One of the best pieces of advice I received around the time of my diagnosis was to try out yoga. I decided to give it a go, found a class and turned up one day, a little nervously. I was slightly intimidated by everyone else who seemed to know what they were doing and effortlessly moved their bodies into a myriad of intriguingly named positions (eagle, sphinx, triangle …). I was not sure that I would be able to do any of that!
Several years later, I still attend Caroline’s class regularly. Her soothing voice and relaxing manner are a part of my life. I have moved with her from Methodist hall to Anglican Church hall, to fitness gym to an actual yoga centre, but, through it all, the movements and sense of calm (apart from the dance music thumping through the floor at the gym!) have remained constant.
And I have actually improved over the years! I started very cautiously, missing out postures that looked too ambitious or where I needed to rest and regroup, but I gradually found that my strength and stamina were improving and my fatigue was reducing. (My balance isn’t all it was these days and the wall is a useful friend, but my body remains much more supple.)
I also find that yoga chimes in with the advice given about exercise and MS: to listen to your body, to do what exercise feels right for you, to go at your own pace. The best bit is that there are regular inbuilt rests – I love curling up into child’s pose! The weekly practice builds up gently, then before you know it you are standing firm in warrior posture or upside down in dog. It all feels perfectly balanced too: an even numbers of stretches and twists on each side of the body, and equal concentration on forward and back bends. I lie down for the relaxation at the end of a class feeling thoroughly stretched in all manner of ways and very glad not to move for a while!
I have recently discovered, however, that yoga has not just become an enjoyable part of my life but an essential part of my life! After observing how my body stiffens and complains after a few weeks away from the class over summer or at Christmas, I have realised that a few (gentle!) stretching exercises have to be incorporated into my life at regular intervals.
Yoga has kept me sane(ish) during this most recent envelopment in a cloud of exhaustion. Although I’ve not been able to go out on the tandem or keep up with my swimming, I have been able to straighten my legs into the air whilst lying on the bedroom floor and breathe gently. Which reminds me, must dash! (Or move with awareness down to the ground!)