Coping With Chronic Illness: Art + Yoga = Hope

Explore an integrative method that manages the stress and complexities of chronic illness.

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Managing chronic illness is complex and stressful. On the one hand, there are the emotions: grief, fear, anxiety, anger, perhaps depression. On the other hand, there are the doctor visits, the consistent tests and procedures, and the sometimes false hope that the next medication or treatment will work better. All this, on top of the physical symptoms—as well as the side effects from the medications that we take to treat them. How does one move beyond coping, and into resilience, as you ride this tough road? Is that even possible? There is a way; it’s a very simple practice and it offers hope: an integrative expressive arts and yoga method.

Let’s Redefine Hope

Hope is often defined as an optimistic attitude of mind; one that is based on the expectation of positive outcomes. For purposes of this discussion, hope does not mean cure. It does not even have to mean optimism. Here, hope relates to control.

Hope diminishes when you feel a loss of control, especially over your body. Hope diminishes when you face your mortality, or are forced to let go of a lifestyle and the identity that goes with it. The combined practice of expressive art making and yoga provides hope by restoring a sense of control; you will see that you have the personal choice to do an activity that benefits your health that does not involve doctors or medicine. Art making also allows yourself the time and and opportunity for emotional expression, as well as the opportunity to redefine yourself and/or your relationship with the disease.

About the Art + Yoga Method

The expressive arts-meets-yoga technology is based on principles of art therapy and classic yoga—both of which are demonstrated to improve the empowerment and sense of well-being among individuals living with chronic illness. The practice also offers many restorative physical benefits.

The basic essence of an integrated expressive arts and yoga practice is this: you complete a line drawing that represents your emotions and physical sensations. Then, you practice gentle yoga poses (asana), breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana). As you complete the yoga, you’ll do a second drawing, followed by a specialized journaling technique called “processing”.

The Results of the Art + Yoga Method

This image shows line art created before and after a brief gentle yoga practice.

Here’s what happens as you practice the art + yoga method:

  • The activities calm the nervous system, such that the experience of stress and anxiety are reduced.
  • You’ll witness a noticeable shift between the two drawings. The colors in the second drawing typically become brighter, and the line shapes become softer. Words associated with the drawings become more positive, empowered, and encouraging.
  • When you journal with the artwork, you connect with a reassuring and wise inner voice. You will feel surprised when it offers you a grounded, deepened and broader perspective.
  • You’ll feel good that you brought yourself into a positive shift using simple, accessible, and FREE methods. You’ll note that you have the choice to continue to do that. With that choice comes hope. You continue the practice.

Hope is Available

I don’t have a chronic illness, but I have two parents, friends, and other family members who do. Every week I work with individuals who live with different forms of chronic illness. I believe in the integrative expressive arts and yoga method, and I offer it from my heart. Although it is not a cure, there are many ways in which it helps. And in its help it offers hope.

Originally published at  Free resources are available.

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