Chronic Pain & Adaptive Yoga
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
I’ve been told that I "look like a yoga teacher", whatever that means (in truth, a yoga teacher can look like anyone). I wear yoga pants pretty much every day: it's my uniform. My body can do all kinds of amazing things... from handstands to complicated arm balances that make it look like I can defy gravity. To a prospective student this can appear intimidating. Especially if you are a beginner, if you have a chronic health condition, or if you are recovering from injury.
I also have a secret: Some days I am nearly incapacitated by Fibromyalgia.
On these days I can hardly get out of bed, let alone do a handstand. Pain radiates throughout my body and saps me of energy. It can be difficult for me to see because fibro makes my vision blurry, even if I'm wearing corrective lenses. I also stutter because my fibro makes it difficult for me to get the words out of my mouth. Sometimes I even experience what is know as brain-fog, where I just can't think clearly.
I'm sharing this publicly after being inspired by another yoga teacher and artist, Chiara at Swell Yoga / Swell Yoga Art. She recently shared her own chronic pain story and it made me realize that sharing my story could help others.
For my students this means that I understand how to adapt. It may take me a couple of tries to figure out what is best for your body - because I can't feel what is going on in your body, only you can - but I will find a way to ensure you still get the benefit of the poses within your ability/range on any given day, without injury, pain, or intense discomfort.
This also means that you may see me using a chair or additional props myself. It may mean I cue more than I model. It may mean an occasional slow-flow or more restorative practice.
Know that, in my class, your practice is just that: yours. It isn’t my job to tell you how the pose should look or what you should feel. It’s my job to safely guide you to explore that in your body. All are welcome. Join as you are and expect no judgement. You can even show up late (just do so quietly if we’re in Savasana!). I’m just happy when people decide to join. It can take a lot of courage to come to the mat.
Size, pain, injury, disability, and any other potentially limiting factor doesn't mean you are excluded from practicing yoga. Yoga isn't about handstands and arm balances. It's not about being able to touch your toes. It's about exploring your individual boundaries and strengths physically, mentally, emotionally, and often spiritually. It is about calming your mind, and practicing compassion toward yourself as well as others. Yoga can truly be done by anyone, in any environment (even a hospital bed).
Yoga truly is for every body.