By Valerie Rice | December 3, 2020
Do yoga, they said. It will be fun, they said. Oops, there goes my shoulder, falling out of socket. Aaaand my ankle. Ow, was that my knees? I have been ordered to stop by my doctor thanks to my EDS diagnosis and so I haven’t done it in years. Well, I can injure myself by rolling over in my sleep, so there’s no point avoiding it anymore. I popped in my yoga DVD from 1990 (see? years) and gave it a go. Not only was I able to get into every pose (thanks, hypermobility) but the lessons of quiet mind have remained intact since last time. My daughter couldn’t hold a pose to save her life, probably because she is not capable of quieting her mind, despite having a much stronger body than I, so I wanted to go over the benefits of yoga that everyone, even a disabled genetic mutant like me, can take away. And don’t worry, I have a specialist who has modified the poses so I don’t hurt myself more than usual.
STRENGTH AND HEALTH
Each pose is designed to strengthen and tone your muscles. This can seem counterintuitive given the fact that there is little to no movement in most yoga practices. Forcing the muscles to hold a position is a lot harder than you may think, and the longer you hold still, the stronger you get. For those of us with weak connective tissue, it can strengthen the muscles around the joints to hopefully keep them in place. Well, not the ligaments that will continue to tear. Weak connective tissue is weak connective tissue. But there is more for us later. For everyone, yoga burns fat. The secret to the fat burning properties lies in the next portion: breath.
Woah, I forgot how much I loved oxygen. After the very first pose I felt an immediate rush of blood through my body and oxygen to my brain. Why? Because I haven’t been breathing correctly in years. Every goed trainer knows that in order to burn fat and calories fast you need oxygen, and yoga is all about that breath. In fact, if you have to force a pose, you are doing it wrong. You should be breathing deeply and slowly the entire time. Seriously, it’s a love affair with oxygen. How often does your exercise routine leave you breathless? It really shouldn’t. But do you pay attention to your breathing? That’s part 3 of the glory of yoga: Focus.
How many times have I discussed this? Several. But did you know that it is part of an exercise routine? That’s why my crippled body was able to maintain a 60 minute exercise routine while my young, strong, healthy teenager collapsed on the floor after 10 minutes. I have spent years training my mind to turn inward, focus on my Self, and have an excellent mind/body connection. I am actively mindful i.e.. I live in the state of the present, use meditation in my daily life, and mindfulness has become my default state of mind as opposed to the rapid chatter and thought streams most people seem to have. It is quiet in here. I’m not saying it was easy, remember it took me YEARS to train my mind to behave this way, but it is possible. But as you practice yoga it teaches you to focus inward, to notice what your body is doing, to quiet the mind and to connect to the Earth. The more you practice, the easier this becomes, and the stronger your mind The stronger your mind, the more control you have over your body, weak or not. And THAT, my zebras, is OUR main benefit.
MY LAST WORDS
I challenge you! Seriously, I do. If a person who has to hobble around in a walker and wets the bed when spasms prevent walking, can out-flex a yogi and hold impossible poses for 5 minutes (not to mention make it look effortless) can make it through, so can you. Just try it once, and if you do not feel peace, strength, or a rush of tingling and delicious oxygen, then don’t do it again. You will love it, you will see. If you are a Zebra like me, don’t do it until you can get individual modifications from someone who understands EDS. I don’t want you to get hurt, that is not the point. Once a day, every day, for a week and you will feel on top of the world though. So give it a shot, give it a week, or a month, and let me know how it changes you. Namaste.