "resting" pose in yoga. I remember this infuriated me and made me question whether I could even do yoga or not!
But, I started off slowly and honored where I was. I watched online videos, asked others for advice and would look towards my body to intuitively help me through my practice. By going at my own pace, I was able to begin to build up my stability and mobility and transform the way I looked at my pain and my condition.
After a while, I was able to do more and more and learned ways to modify poses so that they were accessible to me. I went from a practice of sitting on my mat or in a chair, to gradually adding standing postures and eventually was able to get into child's pose! It was a slow, gradual journey, but one that I learned so much along the way.
Even though I was on crutches, and still very much had issues with my knees, I was able to start to get to yoga classes outside my house. I still remember the looks on people's faces when I would crutch into a yoga studio. But I would assure my teacher that I’d go at my own pace and if I needed assistance I would ask them to help modify postures.
Many people in my life thought I was crazy for going to yoga classes, workshops, and conferences during that time. But honestly, I didn't want to let my condition hold me back. Especially one that helped my psoriatic arthritis in the long run! Sure, I had to modify (still do) and go at my own pace. This meant that while some were doing standing poses, I might have been down on my mat doing something else. But the great thing about yoga is that we're encouraged to listen to our bodies, do what feels good to us and go at our own pace. At first, I felt awkward and self-conscious, but after a while I realized that I wasn't in competition with the other students in the class. There is no competition in yoga. It's a practice that everyone can benefit from in their own way.
Now that I teach yoga, I make sure to always encourage my students to do what feels best to them. If that's laying on your mat the whole class in savasana, go for it! If that means taking extra chaturangas during your practice, more power to you! I feel that there is so much to benefit from in yoga that it's silly if we don't practice on our own accord.
Below are a couple of potential benefits of yoga.
The most obvious is the physical benefit of yoga. It has helped me with my range of motion, strengthening my muscles, and working out my tendons and ligaments. Whenever I have chronic inflammation (as with psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis), being less active may actually cause more damage than good. By moving, it helps me promoting my lymphatic system to do its job, get my heart pumping and have an active part in helping to restore balance to inflammation within my body.[Ref.]
Yoga isn't about being able to do a handstand or a crazy arm balance. It's about moving at your own pace and honoring yourself. So don't negate the importance of stretching and doing gentle movements on your mat similar to doing physical therapy.
Yoga has the potential to mentally transform us. Whenever we start to feel overwhelmed with anger, sadness, or frustration, we begin to not live within our true self. Yoga, and moving with our breath, helps us focus on our bodies.
We may get in the habit of not focusing on our pain, but yoga forces us to confront it. We can no longer avoid how we're feeling, but we must learn to deal with it. By learning to move with our body, and to tap into our intuitive healing nature, yoga starts to promote a sense of love, peace and calmness. By embracing that love and kindness in ourselves, we can profoundly affect our mental state. There are many times when I'm in a bad mood and I know that yoga can be my quick fix to getting back on track!
Going beyond these three, there are many more benefits as well. I encourage you to talk to your doctor and try to add yoga to your regimen and see how it can help you.
Not sure where to get started? Check out this short video for an easy way to incorporate yoga into your day!
Any suggestions made are not intended to replace the advice of a qualified medical professional. Please consult your healthcare provider prior to making any changes to your treatment, exercise or diet routine.