Recently, I’ve been a Brunette with A LOT of flare. My arthritis has been very all over the place in recent weeks. I wake up with my fingers swollen and tender, my knees all puffy and sore, and my left elbow and neck restricted. Any inflammation is not good, but the inflammation in my left shoulder needs to be addressed in order to prevent my left shoulder soon matching the damaged state of my right shoulder, which is in need of a joint replacement. Growing up I have noticed that there are some factors which contribute to me having a flare up, one of them being stress. There have been studies investigating the impact of stress on arthritis, trying to establish whether there is a link or not and if it does why that link exists and its impact on potential new treatments. My joints would always swell up around exam time, without fail. I had an assessment centre last week, which I’m 90% sure is the reason for me flaring up like this. This combined with the fact that I am about to start a new job when I return to university in two weeks and have been arranging my next round of Rituximab infusions.
So there’s that. I always find that once I start flaring I end up actually stressing out about the flare which in turn means I swell up even more, and a cycle begins. I’ve read that exercise is highly recommended as a stress buster, it releases endorphins making you feel ultra destressed. Because the majority of my joints are feeling very stiff and sore I decided to give Yoga a go. There’s been a hype around Yoga for a while, with it always being featured in the likes of Made in Chelsea and plastered all over Instagram. Truth be told I was actually quite scared of doing yoga. I was put off by all the images as it seemed like an exercise which you had to be made for: flexible. And that is definitely not a category I fall under, with all of my joint restrictions. I think I also had a fear of going to a yoga class after feeling really embarrassed in Year 10 PE classes when I just simply couldn’t do the poses everyone could so easily manage.
But my housemate at uni also swears by Yoga, following Yoga by Adriene Tutorials on YouTube. I’ve been meaning to give this a go for a while now, but have never gotten round to it. Having reached a point where I was feeling very stiff and knew I had to keep moving I gave her tutorials a go. Verdict? IT’S AHMAZING! My my I wish I had started it sooner. I’ve eased myself into it by starting the 30 days of Yoga challenge, and having just completed Day 7 of the 30 day challenge I am really excited about getting into the rest of the challenge.These short 20-30 minute yoga sessions are a great way to stretch everything out I find, as it targets all of your muscles. Yes, there are times where I cannot do certain poses, however I find that Adriene (the yoga pro) is just great at making sure you stay aware of your body, reminding you throughout the video to make sure you adapt a pose in response to what your body is telling you. And of course, with it being a video you can totally take a time out if you need to, its all at your own pace.
I do find that certain poses such as ‘downwards facing dog’ and ‘plank’ are a struggle as I cannot place my palms faced flat onto the ground, but I certainly do try for as long as I can, and I do feel great after doing so as I feel like my arms are getting a good work out as well as my hamstrings being stretched. But its not just strength you are gradually building through this, it also works a treat for getting yourself to unwind and relax; finding somewhere quiet and listening to your body. It really is you time. I do find it difficult to allocate 10 minutes to just reflect on the day and appreciate all things positive. At the end of the yoga practice it has just been great to sit and focus on my breathing, appreciating the day’s events. It a win win really, a great way to gradually build my strength using my own body weight and more importantly to relax, practising some form of mindfulness, to de-stress. I really do recommend you guys who are seeking something to help you de-stress to maybe give it a go as well. Okay, well, I never thought I would get this excited about exercise but that’s my rant about how much I’m really enjoying yoga at the moment over! x