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5 Yoga Practices to Consider If You Live with a Chronic Condition

Living Well

October 19, 2023

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Photography by Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy United

Photography by Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy United

by Erin Hunter

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Medically Reviewed by:

Courtney Sullivan, Certified Yoga Instructor

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by Erin Hunter

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Courtney Sullivan, Certified Yoga Instructor

•••••

•••••

Yoga is an accessible way to get your body moving that can provide a range of health benefits. Here’s how to get started.

Starting yoga can be intimidating if you’ve never tried it before. Before I tried yoga, I always envisioned the yogi with legs held high above their body, contorting into positions with what looks like the perfect physique. When you live with a chronic condition, starting a practice like yoga can feel even more daunting.

If you’re curious about yoga but feel intimidated, keep in mind that yoga is all about discovering joy, balance, and connection within yourself. Yoga provides space for everyone.

There are many forms of yoga. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of yoga and five specific forms of yoga that can help manage chronic conditions.

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What is a chronic condition?

A chronic condition, or chronic illness, is a long-term health condition that typically has no cure.

Some chronic conditions are treatable and manageable, allowing you or a loved one to take part in your usual everyday activities. Other chronic conditions may be progressive or have flare-ups, so you may need to adjust your activities to meet your needs.

Finding ways to manage the symptoms of a chronic condition can make a world of difference. While yoga won’t be a magical cure for a chronic condition, it may become a way to manage certain side effects and symptoms.

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What is yoga, and how can it help?

With its roots in ancient Indian philosophy, yoga offers a holistic approach to wellness, encompassing the mind, body, and spirit. It includes postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and other relaxation strategies.

While it’s known for its physical benefits, such as improved flexibility and strength, yoga can also help people with chronic conditions find pain relief and improve functional well-being.

Who can participate in yoga?

Regardless of age, shape, level of fitness, or background, anyone — including those with chronic conditions — can participate in and benefit from some form of yoga.

The key is to be open-minded and patient with yourself. Approaching yoga with a beginner’s curiosity can help you make the most of learning a new practice while opening you up to potentially learning more about yourself and your body.

Try to remember that there’s no need to compare yourself or your yoga practice to anyone else. Setting your ego aside will help you challenge yourself and more fully experience the many benefits of yoga.

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5 yoga styles to try if you live with a chronic condition

1. Hatha yoga

Hatha yoga is a gentle, slower-paced practice that focuses on breathing and simple postures. It’s a great option for those seeking to improve their general well-being and reduce stress. The movements and deep breathing involved in Hatha yoga promote relaxation, balance, and harmony within your body and mind.

Hatha yoga is a great starting point for beginners, but it can be beneficial regardless of your level.

2. Vinyasa yoga

Vinyasa yoga, on the other hand, is a more active and energetic practice that synchronizes breath with movement. It’s known for its fluid poses, which build strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance.

Vinyasa yoga can be helpful for those who are looking for a more energetic yoga experience. And some research, including a small 2010 study, suggests that Vinyasa yoga in particular may help reduce symptoms of depression.

3. Yin yoga

Yin yoga is a passive and meditative practice that involves holding poses for an extended period to provide a deeply calming experience. This practice targets the connective tissues in your body, enhancing flexibility, releasing tension, and promoting relaxation.

Yin yoga can be especially helpful if you have chronic pain or limited mobility, as you’ll typically do the poses while seated or lying down.

4. Iyengar yoga

Iyengar yoga focuses on alignment and precision. Props such as blocks, straps, and blankets are often used to promote proper positioning in poses. This style of yoga can be beneficial for people with specific physical conditions or injuries, as it helps improve strength and balance.

5. Kundalini yoga

Kundalini yoga combines dynamic movements, breath work, meditation, and chanting to awaken the energy within your body. This style of yoga is known for its ability to improve sleep quality, enhance digestion, and reduce stress.

The incorporated movements may help with chronic digestive issues because you work your diaphragm with movement and breathing techniques.

How to start yoga

It’s a good idea to consult your doctor before starting a yoga practice if you have any concerns. Once you get the go-ahead from your doctor, look for reputable yoga instructors and studios in your area and consider trying a few different yoga styles.

Joining an in-person class can help you connect with a qualified instructor. They can guide you through poses and help you modify any positions to accommodate your needs.

Online yoga classes are a great option as well, as they provide a variety of guided yoga classes with the flexibility of location and time. Many yoga classes are even available for free on YouTube.

You won’t need much equipment other than a yoga mat, comfortable clothing, and maybe some props (if you decide to try Iyengar yoga).

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The takeaway

Yoga is about feeling connected with yourself, others, and the universe. Whether you live with arthritis, depression, irritable bowel disease, or another chronic condition, yoga offers gentle movements and stretches that can help manage pain, improve joint mobility, improve sleep, support digestion, and contribute to an overall sense of improved well-being.

Yoga is about discovering joy, balance, and connection within yourself. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to yoga, so be open to exploring new possibilities and modifications that suit your unique needs.

Remember to always listen to your body in order to practice in a safe and mindful manner.

Medically reviewed on October 19, 2023

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About the author

Erin Hunter

Erin Hunter is a freelance writer for hire who lives on an acreage with her husband and son. As a writer, she is passionate about providing health and wellness advice to help people find alternative ways toward a healthier lifestyle. When she’s not working on her latest projects, you can find her outside exploring with her son or trying to improve her painting skills.

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