A man leading a group of people in a yoga flow, which can help with axial spondyloarthritis symptoms.

Doing Yoga to Manage My AxSpA

Yoga is something highly recommended for people living with AxSpA, my doctors and physiotherapist told me. I was specifically suggested to look up a local group called “yoga for stiff men,” but...umm...I wasn’t typing that into my search bar. Fortunately for me, yoga was part of the group fitness classes offered at the community facility at which I was a member.

Yoga is for everyone

Yoga was always something I avoided. It seemed effeminate. It’s something for tiny flexible people, gymnasts, and dancer types. I can’t bend in half. Hesitantly, I joined up for a class.

It turns out my preconceived notions were very wrong. Although I’m usually one of a few men in each class, it’s an incredibly welcoming group. It’s very important for improving and maintaining my mobility and flexibility. I try to do some stretching daily, but let’s be honest, life often gets in the way. So, I make sure to set aside time at least two days per week to do some yoga.

I have learned my limitations the hard way.

I avoid advanced classes. Yes, it’s a welcoming and open community, but I’m not a flexible person. I can’t bend like the experts can. I’m amazed by twisty people, but I’ve tried it and it only hurts. Likewise, certain positions do nothing other than cause pain. Only I know my body, and I've learned to listen to it. Otherwise, my nerves will scream at me.

Too many times I’ve struggled through a class to go home feeling worse than I did at the beginning because the practice wasn’t right for me.

Go with the flow

Flow yoga is a style that really suits my needs. There is more movement and it’s quite fluid. Holding poses for a long time can hinder me more than it helps, so this type of yoga has been quite beneficial.

I prefer yoga instructors who invite people of all skill levels. I’m no longer a beginner. I can do the advanced version of some poses, but for others (read: no hip flexibility) I need to do the entry-level pose. In the classes I sign up for, the instructor will offer multiple ways to get into a pose or stretch. This is crucial to a successful practice for me.

One class offered is called PiYo. It’s a hybrid between pilates and yoga and it is one of my favorites. It is more up-tempo and synchronized to music, so I compare it to semi-choregraphed dancing. It also incorporates more cardio and core than a typical yoga class. I also got a high-quality mat and it makes a huge difference. My mat is sweat resistant and quite thick for extra comfort.

Yoga at home

Finally, I need to acknowledge that the present state of the world has impacted my yoga practices. They were completely canceled at the beginning. They are now being offered in an altered capacity, but I don’t feel comfortable going.

My living room is now my part-time yoga studio, or wherever I can find a place to lay down a mat. YouTube has endless options to do yoga from home. It’s not as good, but for 2020 it will do just fine.

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