For many people with adrenal exhaustion, getting enough exercise is just one more thing to worry about.
You know exercise is good for you, and that getting out in the fresh air oxygenates your blood and rejuvenates your soul; but how does that help when you’re just too tired to get off the sofa?
Find what works for you
The way you experience adrenal fatigue is unique to you. That’s why finding an exercise you enjoy, which will give you all the benefits of a work out (without the post-class ‘battery drain’) is so important.
Training “just for the sake of it” simply won’t provide you with the same kind of positive side effects as participating in activities you really enjoy. So how do you get the balance between finding the energy to get out there, and not over-working yourself?
The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda may be able to provide us with some useful ways of thinking about this.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is an ancient healthcare system that was developed in India around 3000 years ago.
According to Ayurvedic theory, every single one of us is made up of a combination (in differing proportions) of the five fundamental elements, of Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. At birth, these elements combine together to create your individual constitution or dosha – of which there are three main types.
Vata – made up of Space and Air, Vata controls the nervous system and all movement in the body. It regulates processes such as breathing, bowel movements and even your thoughts. This dosha is responsible for keeping all the others in check. When Vata is out of whack, all the other body functions feel the effect. Typical symptoms of Vata imbalance include anxiety, erratic thoughts, stiff joints and insomnia (sound familiar?)
Pitta – created from the elements of fire and water, this dosha is responsible for processes such as the manufacture of digestive juices, and controlling inflammation in the body. When Vata is aggravated the air element “fans the flames” of the Pitta fire, creating havoc in the body and eventually leading to burn out.
Kapha – made up of water and earth, this dosha is responsible for grounding and growth. Unfortunately a Vata imbalance can also adversely affect this dosha too. A lack of air to move the Kapha (picture a stagnant lake) creates problems like weight gain, immune dysfunction and constipation.
Balance your Vata
Armed with this knowledge, it’s clear to see that keeping your Vata happy is crucial if you want to get ahead of your adrenal fatigue. In this way Ayurveda can offer practical advice about what foods to eat, the right hobbies to pursue, and even which exercises are the best for you.
As most people with adrenal fatigue have a fundamental Vata imbalance (Vata rules the nervous system), choosing an exercise that will help to bring this back into balance makes complete sense.
What are the best exercises for Vata?
The elements of air and space which make up Vata have cold, dry, quick and light qualities, so you should look to do activities that counterbalance this.
Let me give you a real life example:
Face paced, competitive activities that overstimulate your adrenal glands will aggravate the nervous system and increase Vata. Therefore, a one hour Insanity class is much more likely to aggravate your fatigue than slow, grounding activities like Pilates. Get the idea?
Here are a few other suggestions to try:
Being outdoors in nature is absolutely one of the best activities for anyone with adrenal issues. The fresh air helps to revitalize you, and the feeling of the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair is a guaranteed tonic for anxiety and stress.
If you don’t have a garden of your own, you still have lots of options. Get in touch with your local park and ask if they need volunteers. Many run free nature walks, or have workshops where you can learn about plants and conservation in your area. Depending on your activity you could be squatting, digging, or lifting. Who needs exercise classes when you can do this?!
Although an obvious choice, there’s far too much evidence to suggest that walking is good for you not to include it here. However, Ayurveda maintains that in order to correct your imbalances it’s important to be mindful of the kind of walking you do. For example, hill climbing (too much air) or power walking (too much fire) won’t have the same Vata pacifying effect as going for a stroll by a lake or at the beach.
Swimming is a great choice of exercise for anyone with Vata imbalance and adrenal fatigue. The water provides an ideal counterbalance for the air qualities of Vata. If you’ve ever started your day with a ten minute swim, you’ll know it can calm the mind as well as work every muscle in your body.
Almost everyone agrees that Yoga is good for the mind, body and soul, but which type of class is best for soothing Vata? Yin yoga is grounding, and can help you master your thoughts and emotions by teaching you how to “breathe through it” (a useful technique for anyone with high levels of stress). On the other hand, an hour of hot yoga may leave you feeling depleted and drained.
Rule of thumb: if you feel completely drained at the end of your exercise session, it’s likely you haven’t found the best activity for you. Listen to your body and only go as far as feels comfortable. Avoid participating in too many competitive sports, or persevering with an exercise routine that’s over-taxing or demanding. It’s a sure fire way to make your adrenal fatigue worse.
What exercise do you benefit most from? We’d love to know what works for you!