Uncategorized · yoga

Yoga for Pain and Anxiety – My Story

The idea to write this post was given to me by my fellow Twitter and blogging buddy, Ness who suggested it’d be a good idea to share my story of yoga and chronic illness.

Lets start at the beginning; roll back about eight or nine years. I was a member of a Virgin Active gym where the local Z-list celebrities were said to go, not that I can say I ever spotted one. Pre-illness days involved lots of running, body pump classes and the genius idea that yoga would be easy, and almost certainly relaxing. I turned up for a two hour session in a room above the pool, it was hot, humid and the mats smelt of sweat and germs. A beautiful zen-like teacher swept in and began her class by singing to us, ahhh perfect. About ten minutes later I was making a ‘basket’ with my hands and someone was pulling my legs into a headstand position. All I remember was somehow managing to drive home and making it as far as the dog’s bed in the hallway and joining him on it. I was in agony for days. For some strange reason I continued to go to those classes until I left the gym. Then I moved to Brighton, got splattered by a bicycle and life was never the same again.

In January of 2015 my wife found a deal on Groupon for a year’s membership to Yoga Download for £18. We’d been chatting about how unfit I felt and how I missed exercise and that I’d like to try yoga again. For £18 I had nothing to lose, so I signed up. The selection of classes on the website was amazing, and I went in hard. 45 minute classes every evening at advanced beginner, because obviously I knew what I was doing from my previous yoga experience, right?!

I now know I should have only practiced the very basic classes and moved into more restorative poses such as child’s pose for the asanas I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, have attempted. My body was sore and I was feeling more tired than ever, yet I had an immense feeling of wellbeing. Despite the classes I attempted being too hard for me the poses and focus on breath had actually done me some good.

At the time I was struggling with my anxiety. After a few years of being stable and knowing where I stood with it, it reared it’s ugly head and as threatening to make my life a complete misery once again. It wasn’t possible to just remove the stresses in my life as one very unhelpful GP suggested, but I inadvertently found that yoga really helped me. The focus on slow, deep breaths, as simply as it may sound, was just what I needed as a chronically worried, anxious, stressed out girl. Yoga Download also has meditations available so I decided to try out a yoga nidra practice.

I’ll be honest, having dabbled in meditation before I was dubious as I really didn’t seem to be able to get the hang of it, but I needed support with my anxiety so I decided to give it a go. As soon as the recording began the soothing voice of the very lovely yoga teacher Celest Pereira had me zoned out and dozing off well before the 25 minute session was up. I still use this recording on a regular basis as it is everything I need to calm me down. From the relaxing body scan, to the counting of breathing and focusing on certain sounds in the environment around me, it really is just perfect. I strongly recommend checking out her website and Youtube channel, while lots of the videos are for the more advanced yogi, she doesn’t forget about us beginners and her videos are just so positive and upbeat you come away feeling pretty damn great!

Anyway, back to yoga. In addition to Yoga Download I started attending classes at my local studio, a five minute walk away. One or two classes a week was such a lovely get away from reality. I explained to the teachers my health problems and they were always so supportive, gathering blankets, bolsters and cushions to support my practice. Ultimately, I couldn’t afford to keep paying for classes, and in the end my health got so bad last year I stopped practicing. Whilst I was gaining physical strength, muscles were reappearing and mentally I felt much better, my body was crying out for relief, a rest and just to relax in some gentle poses instead. Overdoing yoga didn’t cause the downward spiral of my health, but the way I was forcing my body to practice for an hour or two at a time really wasn’t helping.

Fast forward to 2016, I have practiced yoga 5 times per week for the last two weeks. Doesn’t sound like much does it? Well for me it’s one heck of an achievement. I’m going through a pretty tough flare up at the moment but have discovered a more suitable website with lots of very short beginner classes, some less than ten minutes long. Movement For Modern Life seems to be well suited to my abilities. The longest class I have completed is fifteen minutes and the shortest is four. Bedtime yoga has sent me into a deep slumber for the first time in months, meditation classes have calmed me down on painful days and the overall sense of wellbeing it’s given me is such a wonderful feeling to have.

A five minute class is an achievement, I learnt to recognise that the hard way. Five minutes of yoga can leave you feeling chilled out and wonderful if you let it. Don’t push your body, when it’s ready to move forward it’ll let you know, but in the meantime keep it simple, your body will thank you for it in the long run.

Karen xx

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