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Yoga + Chronic Illness – Best Picks for When the Struggle Is Real:

We're so grateful to get to know the real people that are using Yoga Wake Up around the world, and it is through App Store reviews, social media and personal messages from you guys that we understand what keeps you coming back to the app every day. We realize that there are countless reasons why people practice yoga and meditation and that the benefits are truly unique for us all. There are obvious ones such as providing a sense of calm or helping us to be more malleable or flexible in mind and body. That said, we were especially intrigued and touched to learn that Yoga Wake Up also has benefits beyond the ones that affect us all, benefits that are of utmost value. These benefits are ones related to chronic illness and physical pain.

Yoga Wake Up brand ambassador Natalie Sayre gave us some insight into how she manages day to day. She is among the estimated 38 million adults that struggle with migraines, 2-3 million of which have a chronic condition. She told us how Yoga Wake Up helps her and graciously allowed us to share her story.

I used to scroll through Instagram and pause with envy when I saw timelapses of people doing home yoga flows. As someone who’s always enjoyed my yoga practice, a difficult sacrifice of living with chronic illness has been restriction of my ability to go to yoga studios or to even do virtual home classes (because looking at screens reliably triggers migraine pain). I don’t quite have the yogi skills or confidence to guide myself through a flow yet, so that has not been an option either.

About two years ago I found the app, Yoga Wake Up, which has helped me build a yoga practice that works with my health right now. Since all of the classes on Yoga Wake Up are audio-guided and relatively short (most are between 10-15 min), they are a perfect non-screen guided way for me to move my body and reconnect with the feeling I missed so much from my previous yoga practice.

Yoga Wake Up is designed to be an optional alarm clock replacement (an idea that I love), but I find that I use their guided audio classes most often a few hours after waking up or in the evening when I am winding down.

If I do a morning class before bed, I simply replace the teachers’ words “start your day” with “end your day”, or “good morning” with “good night”. Yoga with chronic illness is all about modification, and this is one important thing to keep in mind when using this app!

Below are my 5 favorite Yoga Wake Up recordings when the struggle is real. They are for those days when you haven’t been able to get out of bed, when your pain has been unrelenting, when you’re coming out of a bad cycle and just easing back into your body and mind and/or, when your fatigue is at an all time high.

I find these recordings to be an extremely powerful tool for shifting my headspace and making me feel like I’ve done something to fill up my self-care bucket. I hope you enjoy them too.

My 5 favorite Yoga Wake Up recordings for when the struggle is real.

1. Shine Your Light, Sophie Jaffe (yoga)

This is my favorite slow paced + joy-filled wake up. Sophie’s calming and comforting voice gently guides you through seated stretches and breathing exercises (manageable when not feeling well) while inviting you to notice all of the good in your life and settle into deep gratitude. Ideal for mornings, but good any time of day. This recording is one of my go-to tools when I’m feeling self-doubt. It helps remind me that, “I really am enough”, and shifts my energy and vibration.

2. You are Enough, Arielle McFadden (yoga)

This wake-up focuses on using breath, intention and gentle movement to invite calm and peace. Movement consists of seated stretches which are all easy to do from bed, and ideal for mornings. Arielle urges you to focus on one thing that is going right (a really powerful exercise on hard days) and guides you into affirming that you are enough just the way you are and your life is here for you to enjoy.

3. Meeting Your Compassionate Self, Ferny Barceló (meditation)

This is my number one choice on a tough day and a reminder that “you got you”. It is a meditative mental journey vs. a breath focused session. So useful for days when you’re mired in comparison, feeling sad or unmotivated, being overly critical of yourself or aren’t getting the support you need from others. You can do this meditation lying down, and I find is especially powerful to use before bed after a hard day.

4. Yin for a Quiet Mind, Niki Saccareccia (yoga)

This is an excellent option for getting out of your head and into your body. A strong emphasis on breathing out the day (no matter what it’s looked like) and breathing in centered calmness. It begins sitting, and ends lying down; very easy to do from bed. Gentle guidance on how to let go and trust that your bed will hold every ounce of you – physically and emotionally.

5. Rest and Digest, Alex Dawson (meditation)

This meditation is a good “reset button” for extra tough days. It’s only 10 minutes, and you can do the whole thing lying down. Although intended for evening, it’s useful at any time of day, when you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress or pain. It has a strong emphasis on unwinding the stomach, eyes, jaw and other often sneaky tense muscles.

*Bonus rec* Jazzy Wake Up, Mark Berger (yoga)

Ok, this is not a wakeup for struggle-bus days, but it is so fun that I had to include as a bonus for the days when you are feeling good! This one is excellent to infuse your day with love, intention and fun and has a feel good soundtrack you will inevitably start dancing to a little. There are some forward folds, so modify if need be and just let yourself have fun with it!

Natalie Sayre (or better known as the face and voice behind @mindfulmigraine) is a twenty-something sharing the ups and downs of mindfully navigating life with chronic illness. She has a passion for connecting with others and using mindfulness to transform the experience of chronic pain. On her instagram, you can follow the day-to-day of her journey to live a life of wellness, while facing the ever-changing landscape of chronic illness.