Slow Down: Yoga When You're Sick


I like a vigorous practice. I enjoy the movement, the breath, the sweat, the heat. I like the physical exertion as well as the mental reprieve. I really love the music. I'm a vinyasa groupie. This is not to say that I don't partake in gentler types of practice, but if I have my druthers, I'm more likely to pick the physically demanding totally appeals to my vata-pitta-dosha.

Lately, this hasn't been the case. In fact, for the past month or so, I've hardly been able to take class at all. Instead, my sadhana has become more insular, slower, and refined to deep breathing. Practice is being good and listening to my Self now, more than ever

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Why? I have ulcerative colitis and as of last month my long run of remission was seriously thwarted by copious amounts of stress and exhaustion. The balance I worked so hard to achieve with my yoga practice, good diet, and healthy lifestyle was unraveled quicker than you can say "namaste." Now I am back in a place that I have tried so desperately to avoid for a long time.

I've been diagnosed with colitis since I was 14. Yep, that's right. Since I was in high school and now over half of my life. Imagine that! (psst..for those of you who don't know, ulcerative colitis is an irritable bowel disease that effects the colon). It's not always pleasant and when I'm "flarin" it's far from fun. It does not define me, but it is a part of who I am and I believe the "suffering" only makes me stronger (we'll save that for another post!). For those who have known me long enough, you know I've had considerable highs and devastating lows over the years when dealing with this condition. It's typically one day to the next for me, but with my continued faith in my practice and good living, it's been completely manageable and under control for a good amount of time.

Now, I could go down the long-winding road of "how could let this happen to me again?" But honestly, what good is that going to do? In the end, I'll just feel worse about myself and never get better. I'm working with my most excellent doctor to get me on the right track, and although I don't like to, I'm taking all the meds she prescribes. They aren't fun and there are lots of side effects, but at this point, I'll do whatever I can to feel better.

I've also refined my yoga practice. Instead of listening to my fiery pitta dosha pushing me to go to class, I'm tapping into kapha dosha and taking inventory of how I'm feeling. Instead of class, I'm staying home and practicing restorative postures like Balasana (Child's Pose), Uttanasana (Standing Foward Fold)Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold), and Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-wall) to relax and settle. Instead of going for a run or hitting the gym, I'm taking walks outside and enjoying the fresh air. I'm no longer over eating and wouldn't you know, I gave up coffee...for now... ;).

All in all, I'm trying to be patient with the process. I've been here before and although I'd hate to admit it, I'll be here again one day. It's too easy to get frustrated with the situation and that only leads to trouble. Rather, I'm spending my time relaxing when I can, unwinding, healing, and enjoying some slower days. It is clear that being thrown off balance has thrown me way off course, and now is the time to reign it all back in. My practice is keeping me grounded and helping me to heal. I'm confident that I will soon be in a healthier state, but for now, I'm enjoying the practice within each moment.

How do you make time to slow down? How do you stay balanced when you're feeling frazzled? Are you able to refine your practice in the moment?


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