By: ExoSym Patient Dominique

Hello everyone!

I am honored to be a guest contributor today on the ExoSymplyAmazing blog. Beth is a great friend of mine and this blog has been a huge blessing. You can read more about my story as an ExoSymer here.

As a military spouse, I move to new places regularly. Recently, I had a six month stretch of living out of a suitcase without access to my usual workout equipment. My go-to cycling, hiking & swimming gear were all in storage. I had to get creative on what my new workouts would entail during this period of suitcase-living. This is where my ExoSymplyYoga journey begins.

Many people who receive the ExoSym immediately return to (or start!) an active lifestyle including intense cardio and CrossFit type activities. Those things are wonderful and I know firsthand it is such a joy to be able to do those things. However, today I’d love to share my newfound passion for yoga! The gear is minimal so I was able to try it out while living out of a suitcase. More importantly, the relaxation techniques in yoga can lower blood pressure, increase strength, flexibility, blood flow, and self esteem as well as protect your spine – and the list goes on! During my time between moves and living out of a suitcase, an old high school instructor (a retired Lt. Commander fighter pilot) told me about an organization – Connected Warriors, a non-profit organization that offers free yoga classes to veterans and their family members. Commander was so passionate about how yoga changed his life that he became an instructor himself. If a retired fighter pilot can get into yoga, anybody can! As I mentioned before, I am a military spouse and was able to attend these classes for free. This opportunity fueled a passion for my newest workout obsession. I certainly wasn’t the best in the class, but I did see improvement with each session. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have been as willing to try yoga if I had to pay $20 each session so I’m very grateful for this organization. (Civilians don’t be alarmed – you can find a plethora of cost effective options on Groupon.)

Yoga class with LCDR Kenneth A. Bingham, USN (Ret.)

Connected Warriors FREE classes are located in 20 states plus 6 other countries. “The Connected Warriors, Inc. mission is to provide evidence based Trauma-Conscious yoga therapy programs for Service members, Veterans and their Families while establishing a new and progressive safe haven community for all military members, their families and volunteers worldwide.”

What a great concept. If yoga is proven to be beneficial for veterans, then surely it could help many of us proud ExoSymers. I recognize that yoga can be daunting at first. When I was first introduced to yoga, my first thought was – Can I do yoga with my ExoSym? YOU BET! The ExoSym provides stability during many poses and our whole bodies really love the movements – I promise. I have found many yoga studios to be non judgmental and actually quite encouraging during each session. I’ve had multiple instructors inspired by my ExoSym devices and want to work with me one on one to achieve my goals. (How cool is that?)

Instructors can be hands on to ensure you are safe with your practice
Instructors can be hands on to ensure you are safe with your practice. (Pictured here with Judy, Founder of Connected Warriors)

Have I convinced you yet to give it a try? If so, here are my tips:

1. The only equipment you need is a yoga mat. There are a lot of options on the market and I’m not set on a particular brand. However, I do recommend a thick one since being on your knees with the device can be awkward. You can find them for as low as $7.50 on Amazon. #iLoveAmazonPrime. Studios will generally have other equipment to borrow such as blocks & straps.

Straps help create even deeper stretches. This one feels great!
Straps help create even deeper stretches. This one feels great!
    1. Some studios discourage the use of shoes in the actual yoga room. If able, consider walking in barefoot and putting your device/shoe on once you are seated on your mat (or depending on your situation, try the class without your device). If your injury or condition prevents you from walking/weight-bearing without the assistance of the device, just let the instructor know upfront and you should be fine. (Note, shoes are welcome at all Connected Warrior classes)
    2. If you’re a veteran, look for free classes here. If you’re a civilian, consider checking out Groupon for great deals. Some studios even offer your first class for free!
    3. Most importantly – know that YOU ARE ENOUGH. If you show up to a class and struggle with some poses, it is okay. Yoga provides a culture that encourages focusing just on your practice and your mat – not comparing yourself to others. So long as you are breathing, you are doing yoga. Yoga has provided me opportunities to stretch and strengthen muscles I wouldn’t normally be able to activate through regular exercise due to my nerve condition. It has given me practical benefits in day-to-day life through increased balance and stability as well as all the health benefits I listed earlier. I see so many ExoSymers conquering amazing physical challenges and I know yoga would benefit those tight muscles. A great part about yoga is there are modifications for everything. You will often find me putting my knee on the ground for stabilization. Sometimes this even means a deeper stretch! If you’re nervous about standing for an hour, give chair yoga a try. It has many of the same benefits but allows you to sit while practicing.

I hope you consider giving yoga a try. I know you won’t regret it! Until next time my friends… Namaste!

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