Living with ME/CFS comes with a long list of trials and challenges to deal with on a daily basis. Among them is the inability to exercise normally.
Unfortunately, along with the sheer exhaustion it brings, another symptom is post exertional malaise. Put simply, the worsening of symptoms due to physical activity. For me, I find it quite difficult to predict, but I know one thing that causes it every time – exercise.
Going for a run (or even a walk), doing Zumba, tennis, literally any form of cardio is enough to make me completely unable to function the next day. My body just shuts down, even moving takes too much energy.
But one form of exercise has actually proven to be beneficial for me. Yoga is quite like strength training and it has done me the world of good. Not just in terms of getting fit, there are so many benefits of practicing yoga, and I wanted to share some of them with you.
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The many things I’ve learned from yoga
My body is a temple
I know you’ll have heard that phrase before, you may well be sick of hearing it actually. But I don’t mean it in the way of ‘my body is a temple so I should be careful what I put into it’ – although I know that is also true.
I mean it in the sense of what my body can do, and what it gives me.
It’s no secret that my body positivity is pretty low. I’ve always struggled with my body image, especially so now as I’m the biggest size I’ve ever been. I find it difficult to be comfortable in my own skin, I have never liked what I see in the mirror, and honestly would do anything to change everything about myself.
What I’m learning through regular yoga practice is that my body is strong. It keeps me grounded, it keeps me safe, it keeps me alive. I may not always like it, but it can do so much – so much more than I ever could’ve imagined.
Through stretching and strengthening it I have learned to respect my body for all that it can do. My confidence has started to increase, even if it is only slightly.
I may never love my body, but I’m getting there. And yoga has helped me do that.
How to have good strong posture
I have always had horrendous posture. I don’t know how it started but I have always found it difficult to sit without a back rest, and I get a sore back easily. Things like washing up or hanging up the washing make my back ache, and they really shouldn’t!
A lot of yoga practices involve sitting on the floor, or standing in mountain pose for some length of time. You check in with the breath, and the alignment of your body. You breath in and release the shoulders on the way out.
It’s not always an easy part of yoga, but it is important, and it’s helped me to strengthen the parts of me that have always hurt and become painful doing things I should be able to do.
After a few weeks of consistent yoga practice I now find it easier to sit on the floor without back support for longer periods of time. I can also stand for longer without my body getting sore.
Take the weight off and relax
Yoga is a great way to learn how to truly relax your body. And I mean TRULY relax.
A lot of the workouts can be quite strenuous on your body, but not all of them are. There are a lot of really calming ones that can help you stretch the tension out of your muscles and calm your mind.
I’ve honestly never felt as relaxed as I have at the end of a yoga routine, lying on the ground in the aptly named ‘corpse pose’ (or savasana). You take a deep breath in, and when you breathe out you relax your whole body into the ground and just lie there feeling the weight of everything just melt below you.
I wish I had a better way to explain how great it feels, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one and maybe try it for yourself.
It’s more than just exercise
If you can’t tell by now, yoga is so much more than just a workout.
It’s great for stress and tension relief, for mindfulness, for body positivity, for your mental health. There are so many benefits for adding even the shortest of yoga practices to your week. Even just becoming more aware of your breath is a great help.
I take my yoga practice with me everywhere. The things you learn and do on the mat help you in so many ways when you are off the mat. I know when I’ve been slumping too much at my desk, I can feel the tension in my brow when I’m frowning or concentrating too hard.
I am more aware of my body and what can make it feel good. And that’s a pretty big deal when living with chronic illness and pain.
There’s a yoga routine for every situation
This is absolutely true. A quick Youtube search will show that that wherever you are and whatever you are feeling, there is a yoga routine for it.
Last week I did a routine for cramps, and it was amazingly helpful. There’s routines for grief, chronic pain, stress, anxiety, joy, love, respect. You can find routines for the morning, or to wind down before bed. There are practices for productivity and brain power. Whatever it is that you need from your yoga practice I can assure you, you will find it.
I’ve put a few of my favourite ones throughout this post, but please do have a look yourself and discover the wonderful world of yoga.
That’s great but how do I get started?
There are so many great apps and Youtube videos you can use to get started with yoga. But, if you really have no idea where to start I 100% recommend Yoga with Adriene. I follow at least one of her videos every day at the moment and I absolutely love her (as if you couldn’t already tell…)
Give her, or any yogi, a go and let me know what you think in the comments.
If you’re a yoga expert or yoga newbie, I hope you’ve gained something from this post. Please do share your yoga experience with me below, I would love to hear from you!