I started casually practicing yoga my freshman year of college. I took a Yoga class, and I was surprised to find how relaxed and energized I felt after each class. I noticed that my mobility was improving and my back did not hurt nearly as much after class as it did before.
As my back and joint pain worsened through the years, I still found myself feeling my best after yoga class. I knew that I was not the most flexible, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get my body into some of the harder poses. However, I refused to be discouraged. One day after class, I talked to my instructor about my back and joint pain. She told me she would provide physical assistance to get me into some deeper poses during the next class. When I came the next week, she also helped me to modify some of the poses to provide the best stretching for the areas that hurt the most. I was amazed at how wonderful I felt after class; I wished I had spoken to her earlier about my issues!
The Healing Power of Yoga
I still enjoy practicing yoga in my free time, and I always recommend yoga to others with AS or similar chronic pain conditions. There are so many benefits, and I would like to share with you a few as highlighted by the American Osteopathic Association:
- Relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain
Increased muscle strength and tone
Improved respiration, energy and vitality
The maintenance of a balanced metabolism
Cardiac and circulatory health
Protection from injury
One of the most important benefits of yoga is that it can help you manage stress. Living with AS and other chronic pain conditions can be very stressful. Not only will your body feel better, so will your mind.
Going to a class and participating in a fitness activity, such as yoga, in front of others can be intimidating, particularly when you suffer from a debilitating disease like AS.
It is important to know your limits; you might not be able to do some of the things others in the class can do. It is important to remember that IT IS OKAY. You do not have to push yourself to your breaking point. Nobody goes to a fitness class to judge others. They are there to improve their own fitness.
Do not be ashamed to try something new, or to stop when you know you are reaching your limit. If you have never tried yoga before, I highly recommend that you give it a chance. You may find yourself feeling stronger, healthier, and energized, both physically and mentally!