Coping With Chronic Illness: Art + Yoga = Hope

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 medication that we take to treat them.  How do we move beyond coping, and into resilience, as we ride this tough road? Is that even possible? There is a way; it’s a very simple practice and it offers hope. It’s Art + Yoga Wellness.

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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 our purposes, hope does not mean cure. It does not even have to mean optimism. Here, hope relates to control.

Hope diminishes when we feel a loss of control, especially over our bodies. Hope diminishes when we face our mortality, or are forced to let go of a lifestyle and the identity that goes with it. The practice of Art + Yoga provides hope by restoring a sense of control. We see that we have the personal choice to do something for our health that does not involve doctors or medicine.  We also allow ourselves the time and space for emotional expression, as well as the opportunity to redefine ourselves and/or our relationship with the disease.

Get Hope Through Art + Yoga

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Art + Yoga Wellness 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 Art + Yoga Wellness practice is this: we do a line drawing that represents our emotions and physical sensations. We practice gentle yoga poses (asana), breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana). Then we do another drawing, and a specialized journaling technique. Here’s what happens:

  • The experience of stress and anxiety is reduced.
  • We see a noticeable shift in the drawings. The colors become brighter, the line shapes become softer. Words associated with the drawings become more positive, empowered, and encouraging.
  • When we journal with the artwork, we connect with a reassuring and wise inner voice. We are surprised when it offers us a deepened and broader perspective.
  • We feel good that we brought ourselves to a positive shift. We see that we have the choice to continue to do that. With that choice comes hope. We continue the practice.

Help is Here

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 with different forms of chronic illness; this week I presented to a group of individuals who have HIV/AIDS. I believe in Art + Yoga Wellness 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. Read about the biological benefits of Art + Yoga Wellness here.

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Jodi Gonzales ATR, NCC, RYT200 is a credentialed art therapist, counselor and yoga instructor. She is the creator of Art + Yoga Wellness, a powerful program that provides effective tools for improving resilience, including emotional and physical health. Jodi offers presentations and group workshops both in-person and on-line. To learn about how Art + Yoga Wellness will benefit you or your organization, contact Jodi at shift@artyogawellness.com or 520-276-1878. Current events and workshops are posted at http://artyogawellness.com/events/ and on Facebook.