This post was originally published on The Pillow Fort.
I was 13 years old when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I didn’t really understand what this meant, but I knew that there was nothing I could do now other than sit back and wait for the doctors to work their magic. I spent a lot of time worrying about normal teenager things and another large chunk of time trying to figure out how to explain my sporadic disappearances from classes, assignments, sports teams, and socials to my teachers and peers.
It took five years until I realised that if I wanted to get better, I was going to have to start to do things differently. I made a lot of changes to my life: changing my diet, sleep patterns, and overall outlook on my health. During this time I found a strange ally: yoga. Yoga had been recommended to me before, but I never gave it a try. It felt too ‘airy fairy’ or ‘new age’ to have a lasting effect. Something like a fad diet. But yoga didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and I desperately wanted a way to increase my physical activity.
I found my first yoga for chronic illness class challenging, but was pleasantly surprised by the way it made me feel. Instead of feeling worse after the challenging physical activity, I actually felt better. I eventually found a class geared towards people living with chronic illness that also included elements of mindfulness meditation and haven’t looked back since!
Here are the 5 reasons why I do yoga:
1. Getting Perspective
It’s easy to get caught up in internal struggles. If I’m having a bad day, or a bad week, it can sometimes feel like the world is crashing in around me. Practising yoga or meditation helps me see the situation from an outside perspective. The result of this is usually realising the situation is not such a disaster, and a return to sanity soon follows.
2. Having Fun
Yoga is fun. There’s other people in my class, often music plays in the background, and I can move around. Even if I’m just practicing at home putting on some music and trying a new pose can really boost my mood. If you are living with chronic illness it can be hard to find activities you can do that are also fun. Even if you can’t leave the house, there is a huge range of yoga videos and yoga soundtracks available online.
3. Finding My Power
I remember the first day I could do a ‘chaturanga’ (starting in a high plank and lowering into a hover, and then rolling over the toes into upward dog without letting your legs or belly touch the ground). I felt so strong, and it felt good. Chronic illness can often make you feel weak or helpless. This simply isn’t true! We are strong and powerful and yoga can help you find that strength.
4. Learning What I Need
Practicing yoga is like entering your mind as a good friend. Once you move your attention away from the chatter and negative self-talk in your head, your body will tell you what it needs from you to feel better. Maybe it’s lying on your mat for the rest of the practice and breathing. Maybe it’s taking a water break. Maybe it’s challenging yourself a bit more in one of the poses. Your body instinctively knows what it needs, you just need to listen.
5. Feeling Good
The main reason why I practice yoga for chronic illness is that it just feels so damn good. After a good yoga session I feel like my tensions and anxieties have melted away; both physically and emotionally. There is a famous quote from a famous yoga guru: Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory. So instead of trying to explain what a ‘yoga brain’ is- I hope you’ll go out and see for yourself!