In the West, when we hear the word “Yoga,” we often think of physical postures. Lots of stretching and sweating. If you have never really enjoyed an exercise routine, the mind instantly decides, “Yoga, that’s not for me. That’s for flexible types.” And sure, many yoga classes in the U.S. are comprised of thin, spandex-clad people who are tackling yoga like they may tackle the rest of their day, with a go hard or go home mentality. This is so prevalent that now there are classes and DVDs labeled “Yoga for the Rest of Us,” as if Bikram is the standard and the rest of us need to somehow dumb down yoga so that our inflexible and out-of-shape bodies can perform it. So not true! Again, it is worth repeating, Yoga is for all of us. We just have to find the Yoga that makes us feel like we are coming home.
For the last month my Multiple Sclerosis fatigue has not allowed me to do much physical yoga. If I over-stretch or do a repetitive motion one-too-many-times, I don’t recover for a week. So, instead I have taken on a half hour meditation to do daily, one that was emotionally too draining for me to do a year ago. Now, I may be weaker physically but I am strong enough emotionally to do this aspect of yoga. I can also do long breathing exercises, which helps me with my stress response. I do the few simple physical movements I can do. And I feel so much better after I have done them! I make sure to include deep relaxation because that is just as important as the exercise component of Yoga. And on those days where I am so exhausted that I can’t get to any of it? I VISUALIZE. The Mind Body Connection is a real and powerful thing. Try it. If you are unable to complete any stretch or pose that you would like to be able to do, but that your body won’t allow or you know it’s best not to do at this time, visualize and your muscles will still fire. You will still be using the neuronal pathways to perform this function even if it looks like to the outsider that you are doing nothing.
Bring Yoga into your life any way you can. Get some DVDS and books at the library. You can find Kundalini Yoga exercise sets (Kriyas) and meditations all over the internet. Here are a few of my favorite sites:
Joining a Yoga community was an invaluable step for me. So when you have the physical strength to get yourself to a studio, do it. Even if you spend the whole class laying down and visualizing, you are being held in a sacred space by people who instantly care for you. And many studios, such as Kundalini Yoga Boston, offer discounts to clients with Multiple Sclerosis. Furthermore, the National MS Society will reimburse $50 a year towards fitness and wellness classes. It may not be much but it will get you into the door and may be the very excuse you need to come home to yourself.