Yoga for Chronic Illness by Aroga Yoga: A Review
This is a guest review of Aroga Yoga’s Yoga Classes for those with Chronic Illness, from Sarah Vardon of Nourish Osteopathy and Understanding Interstitial Cystitis.
Come back next week for a blog post with all the details on Kayla’s post, ‘Why I Do Yoga For Chronic Illness’.
If you’d like to be the Official Reviewer of The Pillow Fort (of books: printed and digital), click here for more details and to apply!
Being active with a chronic illness can be tricky, I’ve learnt that through personal experience. My ventures into athleticism often end in obligatory sofa recuperation. I’ve tried a few yoga classes before and found that I didn’t feel too bad afterwards, but I never felt like I really got it. I went along to Aroga Yoga’s course for people with chronic illnesses in North London to see what it was all about and if a specialised class would be more successful.
Kayla hails from Toronto, Canada, and came to London after spending time travelling in Europe. She was diagnosed with chronic fatigue when she was 13 and, at the time, a competitive swimmer. Having tried to ignore her condition throughout her teens, Kayla discovered yoga when she was at university. She describes it as a ‘perfect mix of mental and physical relaxation’. She practised for a few years and found it so beneficial for her health that she trained as a yoga instructor and set up Aroga Yoga shortly afterwards.
Kayla has designed a yoga course for people with chronic illnesses who are less able to undertake physical activity, or simply want to explore the benefits of yoga. She wanted to create a course to help those living with chronic illness create positive connections with their bodies. The course takes place over 6 weeks with 6 hour long sessions. The bonus: your teacher knows exactly what you’re going through.
What You Need:
Just yourself! Some comfortable clothing that allows you to move easily is also handy. Yoga mats aren’t required as Kayla will provide you with one if you don’t have your own.
Before attending the course you’ll need to register using the online booking form. It asks questions about your level of experience with yoga, your illness(es), and any special requirements you may need to attend the class, such as wheelchair access and visual and/or auditory needs. This really gave me confidence that Kayla understands what is require to go to an exercise class when you have a chronic illness or disability (unlike the meditation class I went to that didn’t have a toilet, but that’s a disaster story for another day!).
All the classes start with a short breathing and mindfulness exercise to focus your body on the practice, followed by gentle yoga poses and a relaxation exercise at the end of the class. For the first couple of weeks we concentrated on floor-based poses and breathing, progressing to some gentle standing poses during the last 3 sessions.
Most of the poses focused on stretching the spine, hips, buttocks and legs which, Kayla explained, tend to tighten up if you spend a lot of your time sitting or laying down. I have to say, she was right! This was the first yoga class I’d been to where I felt that the poses were specific to my body’s needs and I could really feel my muscles being stretched and released. By the end of the course I was almost able to straighten my legs when stretching the back of my thighs, which is impressive if you had seen the complete lack of flexibility I had in the first class! Despite putting my joints through more movements than they usually experience, I was able to continue with my day as normal after every class and actually felt better physically and emotionally, which is always a great post-exercise bonus!
Kayla is a fantastic teacher, friendly and approachable. She will make sure you are doing the poses properly and corrects you if you aren’t so you don’t need to worry about injuring yourself. She checks in throughout the class to make sure everyone is comfortable with the pace and there is no pressure to push yourself further than you want to. Kayla also has a great ‘yoga voice’, which means she doesn’t wander around the class saying ‘and relaaaaax’in a quiet breathy way, so there’s no need to stifle a giggle (if you don’t know what I mean just wait, one day you’ll encounter an eccentric yoga teacher and have to feign a coughing fit to hide your laughter).
I feel pain pretty much all the time and found it difficult to relax into the classes at the beginning of the course so I could concentrate on the yoga rather than my pain. Once I did manage to move my mind away from my pelvis I can honestly say I forgot about my bladder for the rest of the class! I really looked forward to my hour off every week and my boyfriend even said that I was always happier and more relaxed on Mondays after my yoga sessions. As a result I am a complete convert to yoga and mindfulness and will be continuing my yoga practice both with Kayla and at home.
I would give this course a very well deserved 9/10, and it only lost a point because of the time that the classes took place. I’m lucky that I could rearrange my work hours to attend during the day but Kayla is hoping to run the next course in the evening so those of you who work can go along too and experience the benefits!
Kayla is going to run the next chronic pain course in the new year but in the meantime she is running a beginner’s yoga workshop in October and is available for private yoga sessions in London. If you can’t make it to the classes Kayla also offers private classes via Skype. Find out more and keep updated by visiting the Aroga Yoga website: www.arogayoga.com
Sarah is 24 and from London. She has interstitial cystitis, knits, cooks and binge watches Game of Thrones. On working days she can be found doing osteopathy and nutrition in Canary Wharf.
Have you tried yoga for your chronic illness(es)? I’d love to hear your experiences, favourite teachers and poses in the comments below!