How Yoga Has Become a Positive Coping Strategy

I would love to tell you that I am a “keep fit” addict, but I’m not. I am also really bad at sticking with anything that even remotely resembles exercise!

My last surgery (j-pouch excision and permanent ileostomy) was September 2018. It was my seventh bowel surgery, third ileostomy, and the fifth time a surgeon had made a midline incision through my abdominal muscles. The recovery felt super hard. I don’t know whether it was just because of the sheer amount of surgeries I have been through, my health pre-surgery or simply because I was older, which people seemed to like to keep reminding me of!

The effects of surgery on my physical state

My muscles have remained weak because there was a tightness in certain areas that I avoided feeling, which meant I had basically avoided using my abdominal muscles all together! That, plus the fact I had a career change, meaning I no longer walked 40 mins a day to and from work, obviously had a pretty negative impact on my physical state.

I pulled my back last year and ended up having to be referred to a physical therapist because once I had done it, I kept doing it! He could not believe how weak I was; I had zero core strength and little anywhere else strength. So, we started off super slow!

My weight has always been an issue, and I struggled to gain no matter how hard I tried (unless I was taking steroids of course). But, since the last surgery, it has started going up. I reached a point where I was really happy, but then it kept going! It became very clear to me that I needed to do more, but what?!

A need for low impact exercises

My knees, ankles, wrists and more recently my hips and shoulders, prevent me from being able to a lot of the things that I think would be a good idea to do. Low impact exercise seems like the only viable option. I told myself that once I had reached a certain point through therapy, I would look for some local classes to attend, such as Pilates or yoga. I have done Pilates in the past, and I really enjoyed it. I never felt like I had done anything though, and I imagined yoga would be similar.

Attempting yoga at home without physical therapy

Thanks to the pandemic situation, physical therapy has been canceled for the foreseeable future, and I obviously can’t attend a class either. So, I thought I would download some yoga apps and see which one suited me the best.

I knew I needed to do something for me, that would not only help me physically but would give me a positive focus for my psychological health too. Feeling like you have been grounded at the grand old age of 32, plus all of the negativity in the media and online was taking its toll.

I knew that I needed to start from the very beginning, and I suspected that I may need to stay there for some time, as I hadn't got to where I wanted to with therapy yet, and my stoma making my abdomen weaker and me susceptible to peristomal hernia was a constant consideration.

Noticeable changes from doing yoga

So, armed with my hernia prevention belt for extra support, I began my first class. The first couple of days were easy going and relaxing. Turns out though, yoga ISN’T easy! By day 4, I was huffing and puffing, falling over and losing my cool a little bit. It was OK though because the classes always have a winding down routine, so by the time it was finished, my calm was restored!

At the two-week mark, I could already see noticeable changes. On day one, I was a good 30cm away from being able to touch my feet. Week 2, I could place my fingers flat on them! I was genuinely surprised by my progress and also surprised at how much I was enjoying it. I was actually looking forward to yoga each day.

I am hoping that I will continue to enjoy it and that I will stick with it. By the time this post gets published, I am hoping I am able to tie myself in knots!

I’d love to hear what you have been doing to keep your sanity recently, and also what forms of exercise you enjoy! Next on my list for exploration... Tai Chi!

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