Trying 30 days of Yoga With Adriene with a chronic illness

Throughout last year I’ve regularly been doing yoga through Yoga With Adriene. Adriene is one of the most famous yoga instructors on YouTube, with over 3 million subscribers. And I can certainly understand why. I stumbled across her videos on YouTube when searching for yoga videos, and I liked her a lot. Her motto is “find what feels good” and she often offers adaptions for certain poses if they are too hard for you, which make her videos really accessible for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. She even has videos with (wheel)chair yoga or hands-free yoga. I particularly like the hands-free ones as my wrists get hurt quite easily.

Every time I did yoga I had been choosing videos for beginners or exercises that are no longer than 15-20 minutes. But on a rainy day in August last year I decided to challenge myself. I decided to try the 30 Days of Yoga challenge. I did not have the illusion that I would actually manage to do yoga every day, as my body would certainly not let me. But I would try to do it as much as I could, and finish the full 30 days (even if it would take me at least twice that time to actually finish).

I ended up finally finishing the challenge in February this year. Although I knew it would take me a long time, I did not expect it to take me this long. I started out trying to actually practice every day. But on the second day I already reached a point halfway through the video where I couldn’t lift myself up from the ground anymore and it hurt so much I actually started to cry. It took me a couple of days to recover from that, so I decided doing yoga on two consecutive days was a bad idea. I then tried to do a practice twice a week, but I also had a couple weeks where I didn’t manage to do any yoga at all, because I was either recovering from activities or saving some energy to actually manage said activities.

That being said, I still feel like I learned a lot from doing this challenge. At first, poses like downward facing dog would hurt my wrists a lot, but since this pose was in so many practices, it became less challenging over time. I found out I can actually become stronger, even when I can’t really exercise because of my chronic illness. Unfortunately, there were a couple of exercises that were just too hard for me. I fell down to the ground in tears quite a couple of times. But this also taught me a lot about my boundaries. I feel like I learned a lot about what I can and cannot do and what my threshold is for causing “post-exertional malaise”, the worsening of symptoms people with ME get after too much exertion. As I’m a mild patient, my threshold is quite high and I don’t usually get PEM from my everyday activities. I know now better what kind of exercise I can handle, and what is too much for me.

On top of that, I learned a lot about yoga in general. On day 30, you had the choice to follow the video or just do what you like. I started out following the video, but after she did something I couldn’t do and I replaced it with another pose, I realized I felt confident enough to do my own thing and not even need the video. So that was very nice as well. I now feel like I can do some yoga by myself if I want to instead of always having to follow an entire video practice.

Although I learned a lot from it, I wouldn’t do this challenge again, or any other of her 30 day challenges. I’m happy I did it, but I’m also happy I’ve finished it. From now on I will go back to doing short and easy yoga videos or videos for specific concerns like back pain. If you have a chronic illness and you are planning on doing the challenge, I would really advise you to know your body and never, ever go past your limits. Know when things are too much for you, and don’t feel like you have to do every single exercise in the videos. Yoga can be a great way to get in some exercise when your illness is making exercising hard for you, and I would highly recommend Yoga With Adriene. But I think “find what feels good” applies toward chronically ill and disabled people even more than to able-bodied people. If you can’t do something, don’t push yourself to do it anyway. The lovely thing about yoga is that it has plenty of resting poses, and if all you can do one day is extended child’s pose, then that’s absolutely okay.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s