Yes, you can most definitely do yoga in the tub. You can do it in a hammock, too. I know this because I’ve developed my own #hottubyoga and #hammockyoga, and those practices are essential to my healing.
Neither has a set routine or rigid poses. Sometimes I spend just half an hour or so doing one or the other. Sometimes I spend a couple hours in the hammock and then another couple hours in the tub later the same day. There are no immovable parameters within these practices. It’s all dependent on how I’m feeling and what my needs are in the moment. That is how I strive to live – fully #inthemoment – and it is that mindfulness that has helped me reconnect with my body from the inside out so that I can address damage and any healing that I need.
So, I’ll share with you what I do, and you can have a conversation with your body to see if you might prefer adapting my practices for your needs. After all, yoga is meant to create a more mindful and more internally connected existence for its practitioners, hence its highly adaptable nature and variety of poses. To me, yoga really just translates to mindful movement throughout conscious reality. If you can incorporate meditation (or prayer – same thing in my book, mostly) into your yoga, even better, as it fosters development of healthier movement through all of consciousness, both physical and non-physical. It’s also kinda one of the points and primary parts of yoga, though the relatively recent trend of westerners going to yoga classes will show you that it isn’t necessary to practice meditation to benefit from yoga.
First, make sure the tub is clean. Pull out any removable mats, and give it a quick wipe. Even if it’s been scrubbed recently, if there’s been even one shower in our tub, I wipe it out with a disinfecting wipe and give it a good rinse with scalding water. No way I’m risking Hubby’s foot stink germs to float up and around my girlie bits. Also, be sure your schedule is clear for at least a few hours, preferably the rest of the day. For me, a bath day is usually only a bath day because it does take a lot out of me. I typically need to rest afterward for quite a while and often don’t have the spoons to shower off all the salt and oil afterward, which means I dry off and lay down kinda sticky and itchy. That’s okay, though! Better just the mild unpleasant feelings than pushing too hard to get clean right away. You can always wipe off with a rag if you’re not able to get back in the tub/shower to wash.
Then drop the stopper and fill it with HOT water. Now, you might have medical needs that require cooler water – do what YOU need. For me, the heat is the most helpful part because it brings circulation back to my extremities when it’s been lacking, and they lose blood flow quite easily due to veins being too weak to stay dilated enough and support the pressure. I also get a lot of popped veins and capillaries, resulting in leopard-spotting on my legs and arms, and the relaxation brought on by heat gets my blood to where it needs to go. Check the water from the faucet every so often to be sure the temperature is staying consistent. It sucks walking away while the tub is filling just to come back to water that isn’t warm enough – in this house, it means I have to wait for the water heater to start over, prolonging my pain and wasting a bunch of water.
While the water is filling, I add pure magnesium flakes, more commonly known as Epsom Salts. My body doesn’t want any extra fillers, bleaches, perfumes, etc., so I keep it as clean and simple as I can. I also add vitamin E oil every so often to help my skin, especially if I want to try and shave my legs that day. Add whatever essential oils your body asks for, assuming it’s safe for contact with all the holes in your body. That’s 1-2 cups of magnesium and “a good squeeze” of E oil (maybe a tablespoon or so, eyeballed). The oil will sit at the surface of the water, but as you move around, it grabs onto your skin.
Also while the tub is filling, gather all your “helpers”. For me, that’s my phone for both Pandora and calling to get help in case of emergency, my cane, my shower seat, some water, coconut oil (for shaving, but sometimes just for massage), and pain medicine. You might also like or need some candles/incense, exfoliating scrubs/scrubbers, massage tools, tub cushions, a snack to boost salt or sugar, or even another person to assist. Put everything within arm’s reach, make sure no cohabitators need to poop if there isn’t another toilet available, check the water temperature is what you need, and do a full system check with your body to be as sure as you can that your medical issues aren’t within danger zones that might be exacerbated.
Once everything is ‘go for launch’, I set my Pandora to whatever station will give me the #musictherapy I need in that moment (Weezer, Lily Allen, and Fiona Apple are my go-tos), and step SLOWLY into the water. It usually takes me a bit to work my parts into the heat, but I love the melting feeling I get in the process, like all the pain crystals inside my blood and muscles are dissolving into massage oil.
Then just sit and soak for a bit. Let your body acclimate and relax. If you’re a medical marijuana/cannabis user, take this time to smoke/dab/whatever (#itstheonlythingthathelps). If you have other pain medicine that won’t put you at risk for passing out in the water, now is a good time for it. Work on your breathing and going inward to each part of your body, acknowledging all areas in need of some attention. Do a bit of caressing and gentle massage to help you connect and to rub in whatever oil has grabbed hold.
Once you feel as fully in that moment as you can and your body has acclimated (usually around ten minutes for me, sometimes longer), determine which of your parts needs attention most, and rub it. Stretch and flex it. Find the relevant myofascial trigger points and press into them (if you’re familiar, that is, though your body will teach you as mine has taught me over time; you can also do a web search). Just have a physical conversation with each part and its neighbors, let your body tell you what it needs, and then do that. The point here, beyond just pain relief, is getting more connected to each and every part of your physical self so you can work on healing from within. This practice is physical therapy, but it’s also an endeavor in meditation and mindfulness. It won’t be a very magical experience the first few times if you’re not already a meditation or mindfulness practitioner, but it will come to you more and more as you spend more time working at it.
I tend to start with a foot and toe massage, bending and flexing to manipulate all that into place and soothing my collapsing arches. Then ankles and calves, working my way up to my highly unstable hips, using my hands to do as much work as they’ll tolerate. Be sure to take breaks and let your hands relax when they ask for it, and they will!
**If you’re not feeling up to any kind of massage, that’s okay! It’s not necessary, just helpful. You can just sit, stretch and bend, and it will still help – just the heat and magnesium is all I need some days.**
Once my lower half is feeling good enough, I’ll scoot forward to where there’s enough room behind me for my upper half to lay flat, and I’ll start just ever so slowly rocking back onto my tailbone. Mine is all crooked from being broken a couple times so I have to position carefully, but the idea is to balance my weight onto my tailbone and sacroiliac joint in a way that guides them back inward to a less painful position (they protrude beyond my butt just a tad). If your body doesn’t need or like this, just go straight to laying back.
Here is where symmetry and balance become important. Scoliosis and general laxity has my torso all kinds of twisted, and often, the bath is just for realigning my spine, pelvis, and shoulders as much as I can. While using my butt as the fulcrum or anchor point, I let my upper half float on the water. Just give it a few minutes to acclimate and relax first, like with your lower half at the beginning. I usually take long enough on my legs that the water cools a little so it’s not so much heat on my torso or head (to avoid overheating).
When comfortable, look down your body, and find a central point on the end of the tub. Usually, that’s the faucet, though it’s a tad off-center for me so I use the air vent for the drain instead. Align your entire body to that central point, making sure each part is symmetrical to its counter on the opposite side. If you notice something isn’t lined up, have an inner talk with the surrounding parts, and guide everything with stretches and flexes (like in yoga or pilates) into the appropriate position *as best you can*.
You may not reach symmetry right away, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s a gradual and habitual practice that will get you results here. You might also need a larger tub – a genuine hot tub, maybe. Not all bodies fit nicely into a standard tub, and I am very aware that my body is smaller than most. Maybe a regular swimming pool is fine for you because you don’t need the heat or salts or oils, etc. Again, this is meant to help connect you to your body so that you can work with it toward better alignment, pain management, and stronger mindfulness or self-awareness.
I’ll do my balancing with Ayurvedic yoga poses, pilates flexes, and stretches (adapted to my body and tub size limits) for a bit. Once my hips and lower torso say that’s all they’re gonna do, I work my shoulders and neck. Stretching is key here. Focus on the thought of a string that runs from butt to crown – work to stretch that string as much as you can. Grab hold of your inner thighs or hips (at the “leg pit” area) and pull so your shoulders go down, but work to move your skull up and away some so your neck can get a good stretch. Push your hands against your hips or upper thighs to lift your shoulders and stretch your torso. I do this back and forth a few times and then move my hands up to my neck and shoulders.
My neck, shoulders, and head get a lot of massage and myofascial/trigger point release because it’s my most problematic area. Your neediest part might be different. I’ve intentionally not included much reference to any specific stretches or poses because my needs are specific to me, and your needs are specific to you. Talk with your physical therapist, doctors, etc. Do your own research. Have a good talk with a yoga instructor. Take the time to figure out your problem areas and what poses or movements might help those areas. Then try, adapt, and try some more until you figure out what helps and what doesn’t, and then implement those things into your #hottubyoga sessions. I have a Pinterest board full of health and beauty pins that apply to my needs, and I’ve pinned a ton of stretches, positions, etc. that I have adapted and incorporated as needed. If I’m feeling stuck in a rut of some kind, I go back to Pinterest and look for more ideas to try.
This may not be helpful for everyone, but it has been essential and and sanity-saving for me in alleviating pain by getting things back into more manageable or appropriate positions. It has also helped me be more aware of what my body’s different parts are doing or needing in general so I can better avoid anything detrimental and know when to stop myself from overdoing something.
When done, I will sit in the tub while the water drains to let my body temperature slowly drop back down if it’s still pretty hot water, and I’ll grab some toilet paper to wipe off the rim of oil on the sides of the tub. If I have the spoons, I’ll pull the tub mat and my seat into the tub, use my cane to reach across to turn on the exhaust fan, and pull the curtain shut for a quick soap and rinse. If I can’t do that much, I’ll at least try to get a good rinse and wash my face and girlie bits. Salts can get itchy all over your skin, especially down there, if not rinsed sufficiently.
**BE VERY CAREFUL moving and standing up after this kind of bath!!** If you’ve used oil, it’ll be slick as snot until wiped/washed. If you have EDS, you will be extra soft and fragile, so take caution to move slowly and avoid injuring yourself. My dysautonomia can trigger with just the heat, so I take careful steps to account for dizziness, shortness of breath, etc. I usually won’t do any #hottubyoga when home alone so that Hubby can come help if needed.
Also, if you like to shave body parts below your face, coconut oil is the best thing I’ve tried for shaving. It’s the only thing that protects my hypersensitive and delicate skin enough to avoid rashes, nicks, etc. You just need to keep the water hot enough to keep it from gumming up in your razor.