A Guide to Not Telling Chronically Ill People to Do Yoga
If you’re reading this, you may be suffering from the urge to suggest doing yoga to someone who is chronically ill, disabled, or experiencing pain for some other reason. Perhaps this person is someone close to you or someone you just met five minutes ago at a party. Either way, you believe that the practice of yoga would benefit them, even though you don’t have the same condition they do and, well, actually don’t know anything about it. You also believe that the thought of trying yoga has never, ever crossed their mind — maybe not even the word “yoga.” So, obviously, you need to advise them, right?
Should you tell a chronically ill person to try yoga?
To help you find the answer to that question, I have created a convenient flow chart. Please answer each question honestly.
Image created by the author of this article, Cassia Pelton.
I know it may take effort to suppress the urge to suggest yoga, but by doing so, you will save one chronically ill person from the frustration they feel every time someone suggests yoga as a solution to their complicated and serious illness.
Yoga can be great, but it's not for everyone
Now for a quick disclaimer: yoga is a wonderful form of exercise that can do great things for the mind and body. Many chronically ill people practice yoga and find it helps their symptoms. However, it is up to only the chronically ill person to decide which methods will work to manage their symptoms.
When someone without the same condition suggests a simple solution like yoga, it shows ignorance toward the severity of the person’s symptoms and implies that the chronically ill person isn’t already doing everything they can to manage their illness. If relieving a symptom like pain, for example, was as simple as doing yoga — no one would live in pain! And when someone has been living with a chronic illness for months, years, or their entire life, they have likely been advised to try yoga way too many times. The same applies to common suggestions like diet changes, weight loss, and stress management — we’ve heard it all and we’re sick of it!
We're the experts
As chronically ill people, we are the experts on our own conditions. Please do your research, but most importantly, listen to us. Your “expertise” based on a lifetime of not being chronically ill is not at all helpful to us. Instead, try these methods to support the chronically ill person in your life. And please remember to refer to the flowchart above the next time the phrase, “you should try yoga,” is about to emerge from your lips.
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