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Yoga Provides Relief from Chronic Illness

This won’t be the first time I wax poetic about how great yoga was for me when I felt like my body was broken; but it’s the first time I’ll link to an article where others do the same. I loved how strong and capable my body felt. Similarly, one woman interviewed for the article said that the classes gave her back “a sense of reinhabiting my body.”

Unlike the HIV- and cancer-specific classes described it the article, you probably won’t find a headache clinic that offers yoga classes for patients. Hospitals or health clinics may provide classes for people with wide-ranging illnesses. Even yoga studios who have gentle or restorative classes are likely to provide many of the same benefits. Even if you’re classmates don’t have the same illness or illness at all, there’s benefit to the supportive, non-judgmental environment.

That’s enough of my preaching. Here’s a paragraph from the article to back me up:

“Often [yoga] is something their doctors recommend for the stress-relieving benefits of both exercise and meditation. But many patients find that the sessions, which make them feel more comfortable, also lessen some of their symptoms and the side effects of their medications. And because students exercise alongside others with their same medical problem, the classes also provide emotional support.”

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Self-Care or Alternative Medicine?

I’ve blogged a lot about meds and medical devices, but haven’t really discussed “alternative” therapies. There are two reasons for this. The first is that none of the alternative treatments that I have tried have worked for me, so I don’t think to recommend them. The more important reason is that much of the advice of alternative practitioners is what I think of as simply taking care of myself. I do employ many of the strategies of alternative medicine; I just don’t think of them as alternative.

The non-alternative alternative therapies that I try to follow:

Eat simply prepared produce and meat
Frozen veggies make this much easier and Penzeys Spices make it tastier; both make preparation a snap. I also eat a lot of organic produce and organic free-range meat. Living in the northwest give me an advantage with this; organic is easy to come by and isn’t outrageously expensive.

Avoid inhaling potentially harmful chemicals or substances
Since most artificial scents or offensive odors trigger headaches for me, this is pretty easy. Most of my cleaning products are homemade or from Seventh Generation and candles are beeswax or soy. And, as I’ve already complained, I am careful to find home furnishings that don’t off-gas much.

Avoid potentially harmful food additives
Avoid all forms of MSG, nitrates, nitrites, sulfates, sulfites, and artificial sweeteners, flavorings or colorings. This means skipping almost all convenience foods, sauces and dressings.

Exercise and relax
My beloved yoga is out, but I try to take a short walk every day, even if it is just to my favorite coffeehouse (.8 miles round trip!). Meditation is beyond my grasp, but I do try to lie down, breathe deeply and relax all my muscles for about 10 minutes each day. This is usually when I lie down to go to sleep, but I figure every little bit counts.

Use aromatherapy
Maybe essential oils help my headaches, maybe not, but I love smelling lavender, mint and orange. I smell them straight from the bottle, rub them on my temples, burn them with a candle or put them in a spray bottle with alcohol (is that a harmful-to-inhale substance?) and use them as air fresheners.

Don’t mistake me for a whole health goody goody. These are all steps I try to do, which means that I do them most of the time unless I want to go out for dinner, get my shower really clean, take advantage of high energy days or be lazy. But I do feel better when I follow the “rules.” The days I give in to reading a book and eating cookie dough all day are indulgences that I pay for with more headaches.

(P.S. Many of the foods and products I mention are more expensive than conventional varieties. I stock up on frozen vegetables when they are on sale, burn fewer candles than I used to, and remind myself that meds are expensive too.)