I have shied away from doing yoga my entire life. The few times I have tried pilates I have dislocated my shoulders and that was enough to keep me far away from anything similar. I also was under the impression that yoga would be "bad" for someone with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, as it would stretch things too much. Doctors had cautioned me from doing anything to over-stretch my body and I assumed yoga would be suspect; that is, until I met my current yoga instructor about a year ago.
"A moving body is a healthy body. Once you stop moving, it is harder to start moving again," I can hear Kathy saying to our small class. Out of the five people in my class, I am by far the youngest, by decades - I would guess the average age to be about 70. "The goal is not to stretch ourselves into pretzels, but to be able to keep doing the things we need, like get in and out of the car." Alright! Exactly what I need!
I decided yoga was a goal of mine when my back and flank pain became so persistent that I was in tears everyday. The more I sat in bed because my back was hurting, the more my back hurt! Of course! Well, I can't help sitting in bed a lot of the time, as is the case with a body that gives out on me all of the time. However, I can try to keep in shape in any way that I can. I can't run a marathon. Most days I can barely make it up and down my street, and some days that just isn't going to happen. But - I can sit in a chair for a few minutes, stand for a few minutes (unless my POTS is bothering me) and even bend for a few minutes - and that is all I need for a complete yoga workout to stretch my body in the normal range of motion, and most importantly, work on strengthening and toning. I especially need a strong core, which will help keep my back working properly. I do not do yoga to gain flexibility, I do it to keep the mobility I have and to help relieve some mental and physical pain. I do have to say, the yoga hasn't helped my flank pain one bit, but it has helped other parts of my body feel a little better, and mentally it has helped a bunch.
When I searched for a class, I came across The Yoga Center in Reno, NV, but I am sure there are similar facilities across the country. My class, Yoga for Every Body, is an "introductory level class for those with special health concerns such as injuries, arthritis, joint replacements, difficulty getting to the floor or re-entering an exercise program. The entire class can be done in a chair."
"Hatha Yoga is a system of exercises which originated in India several thousand years ago. This class includes postures, stretching, diaphragmatic breathing and relaxation. Its purpose is to bring balance, relaxation, and calmness to the individual. Regular practice can give a person increased vitality and an ongoing sense of well being."My left hip is super flexible still,but my right one is in constant pain and less-flexible.
To work with this, I use a block to stretch it just a bit,
but not over-stretch it, making sure to not hurt it more.
Kathy Randolph, my instructor, is a Certified Yoga for the Special Child Practitioner. If you are interested in finding a yoga class yourself, I would highly recommend searching for someone who has been certified in this technique, or someone who does yoga for people with disabilities, or both. She has a great understanding of what special bodies can handle.
I have only attended class when I am able to drive the hour-and-a-half in the car. The rest of the time, I just practice at home. I do find that the classes keep me focused and the direction the instructor provides is extremely useful. I highly recommend attending classes at least some of the time. The type of yoga I have been practicing is Integral Yoga Hatha, and I have been learning ways to do the poses that don't overstretch my body or put stress on joints that are bothering me. The great thing about yoga is there a ton of different ways to do one pose. There are ways to do everything while sitting in a chair or sitting on the ground, so even people who are really limited in mobility can still reap the benefits. We choose the "easy" or least aggressive poses and only hold them for short periods of time. And, we all work within our abilities, each person in the class doing different versions of the poses to allow for the best workout for our own individual needs.
At home, the books I use that were recommended by Kathy are Integral Yoga Hatha by Sri Swami Satchidananda and the instruction book Integral Yoga Hatha for Beginners (Revised)
that goes along with it (purchased separately).
I have to say, I am thrilled to have taken up yoga, and I hope that this provides you all with some insight. Of course, each of us are different, but this may be beneficial to some of you. As always, I am not a doctor and I am not giving this as medical advice.
Now...back to my vacation!