Yoga has amazing healing power that’s available to anyone willing to try. I began my practice in 2011 after my dystonia diagnosis and over time it has transformed my physical and emotional health. Yoga is an excellent way for patients with chronic illness to thrive physically, mentally and spiritually. (Note I’m not claiming a cure!) Here’s some yoga tips for chronic illness warriors to get you started.
Health Benefits of Yoga
- Improving flexibility
- Improved posture
- Increased muscle strength
- Strengthens bones and wards off osteoporosis
- Increases blood flow
- Drains lymph nodes and boosts immunity
- Mood booster
- Helps you focus
- Relaxing and stress relieving
- Improves balance
- Encourages taking time for yourself
- Spiritually grounding
Are you intrigued yet? Beginning a yoga practice can feel kind of scary, and you may have mixed emotions. You might be wondering how you look, possibly inflexible and out of shape or just plain nervous about trying something new. Put those thoughts aside and take heart that you can do this. You showed up and where you are when you’re starting out is ok. Through a consistent regular practice you’ll become more confident and adept at yoga asanas.
Here’s some easy tips to focus on to make the most out of your yoga journey.
Yoga is Practice, Progress and Not Perfection
Many of us struggle with focusing on what we look like and how flexible we are (or aren’t.) If we’re in a public class, we might find ourselves comparing our flexibility and fitness level to that of people around us.
Don’t focus on achieving a perfect pose. Instead, pay attention to what your body is capable of doing today and begin from there. If you try to push too hard, you’re going to miss out on essential yoga fundamentals and possibly hurt yourself. Listen to your body as you practice, improved flexibility will come later on. Also remember that we’re all anatomically different and some are more naturally flexible than others. With time and patience you’ll find your way.
It can be hard to reign in your monkey mind. If that happens, just bring your mind back to your breath. Don’t beat yourself up about being distractible. As you continue to practice, take note of the sensations you feel in your body. If you experience uncomfortable sensations like shaking or fatigue, think about how strong your legs, arms or abs are getting and how the energy is flowing to each part of your body.
(Note..if you’re experiencing pain of any type, modify the pose or move on to the next asana. If you’re in a public class, stay in child’s pose or mountain pose until the teacher moves on. If you’re at home with a YouTube video, it’s perfectly okay to hit fast forward if a practice is too much for you. Never push through pain.)
Keep It Simple
When you’re first starting you might have a goal of doing a headstand, a crow, or even just touching your toes for the first time in your life. And while those are worthy intentions, do keep things simple when you start out. Poses such as child’s pose, tree, cat/cow pose, downward dog or plank poses are simple enough to start with. Add a little core work every day and before long you’ll notice the difference in your practice!
Choose the Right Yoga Mat
It’s okay to pick up a cheap yoga mat from a discount store, but if you’re serious about creating a strong yoga practice you’ll want to shop around for a quality yoga mat.
A good yoga mat will provide a firm footing and keep you from slipping during poses such as downward facing dog.
When I got serious about my yoga practice I splurged on a Manduka yoga mat. One of the biggest selling points for me was that it’s available in a long length. At 5’9, my arms and legs were always dangling off the mat. And it’s so well made that I’ve had it for several years now with minimal wear (except where my dog chewed off a corner.)
Create an At Home Yoga Practice
If you’re a chronic illness patient, a busy mom or caregiver, it’s probably difficult for you to attend a local yoga class consistently and if you have special needs or accessibility issues of any kind, it might be even more overwhelming to think about.
The good news in this day and age is that there are lots of streaming options available for every body type, skill level and type of practice. Here are a few of my favorites:
Yoga With Adriene
Yoga With Adriene is one of my very favorite yoga teachers on You Tube. Her mantra is “Find What Feels Good.” Who can argue with that? She offers monthly playlists so you don’t have to spend too much time deciding what you want to do today. Usually I do a quick fast forward through the video to make sure it’s something I’m up for that day. And if it isn’t, I just look for a gentle practice.
Check out Gentle Yoga for Chronic Pain
If you’re a chronic illness warrior, you may have special considerations when you exercise. is spoonie yoga for chronic illness warriors. If you’re really struggling with traditional yoga practices, take a look at this. She offers supine practices, bed practices, 5 minute practices and more. If you can’t do too much, just do a little. Getting that energy circulating will help you to feel better.
Check out Spoonie Yoga for Chronic Pain + Fatigue
Yin Yoga is another great option for people with chronic illness or other limitations. Poses are close to the ground and held for several minutes. It feels like you’re giving yourself an internal massage and has great mental health benefits including reducing anxiety.
If you’re looking for a faith based practice, check out Caroline Williams. Her practices are also very accessible to all skill levels with the added benefit of Christian meditation and scripture reading.
Heart Soul and Mind Yoga
This is another faith based practice. Her style of teaching is very accessible to newbies and she has a nice variety of practices up.
Aroga Yoga specializes in yoga for chronic fatigue and illness. Very gentle and easy to follow.
Check out Yoga Sequence for Chronic Illness.
Take heart that no matter what your age, fitness or energy level, there’s a yoga practice that’s just right for where you are today.