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April 3, 2012 > Yoga Can Help You Cope with Chronic Illness

Yoga Can Help You Cope with Chronic Illness

Washington Women's Center Class Focuses on Body, Mind and Spirit

Coping with a chronic illness can take a serious toll on your body as well as your mind and spirit. The pain and physical limitations caused by a chronic illness can often lead to sadness and grief as well as depression. Yoga can give you the tools you need to cope with your illness so you can feel better physically and emotionally.

"Chronic illness can really change a person," said Bonnie Maeda, RN, a certified yoga instructor at Washington Hospital. "It's ongoing. There is no end to it and that can be daunting. But you can learn how to live with it, and yoga can help."

Maeda will teach an upcoming class called "Yoga and Coping with Chronic Illness." It is scheduled for Monday, April 9, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Washington Women's Center, 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. The class is limited to 15 participants and registration is required. The fee is $15 and a credit card number must be provided at the time of registration. Call (510) 608-1301 to register.

The class is for any woman with a chronic illness such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus or cancer. If your illness is affecting your quality of life, this class is for you.

"It's an introductory class so participants can come and see if yoga might offer some benefits," Maeda said. "You can get a taste and see if it might have value."

She tailors the class to meet individual needs, taking into account the physical abilities and limitations of each participant. "Nobody is pushed to do anything, so you don't need to feel intimidated," Maeda added. "It's all about what feels good for you."

Take a Deep Breath

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and focuses on the connection between the body and mind. The two basic components are proper breathing and exercises called poses. You can do these poses while sitting, lying down or standing.

Maeda starts out slowly, with participants sitting in a chair. She teaches them how to concentrate on breathing, posture and body awareness.

"Someone experiencing a chronic illness often takes shallow breaths," Maeda said. "Yoga can help you learn how to breathe deeper and exhale fully, which releases tension and brings awareness. This sense of clarity can help you live in the moment."

Then she will move to some gentle standing poses for those who have the strength. "If you want to stay in the chair, you can," she said. "Again, this is about what feels right for each individual."

Maeda said yoga can help with the fatigue often caused by chronic illnesses. It improves circulation and increases energy levels while helping participants get a more restful night's sleep. It can also help to reduce some of the pain that often accompanies chronic illnesses.

"Yoga helps people feel stronger, which increases their overall sense of well-being," she added. "People with chronic illnesses can feel a profound sense of grief at the loss of their health. Yoga can help you focus on what you can still do. It's not all great, but you can learn how to make the best of it. Maybe you can't bend your knees the way you used to, but maybe you can still move your arms and upper body. Yoga can help you cope with what your life is now so you can get on with it."

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