The following is a Guest Blog from Allison Gamble.
The health benefits of yoga have been well documented for years and known for centuries in some cultures. Recent research suggests that people with chronic illnesses may benefit from yoga. Of the many different forms of yoga, some are more beneficial for certain conditions than others. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to see that the meditative benefits of yoga open the doors to a more positive outlook on life, but some of the physical elements of the exercise inspire more investigation. It may take some time to discover which one works best, but most doctors agree that yoga is a great option for those dealing with chronic issues to relax and help mentally ease the pain of their conditions.
Yoga and Chronic Conditions
Patients with chronic conditions ranging from cancer to persistent back pain are turning to yoga classes in increasing numbers. Chronic conditions can cause patients considerable stress or fatigue. This may inhibit the effectiveness of treatments and result in additional discomfort. Many doctors and health care professionals recommend yoga for exercise, meditation, relaxation, and relief of stress. Yoga basics are easy to learn and can be easily incorporated into a busy life.
Bringing Yoga to Work
Yoga can help with mental health, mitigate treatment side effects, and improve how the body handles pain and stress. All of this certainly applies at work. Chronic conditions, especially back or muscle-related pain, can make a day at the office uncomfortable and stressful. Many people think they don’t have time for yoga, that classes are too expensive, or that they’ll be too tired from work to practice. However, yoga can easily fit into your busy schedule.
Most techniques can be learned quickly and practiced for a short period before or after work or on a break. Classes can also be taken on weekends, and the techniques practiced during the week at home. Yoga classes don’t have to be expensive. Some hospitals allow patients to form unofficial yoga groups. These are often made up of patients with similar conditions, thereby establishing an additional support system for patients coping with the same difficulties.
Another way to make yoga more affordable and accessible is to form a yoga class on your own. It doesn’t have to be limited to people with a chronic condition, though that may be a means of helping you form a sympathetic community for support.
Choosing the Right Type of Yoga
There isn’t just one kind of yoga. Some types focus on movement, while others are interested in concentration and inner focus. Accordingly, a particular patient’s chronic condition might prohibit against practicing certain forms of yoga. For example, multiple sclerosis patients should avoid heat yoga, due to heat intolerance. This tendency of symptoms to worsen due to sustained exposure to heat would definitely become problematic given the increased temperature in which heat yoga is practiced.
Consider the particular characteristics of different yoga disciplines and how they might fit with the conditions of a given chronic illness:
• Hatha Yoga is recommended for beginners and is best for those who can’t overexert themselves. Gentle movements are performed while keeping the primary focus on breathing and holding poses. This form of yoga is good for stretching in a way that’s not too strenuous on the body. This would be good for patients with some forms of cancer who may tire easily due to treatment.
• Iyengar Yoga is a heavy form of yoga using blankets, blocks, and other objects. This form of yoga is recommended for those who need to work on balance and coordination, and would be suitable for patients with MS.
• Kundalini Yoga is an advanced form of yoga that may be beneficial to cancer patients as a form of exercise. The focus is on maintaining posture and breathing while in different poses.
• Heat Yoga (Bikram or Moksha) is recommended for patients with chronic pain in muscles or joints, like lower back pain. This style incorporates poses from other forms of yoga in rooms heated to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Proponents claim the increased heat helps remove toxins from the body while stimulating muscle and tissue.
Many patients report feeling more comfortable with a marked reduction in symptoms and side effects of their conditions after yoga sessions. Yoga tends to give patients a feeling of hope and optimism that helps make coping with a chronic condition just a little bit easier. It should be noted that yoga or other methods of relaxation and meditation are not meant to be a substitute for a patient’s regular medical treatment. Yoga will not cure any chronic illness, but it may reduce suffering and make a patient more comfortable, receptive to treatment, and promote overall health.
Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing with psychologydegree.net.