Today, like every other day, I closed my yoga class by advising everyone that I’m available for questions. Normally, I’m able answer most questions. Today, not so much or at least not to my satisfaction.
An older gentleman approached me and told me he has a pacemaker in his chest, he’s been cleared to exercise and currently runs and swims, he has some scar tissue, and he wanted to know what I knew about yoga and people with pacemaker’s. I advised him that he had the distinct honor of being my first pacemaker client (to my knowledge). He also went on to tell me that he has wires in his chest that connect from the pacemaker to his heart.
I humbly told him that I personally didn’t have any specific information to provide as I hadn’t learned anything addressing pacemakers and yoga. However, I told him to definitely listen to his body, tune into it’s feedback, and if something doesn’t feel good to not do it. (Today, wheel was an option in class. I advised that maybe since he had those wires that bridge might be a better option). I also promised him, I’d research and see what I could find.
OK, that’s how I left class. Now, it’s been on my mind and as such is my inspiration for today’s blog.
Did a little Googling… Here is a summary of what I’ve found.
1. First, it is important to understand a little bit about the design of the pacemaker and what doctors are saying.
Pacemakers have two basic parts: the generator, which is implanted under the skin between the shoulder and chest, and one or more wires (known as leads) that stretch from the generator to the heart. The leads are designed to flex and move freely when the arm or shoulder nearest the pacemaker moves so no worries with regards to normal day to day activity.
One doctor’s advise was to have clients to use caution in exercises with arm-strengthening machines, rowing, and lifting weights. Don’t do them repetitively meaning everyday as you can prematurely wear out parts of your leads. Another piece of advice that in my opinion really applies to yoga, was to take caution with any activity that involves excessive extension of the arm nearest the pacemaker. Moves that have excessive extension could crush the lead between the collarbone and the first rib.
So with this being said, I would encourage body awareness, approach poses slowly (no jerky movements into a pose), and the freedom of options in yoga class:
– Do bridge instead of wheel
– Do less of a deep back bendy camel (maybe with hands on hips) vs. full camel
– Do one armed floor bow (used a strap on the pacemaker side) or pursue locust instead of full floor bow
– Do legs up the wall or shoulder-stand instead of full handstand or scorpion
– Do modified plank into Chaturanga if a lot are cued
– With Sun Salutations, there are lots of options for the back bends…baby cobra, sphinx, cobra, and upward facing dog — make your choice
– Some binding work maybe to much for the pacemaker side, choose a strap or only do a half bind
2. Be mindful of your breath. Breathing can affect heart rate. Most breathing practices in yoga are fine; however, if you feel dizzy or lightheaded, stop the breathing practice and resume your normal breathing rhythm.
Why do I say this, the deep back bendy stuff where extended arms have a lot of tension could cause you to pull out leads which seems to be the biggest issue active people seemed to have and I know you definitely don’t want to pull out a lead! Adopt the yoga essence while on your mat.
– Don’t be all hooah/competitive on your mat.
– Don’t beat yourself up because you pursue other options in class. There is no judgement nor expectations in yoga.
– Listen to your body and choose other alternatives/modifications as you pursue practice. Also, no one wants you to pass out or hurt yourself… especially me your yoga teacher.
– PLEASE TELL YOUR YOGA TEACH YOU HAVE A PACEMAKER… Doing so will help us deliver other alternatives better suited for you as we cue class.
Yoga is more than your typical workout. It is also supposed to be helpful, restorative, and to bring about balance to our bodies. It is not like what you have out in the gym where they say no pain, no gain.