During Endometriosis Awareness Week, I really want to try and show all the faces of endo and the women it affects - from the raw and painful truth of the symptoms, to the positive and hopeful ways we have found to manage it. In my first post, I'd like to start on a light note and cover a really useful resource I've discovered recently; Do Yoga With Me.
Up until December, I was doing my best to walk up the mountain that is my road (I live on a seriously steep hill) and go to a lovely yoga class called Yoga in Motion, in Crystal Palace. The wonderful teacher, Julie, was just getting started and offered day classes which proved more popular, so I was lucky enough to be the only one to attend on a Monday evening. Even though a walk up the road doesn't seem far, after a full day of work with chronic fatigue and pain, I had a tough job convincing myself to leave the safety and comfort of my home. But when I did reach the top of the hill, it was blissful (except for the moments when I'd realise just how inflexible I am).
I have always found the repetitiveness of yoga challenging - my mind can wander and get impatient - I'm constantly thinking about what I need to do after class, tomorrow, that week, next week, next month! But Yoga in Motion was a different form of yoga, based on the 'Yoga of Dance' and was gentle, restorative and unlike any yoga I had done before - I didn't know many of the moves, so I remained engaged and enjoyed learning a new process. In addition, Julie created a calming environment that felt like how my idea of yoga should be - darkness lit only by lamps glowing in the corners, beautiful and mysterious pictures adorning the walls, incense and candles and soothing, rhythmic music you could lose yourself in. Julie also tailored her support to my needs and showed such an interest in endometriosis and how it affected me, that she even looked into mantras and moves to support my well being specifically.
Unfortunately, as the winter went on and my health struggle continued, I did find it challenging to even leave the house and there were occasions when I was too exhausted or too unwell to attend. I still went as much as I could - often trying to go the next week if I had missed a class, so time didn't build up between. But Christmas and the New Year brought a pause to the classes and following that, my lovely teacher moved location and was only able to keep the day classes, which at present I just can't fit in.
So for a good few weeks I have been without yoga, and largely because I haven't had the strength or time to fit it in or even try and find a new class. But thankfully, my nutritionist friend suggested Do Yoga with Me, after providing me with a consultation and emphasising the importance of exercise for my mental health, energy and overall well-being.
Do Yoga with Me is an online community of instructors offering yoga lessons through videos and nearly all of it's for free. In addition, there are videos and playlists for meditations and breathing exercises, which could be very useful for coping with stress and anxiety and there are also programmes for different levels and needs. Personally, I think the challenge when it comes to exercise and endo, is that although exercise helps us to feel better (in most cases), it's so hard trying to keep up with a regular set class or go when you're supposed to, because you never know when you'll get a flare up or when fatigue will hit, which is why the flexibility of online sessions interest me so much.
The first time I tried the site was when I was spending every waking hour preparing for a big presentation and meeting - I didn't have time to get to a class nearby because I was too glued to my screen. Hunching over my laptop left me with really painful shoulders and a stiff neck, which made completing the task even harder. I had a little browse of the website and found short tutorials on releasing upper back tension and stress. Some of them are longer than others, so I mixed and matched to what I needed and it was great to get the chance to pause, fit in some quick exercise and slow down my mind in the process, it really helped give me a release both physically and mentally. I did find it difficult to choose which one to start with and I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of choice, especially when I needed something short and sweet, but once I stopped deliberating and ran with my decision, I settled into the flow of using a video and not a class. I do think it's a shame not having the same comfort I found in Julie's sessions, but when I have a bit more time to prepare, I can light some candles and incense and I'm willing to substitute that space for the convenience of going online. Another perk, which I only discovered recently, is that there are also videos for stress relief, anxiety, better sleep and a range of others which I hope will help with my endometriosis and the related mental and physical health symptoms.
I'm about to change jobs and cut my hours due to my health issues, so even though I loved working with Julie, Do Yoga With Me also suits my bank balance for now. I think the site could be a really helpful solution for women with endo who like me, are choosing to work less hours or are temporarily unable to work, but still want to do some form of exercise. It also cuts the journeying, the awkwardness of having to leave a class because the pain's too bad and the general over-crowdedness of most yoga classes in big cities (which really doesn't help my anxiety levels).
After such a lengthy break, I would really like to get back into some kind of exercise routine to support my mental health and boost my energy levels and so am definitely going to incorporate a few videos into my week and see how I get on. If you know of any similar sites, DVDs or exercise classes or routines which you feel help manage your endo, I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below or get in touch. :)
Images from DoYogaWithMe.com