After getting married, I was diagnosed as having Crohn’s Disease. My native Catalonia was where I had fled, but I moved to America with my husband. I recall feeling overwhelmed by pain, discomfort, uncertainty, and fear. I started to explore yoga as a wholesome, inclusive, accessible, and potentially life-changing practice.
Yoga asana has been a part of my life for many years. It was fun and energizing. It made me feel less disoriented, as I could not do anything but be present with my body, mind, and spirit for the 60-75 minutes. The more I practiced yoga, the longer it took to stay present even after class had ended. Vinyasa flow, headstands, and crow were out of my reach after my first Crohn’s flare-up. After a brief period of anger and denial due to the feeling that my body wasn’t performing “as it should,” I explored other aspects of yoga. My partner recommended meditation to me as a complementary treatment for my condition. He had used it in his healing process. It was something I wanted to try.
Chronic illness fascinates me because it allows me to feel powerful, present, and ready for anything. The next day, however, I may need help to keep up with my daily activities. It was clear that yoga (physical, meditation, and breathwork) helped me. It was a non-negotiable requirement. It takes a commitment to practice yoga daily. Many people feel overwhelmed by their lack of time or need help managing their time. Chronic illnesses can make it more difficult to commit such a significant commitment.
Although the movement is essential, it is not necessary.
It’s easy to forget how good it feels to feel well when I have a flare-up of Crohn’s disease. It is essential to move my body as often as possible. You can do this by taking vinyasa yoga classes for one hour or even just taking a few suns breathes while lying down. Moving releases endorphins, relieve stress, and clears stagnant energy. Moving improves proprioception, balance, strength, and muscle tone and enhances proprioception. Move as often as you can. It is easy to feel like you have to do more. It’s easy to do only what you can if you listen to your body and check in with yourself.
Meditation is the key to success.
Regular meditation allows me to stay consistent with my yoga practice, regardless of whether I am experiencing symptoms or feeling great. Meditation is more mental than it is physical. Even if I feel exhausted, I can still make time for reflection by setting a goal of 10-15 minutes per day. It is not about ignoring thoughts but being present in inner dialogues and ideas.
Meditation and breathing work (pranayama) are excellent ways to connect with yourself, especially when done early in the morning. My mind can be observed often enough to gain perspective on what activates and relaxes it. This gives me a better understanding of what’s working and what isn’t. When I’m calm and safe, my breathing is easier to regulate. I also can control my breathing when it gets stressful.
To help you maintain a regular meditation practice, try the 20 Mindful minutes program with Esther Ekhart
Journaling can be used to increase awareness
One of my favorite ways to increase and track the awareness I have gained through pranayama and meditation is through journaling. You may need to use different journaling prompts depending on the chronic illness. Consider what you can track to help you understand what is causing symptoms, also, what you can do to alleviate them or give you comfort.
Journaling is more manageable when I can connect with my feelings. Journaling helps me to recognize when I’m out of balance and what patterns are causing me distress.
Redefine what it means for you to be productive.
Living with a chronic illness in a society that demands us to be fully functional can prove overwhelming. You need to take care of yourself, be patient, and give yourself rest. Self-care is another way to be productive. Your well-being should always be a top priority in your daily life. Yoga can be a part of your self-care routine. You will discover signs and behaviors that remind you to pay attention to your health.