Have you tried yoga? 

Part 2: In which I explain how yoga has been beneficial for me in terms of managing some of the challenges of being ND, and draw parallels with my life over the last year or so.

Written in February 2023  (read part 1 here)


Before I started with yoga in late December I was joking in my group chat that my New Year's resolution was to become one of those people who won't shut up about yoga and clean living. That's how much of a “fit” this idea was with me! It turns out that I have achieved that New Year's resolution, although writing this is about as far as I am going to go with the evangelism (unless I am asked about it) because I know how it feels to be told that yoga is the panacea you've been looking for. So, how has it helped me?


For a start, even if I weren't to do any of the movements just taking 20 to 30 minutes out of my day to focus on me and let distractions go for a while is helpful. I find meditating really hard – how are us autistic/ADHD folks supposed to empty our minds when there's 64% more neural activity to shush than NT folk? Focusing on my breath is the most accessible form of mindfulness meditation for me and while the fairground of my brain is still very much on the go, I can at least focus more intently on one thing and get some small respite from the constant stimulation of my mind.


Focusing on the breath and how it drives movement is also really helpful for deepening that connection and that focus. I have felt more connected to my physical self and more aware of how I move and my posture has definitely improved as a result. I'm also much better able to tell left from right which is a huge surprise for me as I have always struggled with this. Perhaps it's the stronger mind-body connection, or maybe being slightly inverted in downward facing dog so I can see my hands and feet all at the same time allows more visual oversight. Whatever the reason, I'm not having to quickly reset, or think too much about which side is left and which is right. I haven't had a lot of opportunity to see if this skill transfers into my life off the mat, but it's a relief to find my lack of directional sense hasn't stopped me from doing yoga.


Physically I have felt relaxed, grounded, energised and content in varying degrees after practice. I've bookmarked certain sessions for future use when I need a particular effect, but it's surprising how many different effects yoga can have depending on the speed, type of movement and duration of certain exercises. It shouldn't really be a surprise given that there are lots of different types of yoga, but my cynicism wouldn't let me see that before I tried it for myself.


I've pushed myself physically within my comfort zone, and Adriene's approach is a lot to do with that. There are always modifications available, she explains what each movement is trying to achieve and there's never any pressure to mimic her exactly. She makes the practice feel like yours even though she's directing. Crucially, she doesn't use phrases like “if you can't do this”, rather saying “if this isn't available to you”, which doesn't make you feel like you're not trying hard enough and validates that some people can do things on some days that they can't on others. Her guidance is genuine, it feels like practising with a peer rather than a teacher.


I feel stronger, I can see that I am more flexible, and I feel more grounded generally after practice. I feel like the progress I have made, both physically and mentally, has been authentic and driven by my effort. So next time some well-meaning person decides they can white-knight all my physical health problems away by suggesting yoga I can tell them I already do it daily. With a smile.


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