So often chronically ill folks are given a slew of advice as to what would “cure” us! We are told about cousin’s friend’s miracle cure that got rid of their condition just like ours. Except that it rarely is. And those recommending rarely know of the plights we have undertaken to try all the things and research we have already conducted to find answers. One of the most frustrating recommendations for many is how often we are told that having a yoga practice would be a miracle cure. This is often coming from a good place, of course, but when you can barely sit up and someone is talking about an active practice of sun salutations and strength building standing poses it is not a comfort.
When I first got sick, I was really missing my active practice but was unable to do it because of my illness, so claims that what I wanted very much to do would be my cure if only I would do them were bittersweet to say the least. I am always grateful that I all had a long-standing yoga practice before I got sick as it has been such a profound life-line for me through living with chronic illness and pain. Not as a cure, but as a tool. My practice had to change dramatically. I do yin or restorative yoga most often and even my active practice now does not look like what it used to.
Yoga Nidra is a particular favourite of mine for when I can’t move at all. It is a meditation that is done lying down and involves no movement. In fact, complete stillness is part of the practice. The guided meditation takes a person through a series of visualizations that help to “send the body to sleep.” According to Yoga Nidra philosophy, we can enter the state of consciousness that happens right as we drift into sleep. It is said that half an hour of this practice can be as restful as 3 hours of sleep…. this is exactly what I need most of the time!
I love the restorative qualities of Yoga Nidra, as well as the way it can help reduce the anxiety and panic that long-term chronic pain or PTSD can evoke. While mindfulness meditation and Vipassana can be wonderful for many folks, including people with anxiety and trauma, it is not always the right thing for everyone at all times. Some authors suggest that it can even trigger flares for some people’s existing mental health conditions. I have found this to be true for me. My anxiety can spiral when I am attempting to meditate solely on my breath if I am not in a solid enough place to do this. Yoga Nidra is one of the safer meditations for my health issues as it gives very concrete imagery to follow. When mindful meditation solely feels like too big a shift from the level of anxiety I may be facing during a pain flare, Yoga Nidra offers a gentle way to attain greater equilibrium.
There are countless iterations of the Yoga Nidra script available online. The Yoga Nidra that has helped me the most is available on here on You Tube as well as here on ITunes free of charge. The practice is detailed enough that a person who is new will be able to gain an understanding of what the practice can be for them without so much variation that the core themes that they risk getting lost. Be it through this or something else entirely, I hope you are able to find a route to a practice that can give you the restoration of yoga when you are not well enough to move and the ease of meditation when you might be too anxious to find your way directly into a meditative space.