This blog post was written by COPDer Sharon Ring, who lives in the UK.
On the seventeenth of March, 2010, my life changed completely just by walking into a room.
I was at my local general practitioner to pick up my spirometry results. Twenty minutes after walking into that room I walked out as someone with COPD. Those first few hours were some of the most confusing of my entire life: so much advice on the internet; so many books in the library; so many friends and family all standing by to give me some advice.
Physically, and emotionally, I needed room to breathe and time to think.
My COPD diagnosis came just as I was preparing to move halfway across the country to a new life with my fiancé, Ian. I caught myself wondering what kind of future we could have now I’d been diagnosed with chronic lung disease. Could we grow old together, maybe even be one of those couples who still hold hands in their sixties and seventies? Would my condition deteriorate so rapidly in a few short years that he might be “lumbered” with someone who could even make it out the front door, let alone
walk down the street with him?
My mind was running wild for several days, though not just with “negative” thoughts. I had given up smoking. I knew that would help slow progression of this condition. I had begun walking every day, whatever the weather. I was getting used to my new daily inhaler medication.
And then something struck me, an idea which I felt sure could have a positive effect on the symptoms of my COPD. Yoga. I had practiced yoga for many years in my teens and twenties yet had fallen out of practice as I reached my thirties, due to work demands and being a single parent. I somehow never seemed to find the time anymore for such simple pleasures.
It was here my research into the positive benefits of yoga for people diagnosed with COPD began. Did you know that if you type the keywords “yoga” and “COPD” into Google you get over 320,000 results? I knew I was on the right track with this and my next port of call was to talk with my doctor. I was given the go-ahead to practice some of the basic yoga positions, to perhaps join a class if I could find a good, local one.
I continued to research the subject online as well as developing a basic, daily routine that suits my needs. Now I try to incorporate a little yoga practice into my daily life. I don’t always have time for long sessions but yoga is an exercise which can literally be practiced as you’re going about your daily chores!
Forget, just for a moment, about all those seemingly impossible stretches and positions. At the very heart of yoga are some basic rules of breathing and posture and it is here, for those of us living with COPD, that we can begin to reap the benefits of daily practice. Sitting in our favourite armchair as we read a book, doing the dishes, or walking to the shop for a newspaper; almost any daily activity you can think of can include gentle breathing exercises.
For me, daily yoga practice has made a world of difference. I breathe more easily than I have done in several years, I can walk longer distances and even go hill-walking these days!
I find myself at a crossroads now. I have mastered the basics again. I now feel ready to join a class and take my yoga practice to another level. Wish me luck!
One last thing. I told my doctor I was writing this article and she asked me to make the following points.
- Before embarking on any new exercise programme, please remember to consult your health practitioner.
- If you like to exercise and socialize, join a yoga class, but please check the credentials of any yoga teacher first and always let them know about your condition.
- Always, when practicing yoga or any other form of exercise, have your inhalers or oxygen supply close to hand
- If, at any time, you are struggling to breathe, stop exercising immediately, take a break and use your medication.