Chair Yoga Helpful After Stem Cell Transplant and at Other Stressful Times
When I’m running or playing tennis, it’s hard for me to believe that after my last transplant, I was so weak that I could barely sit on the edge of my hospital bed. But that was the case as I recovered from life-threatening infections and from kidney failure, some 11 years ago.
I was in bed for much of my three-and-a-half-month stay in what my doctor called “the big house.” My muscles grew incredibly weak. I was a baby after my transplant in terms of needing to learn how to walk, and I took baby steps. I struggled to even walk half of the nurses’ station. I held onto someone’s arm or used a walker. I would look longingly back towards my room. I just wanted to get back to bed. Gradually, it got easier. To get out of the hospital, I had to pass a test: walking up and down a flight of stairs.
At home, I still had to do a lot of work. A physical therapist came and gave me exercises. One of them was to put on very light ankle weights (I can’t remember the exact weight) and walk around my house. I could barely lift my feet. The weights made me do it while strengthening my leg muscles.
Learning chair yoga
I was grateful for a gift that a friend had given me years earlier, after my first transplant. It was a video of about 30 minutes of chair yoga. The teacher, Rodney Yee, sat on a beach. He spoke in a soothing voice. I didn’t realize how well-known he was in the yoga world. To me, he was a friend leading me in tension-releasing exercises. These included simple movements such as crossing one leg over the other, holding onto the back of the chair, and looking over one shoulder and then the other. (And then doing the same on the other side.)
Going to a yoga class gave structure to my day. I was just in my den, but I was also on a beach.
I do other kinds of yoga now, but I went back to chair yoga after each of my transplants. It was a way to ease into activity, and I still do some of those chair yoga movements when I’m sitting in an airport or sitting around.
Yoga stretches me out and settles me down. Due to my neuropathy, balance poses are a challenge. But I don't mind the challenge. As long as I don't cuss myself out (which can sometimes happen), the effort gets me out of my head. Sometimes I hold on to a railing or tap a wall.
Yoga as a stress relief
These days, yoga helps with another kind of challenge: quarantining due to COVID-19. The classes are all virtual. At first, I thought it was odd to see my teacher on a computer screen on my coffee table. But like many things I have gotten used to, it is just something I do now.
If you want to try chair yoga, you will find a lot of free options online. Chair yoga with the popular Adriene Mishler is among them. Having done her yoga for writers, I can vouch for her ability to give clear and concise directions in a sweet and soothing voice. “Chair Yoga invites you to find mobility in a way that is soft and gentle but also really supportive and beneficial,” according to the description.
A friend with neck and shoulder issues enjoys chair yoga by another teacher, Darcie Clark. This teacher targets different areas in separate videos. A recent addition to her YouTube channel, a 10-minute sequence for neck tension and headache relief, sounds like it could be just the right thing for any difficult time.
Editor’s note: This article was published on May 4, 2020. Further developments in what we know about COVID-19 are continuously emerging. For more information about COVID-19 and strategies for coping, visit Self-Care in Uncertain Times.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?