“Do not stop trying just because perfection eludes you.” -B.K.S. Iyengar
Exercise is the last thing us Fibros can imagine doing on the all too often days we wake up feeling like we were up all night, or after the days on end of being in relief-less pain. Yet, we are constantly instructed by our physicians, physical therapists, and well-meaning friends & family to do just that. But how can we exercise when we are so limited in our strength, energy, and mobility?
Yoga is one of the few types of “exercise” the we can manage. That is probably because it inherently conserves the little energy we may have. It is such an essential part of making life livable for us Fibros.
However, the real roots of yoga have been lost among all of these new age styles of “Hot Yoga”, “Flow”, and the God awful “Power yoga”. These “classes” have hijacked the idea of this ancient practice, and dare I say, bastardized them into something unrecognizable and often unsafe. (Phew! I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.)
Yoga in its purest form isn’t about exercise or “working out.” It’s about lengthening the muscles, strengthening your balance, creating alignment, and healing your body’s nervous system from the inside out. (Hint hint, Fibro comes from the nervous system, so it’s like yoga was made for us!)
So, what does that mean? Iyengar yoga uses padded blocks, blankets, bolsters, and straps to put your body into poses. There is a lady in my current class that is 94-years-old who does all the poses I do, and some of them even better!!!
In the wonderful article Why Use Yoga Props?, Suza Francina explains why it’s so beneficial and safe to use these supports. It’s not just for those of us with chronic illnesses or mobility issues. It’s also for those who practice other yoga or exercise more intensely.
She writes, “One of the greatest benefits of yoga as we grow older [or less mobile] is that it offers exercise without exhaustion. Yoga replenishes our precious energy reserves. Supporting the body with props opens the door to what is known as ‘Restorative Yoga’, which not only allows you to exercise without exerting any effort but simultaneously relaxes and reenergizes you. This is critical during times when we find ourselves feeling too tired to exercise and then feeling even more tired because we are not exercising.”
She goes on to say, “By using props, students who need to conserve their energy can practice more strenuous poses without overexerting themselves. People with chronic illness can use props to practice without undue strain and fatigue.”
So, be honest. You pictured yourself twisted into a painful pretzel when you imagined attending your first yoga class, right? Well, the photos throughout this posting are from a wonderful studio called Friendship Yoga in Iowa City, IA, and can be proof before your eyes that painful pretzels aren’t part of Iyengar! At this wonderful studio, they are working hard to practice mindfully and spread the word about this therapeutic and accessible yoga practice. These incredible photos show several people in the same pose with varying degrees of ability, and a range of supports. This is how a 94 year old can do yoga… and so can you!
Find an Iyengar Yoga class or teacher near you:
1. Suza Francina, “Why Use Yoga Props?,” eldr.com, May 16, 2007, http://www.eldr.com/article/fitness/why-use-yoga-props#sharelinks
2. “Friendship Yoga,” http://www.FriendshipYoga.com