My yoga practice has been a very real life saver to me over the decades. I am so grateful to the practitioners from India who saw how badly those of us in the West needed this work and decided to share it in this context (notably Swami Vivekananda and krishnamacharya, but there are many others). It would have been more than reasonable to not respond with this compassion given global politics of colonialism and exploitation and yet because of this generosity, here I am, still managing to live with multiple chronic illnesses. Be it managing anxiety, working through trauma, supporting pain reduction, or connecting to a sense of inner joy, yoga has kept me going and it is to credit for so much of the well-being I manage to cultivate.
Having a regular yoga practice is one of the most powerful ways I connect to myself and cultivate mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual resilience. However, having a regular yoga practice as a spoonie poses many challenges. Many mainstream yoga
classes are geared to encouraging us to move at our edges–a valuable practice where you find how far you can take your movements and asanas (poses) without doing any harm to yourself. However, as a spoonie, what we can do one day may leave us wiped out for a week and it’s hard to know the difference between safe in the moment and safe in the long term. And sometimes we can’t know what will be safe, we can only wait and see.
Another challenge is that yoga is often taught to build on what we can do. I used to relish that in yoga I did not compete with anyone, I just needed to accept where I was on a particular day without judgement. This became much more difficult when the span of “where I was” wasn’t about how deeply I could sink into a lunge but about whether or not I could be out of bed. Building a yoga practice as a spoonie requires me to practice a form of self-acceptance where I approach my practice everyday with what I call radical curiosity as to what practice will support my body as it is. Is it lying on my back and breathing deeply from the bed, slowly finding therapeutic angles for my arms and for my legs that support pressure alleviation? Is it going out to a park and doing an an active practice of sun salutations? Either may be possible, as will anything in between. I had to completely release the idea that my practice headed toward a goal of any kind and instead embrace radical curiosity. And it helps. It radically helps with my capacity to live with chronic conditions. As part of my gratitude for having yoga available to me before getting sick, so I was able to rebuild a practice around my needs as a person with disabilities, I am committed to supporting other people in building sustainable yoga practices around chronic illnesses.
Want to join me on a 12 day Chronic Yogi Challenge? It’s simple. We support each other in finding a way into our practices everyday for 12 days. I am here to offer suggestions as to adaptations and free or cheap online resources and provide accountability check-ins, if that serves you. I will be posting everyday about my own yoga practice from the day before, the adaptations and reflections that I needed in order to find consistency needed in order to return daily to the mat. I will also post questions to help you get started and sustain your practice over 12 days. If not beginning in July 2017, just check in with me and see if I’m able to support the process with your Day 1 at at the time you read this. Please feel free to comment with your own process. You can follow this page or follow on FB or Twitter. I’m exited to share chronic community as yogis, as people with chronic illnesses, and folks in struggle together.