Yoga for Well-Being in hEDS/HSD
In the spirit of guiding your well-being journey with hEDS/HSD, I thought I would share a form of exercise that is for everyone, that can be done without equipment, in only a few minutes, and that encourages moments of relaxation during exercise---you guessed it- YOGA. Yoga integrates mind, body, and spirit to achieve oneness with the universe.
Many patients ask, is yoga safe for people with hEDS/HSD? The answer is “YES”! Not only is it safe, but it is encouraged. The key understanding being that we use the physical therapy guidelines to prevent joint injury, just as we do for any exercises. Low impact is better, and yoga is included in that category with swimming, walking, elliptical, etc.
If you have never practiced yoga before, it can be awkward and feel uncomfortable when first learning poses. It is imperative to practice self-compassion, patience, and accept your current limitations. Learning the four steps to beginning yoga, will help in your journey to wellness.
First, it is important to learn basic yoga breathing, also called Dirga pranayama-an active form of breathing which involves breathing continuously through the nose, both inhalation and exhalation. Inhalation starts just below the belly button, moves to the low chest, then to just above the sternum and exhalation starts just above the sternum, moves to the low chest, and to just below the belly button.
Second, sit in easy pose (Sukhasana)-buttocks on the floor, legs crossed, feet below the knees, hands on the knees, or the lap, palms face up or down. Press hips into the floor, lengthen the spine, shoulders down and back, chest forward toward the front of the room. Relax face, jaw, belly, rest tongue on the roof of the mouth, behind the front teeth. This pose is designed to provide a sense of calm. However, if you are experiencing knee and hip pain, then try using a blanket under the knees or hip bones.
A variation to Sukhasana is the accomplished pose (Siddhasana) which involves placing one foot close to the inner thigh and the other foot close to the ankle, so heels are almost at midline.
While in Sukhasana or Siddhasana, practice mindful meditation-be in the moment, quiet your mind. Regular meditation can help well-being, reduce stress, anxiety, improve memory and concentration, and provide inner peace. If meditation is difficult, then try an intention or a brief prayer (sankalpa) of what you want to accomplish with your yoga poses, for the purpose of giving you deeper focus as you practice.
Third, practice yoga poses starting with simple ones first and as you get more comfortable, add poses. Don’t overdo, don’t push through pain-if you feel pain, stop and go to a different pose, until you become more familiar and comfortable with poses.
Lastly, always end your practice of yoga with Shavasana, or relaxation pose. This involves, lying on your back, and relaxing your body for 5-10 minutes, and ending in a seated position with meditation to transition “back to the world.”
Set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals, which can be used not only for yoga, but for life. For example, set a goal of practicing yoga stretches for 5-10 minutes every 2 hours throughout your workday. By setting this goal to practice yoga, you are also setting a goal toward self-care, self-compassion, and well-being!
Remember: “The nearer you comes to a calm mind, the closer you are to strength.” Marcus Aurelius
Do you have a specific yoga routine that works well? Learn more about self-care with hEDS/HSD and share with others in the discussion group!
Author: Bala Munipalli, M.D.