Yoga for Caregivers: The Natural Way to Relieve Stress & Pain

A couple of years ago, as I jay-jogged across a busy avenue from my parking spot to the building where I worked, I felt a sharp paint shoot up my leg and into my hip. I'd had some nagging pain issues there for a time, but since I have three types of arthritis and am hardly young, this wasn't surprising. Still, it was frustrating.

My mother had undergone double hip replacements and I figured, grudgingly, that my time was nearer than I thought. The hip pain kept getting worse. I found myself wincing as I walked to get the mail. I even developed enough of a limp that my colleagues noticed a change in my normally rapid gait.

I finally made an appointment with a chiropractor I'd seen from time to time. I trusted him, as he knew and respected arthritis issues, and was careful not to do any harm. He manipulated gently and did some acupressure and tapped me in the tight spots with his little rubber hammer. He commented on my tight lower back, not unusual for someone who sits at a keyboard all day.

The treatments helped some, but never lasted. Sometimes, I'd experience numbness the next day. One day, an idea flashed across my little pea brain. "Gee, Honey, you haven't done your yoga routine for, um, 3 years?"

During the mid-70s I received, through a book club, a "free gift" about natural beauty and such. The book wasn't of huge interest to me as I am lazy about such things and still had hippy hair, but I did notice a nice yoga workout. I'd suffered from migraines since my teens, and thought this stretching routine might help the migraines. I've always been unusually limber, so the "workout" seemed effortless. But I did it because it did feel kind of good.

Yoga Helps Get Rid of Aches and Pains

Okay, fast forward a decade. I'd dropped the yoga after a couple of years. Sheer laziness and apathy on my part. The focus sort of floated away. However, after giving birth to two children and raising them into post-toddlerhood, I was having some pain in various regions of my body. I knew the family arthritis was finding its way into an old neck injury as well as other spots. Again, I started my little 15-minute workout. Yes, 15 minutes! Even I had time for that if I chose to use my time well. Quite quickly, though not as quickly as in my younger years, I was back at it. Doing a heals-over-head "plow" pose was nothing. I felt great.

But, um, life once again interfered. This is my pattern. I decide one night I don't have time for that routine. Pretty soon a week goes by, then a month, then a year. Eventually, I'd completely – and brainlessly – given up this simple route to feeling better.

Spurts of yoga are dotted in that same manner throughout decades of my life. Finally, the hip pain reminded me that I was probably in need of some good stretching. I took out the old book to remind myself of the moves and began once more. This time, of course, was just a bit harder than all of my other times. But I stuck to it, and the hip pain disappeared. X-rays had shown some arthritis wear and tear, but nothing serious. The chiropractor had helped. But this was free. I could do it at home. And, more importantly, it worked beautifully!

Alas, I did drop it a few more times. Sometimes I need pain to remind me to be good to my body. Lately, I have started that simple routine again. I make myself put down the book I'm relaxing with in the evening and just sit on the floor. Then, I give myself permission to just do half the routine. Soon, since I'm at it, I finish it and then am proud of myself, as well as more relaxed.

Yoga and Your Well-Being: Health and Happiness

This time, I pushed myself, but didn't go to the point of pain. In a few weeks (rather than days as when I was younger), I'd gotten back on track. The trick for me is "no excuses!" If I think of one I can think of a dozen. And why? This short routine makes me feel great, eases pain and keeps me moving quickly and efficiently.

I'm also at an age where balance starts to go. That means falls could happen. Yoga is great for balance. My brain knows it all. I need to take that knowledge and turn it into action. I need to stop goofing off while the decades pass by like telephones poles from a train window. My yoga routine is easy if I just do it.

Many people are better off starting out with classes. I, no doubt, could use a few so I know my form is correct when I do the poses. But, my personality is such that I likely won't go. So I continue on with my old routine.

As with all exercise, checking with a doctor is good. Some people shouldn't be rolling heals-over-head for any reason. But there are yoga poses that nearly anyone can do. Breathing right is something I'm spotty about and an instructor could help with that. Some people meditate while doing yoga. I prefer my own twist on that. My yoga is for physical wellbeing. And if I'm not totally brainless, I will keep going this time. If I don't, I know it will be harder to get started the next time I feel pain.

 
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Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.
 






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