Help #2: Yoga
Since the extent of my yoga "experience" is comprised of 2 individual classes taken about 7 years ago, I wouldn't consider myself a yoga buff. However, last summer I read an article about how doing yoga can help recovered cancer patients sleep better. I figured that since I had trouble sleeping, fatigue, and needed to do some mild exercise anyway, it couldn't hurt to look for a yoga DVD.
I began my search by previewing yoga DVDs from the library. My criteria for a good video were as follows:
1) Most exercises had to be done either lying down or sitting.
2) I needed to feel like I'd stretched my entire body by the end.
3) It had to have one continuous routine, not disjointed clips of single positions.
4) I wanted it to be dynamic enough to feel like exercise but relaxing enough to relieve stress.
5) All of this had to occur in about 30 minutes or less. I can't spend the whole day doing yoga.
Despite many stress relief videos on the market, it was hard to find a DVD like this. I can't stand perched on one leg for 5 minutes with POTS. Blood pools in my legs, and the longer I stand still, the worse I feel. It was very important to find just the right routine for my energy level and medical needs.
Some videos were too fast, too aerobic, and I couldn't keep up.
Still others had me too relaxed, lying still for several minutes at a time. By the end, I felt like I'd just had an unsatisfactory nap on the floor.
So, it was with some Goldilocks-type excitement that I stumbled upon the DVD "Easy Yoga" by Gaiam with Suzanne Deason. Now, this is not the "perfect" DVD for POTS. It is, however, an easy and thorough stretching routine that refreshes me on days when I am lacking energy.
At first, I almost discarded it because of a series of standing stretches in the middle of the routine. However, I decided that I could manage with very slow transitions or even skipping certain postures.
The routine moves along at quite a fast clip initially, but with practice, I can now settle into most positions early enough to have plenty of time to stretch and transition to the next move.
The flow of the routine is very smooth. I never feel like I'm being jarred into a new position. The momentum builds very naturally from relaxed at the beginning to strength-building of the legs and then back to relaxing again.
I felt an increase in flexibility and muscle tone after doing the routine just 2-3 times a week for a couple weeks.
It requires a mat, a block, and a strap. I have a mat now but previously used a blanket. I skip using the block (you could use a book) and grabbed an old belt for a strap.
Breathing is key when doing this routine. At first, it was hard to coordinate the movements with the breath instructions, but once I practiced, the breathing felt natural and enhanced my stretching and stress-relief quite a bit.
It's important to note that I tried taking a hard line with myself when I first bought this DVD. I forced myself to do the routine on days when my fatigue was intense. Pushing my body too hard made my symptoms worse, so I have learned to pass on exercise if I'm having a particularly bad day. Respecting my physical limitations helps me function at my best.
Finally, I will end this review with my favorite part about the DVD: the last pose. After the rhythmic waves of stretching and breathing decrescendo to the last posture, I savor that peaceful place. You'll have to check this video out of the library or buy it to experience it for yourself!