A few weeks ago I wrote an article on the Pillow Fort blog about Why I Do Yoga For Chronic Illness. If you've read any of my other blog posts, you know that I think yoga for chronic illness is a pretty awesome idea for unlocking your potential and living better with illness. But what about when you start feeling better. Should you continue practicing then? When I started feeling better, it was easy to get excited and start jumping into the lifestyle that I imagined to be 'right' or 'normal' for me and my peers. That's what a 'cure' was supposed to be. Something that would let me do what I thought I needed to do. But as I became frustrated with regressing after each progression, I started to think longer term about a health solution. Recovering from a chronic illness is not as easy as putting a bandaid over a sore and waiting for it to heal back to normal. It takes a long term commitment to honouring your needs, and creating a lifestyle that suits your unique disposition. Continuing with my yoga and meditation practice has allowed me to continue living a full and active lifestyle. So without further ado, here are the 5 reasons why I continue to practice yoga when I am well:
1. Keeping in touch with my body
If there is a part of me that is stiff or sore, I will feel it during yoga. It might prompt me to do some more stretching or even book an appointment at the doctor. But more than my my bones and muscles, yoga makes me aware of my entire body. Did I eat a cheeseburger last night? I can tell my gut is not pleased with me, and can feel the effects it is having on my strength and energy. Let's just say, the more I practice yoga, the harder it is to stop in at my favourite chippy. Yoga is constantly motivating me to treat myself better.
2. Keeping in touch with my inner thoughts and feelings
Have you ever woken up one morning to realise you've been unhappy for the last month? The last year? Yoga helps me stay on top of my inner thoughts and feelings. From falling asleep to spontaneous crying in shavasana, getting on the mat tends to bring up within you, whatever needs to be brought up.
3. Staying physically active
I know many people hate exercise, but for those living with chronic illness, getting up to shower or walk to the car can be a major accomplishment. After recovering from chronic illness I have a much better appreciation for what my body can do. I like feeling strong, fit, and limber- which is exactly what I feel like after a yoga practice. Not only is the feeling great, but keeping physically fit helps keep away future illnesses or infections. Cold season used to be a time of dread for me but now I can confidently make it through the colder, wetter months.
4. Finding my direction
Chronic illness causes us to re-evaluate or values and life choices. Careers or activities that I once thought I wanted no longer seem very appealing for the kind of lifestyle they would require me to live. Yoga gives me space to play around with different life choices in my head (and for me, ended up being a life choice!) and find what resonates best with me. This is related to number 2 on the list. Not only does your body get stronger, but your ability to dive in to your inner conscious and find what you really need in life becomes stronger with practice.
5. Feeling good
The main reason why I practice yoga 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!