Yoga for Auto-Immune Diseases? Why I Love Yoga…

Why I Love Yoga…

This morning I woke up and decided I needed to go to yoga. I haven’t been there in over a week and this was a gentle reminder not to fall off the wagon. Since going consistently, I feel stronger and better than I have in a long time. I weighed myself this morning and lost the 3 extra pounds that mysteriously crept up the last 2 weeks so I felt pretty good.

I pulled myself together, squeezed into my tight yoga pants, wrestled my lady bumps into a sports bra, grabbed my water bottle and headed off to the studio. Since moving to Northern Virginia, I found a place I really enjoy by checking out Yelp reviews. It’s always a good way to get an impression of anywhere prior to going. I love the atmosphere, teachers, classes and overall feel of Dancing Mind Yoga in Falls Church, Virginia.  This is so important when you already have body image issues or health concerns. Finding that place where you feel comfortable regardless of how you feel mentally or physically that day can make or break a yoga class.

The class I signed up for today is “Power Hour” in 99 degrees room, which any other day would be perfectly fine except today the heat felt too hot. I’m not sure if it’s the weather or what was going on but I knew within 2 minute of being in the room it wasn’t going to be a good class for me. Some days I feel crazy strong like I can conquer the world and others I am just glad to get through the class. But, regardless of how I feel, I’m always happy I finished the class. Today I ended up resting a little more in the class, spending more time on breathing and staying in basic poses instead of modifying into a more difficult position.

Oh autoimmune diseases, how I love thee. (sarcasm)

One of the amazing things about a great yoga studio is the different levels of people in all of the classes. Not everyone can do headstands or twist up into a pretzel on one leg, like all you wonderful people proficient in “bird.” But, having an auto immune disease is very challenging in group setting classes. I look healthy. I look like I should be able to do the class and even amp it up a notch, but I can’t right now. Every day is different. How I feel each day is different.

I’ve learned to accept this.

If people are looking around at you during a yoga class, it’s not because they are judging you, it’s because they don’t know what they are doing and are looking for cues to figure out their next step. There are people of every fitness level, every body type and every age in each class I attend. Sometimes I take more breaks and that’s just what needs to happen. You can always take a break during a yoga class – it’s your time to get whatever you need from the class.

There are modifications for every position to make them easier or different for you depending on your level. If you can’t touch your toes, there are blocks. If you can’t reach your arms around you back and grab your hands, there are straps. If you can’t do a full Chaturanga (yoga push up), that’s okay because there are modifications or just move into downward dog. Additionally, there are beginners classes and slower styles that might work better for you. It’s your practice for your mental and physical state. Any concerns you might have about the class, it is beneficial to talk to the instructor prior to class starting so they know to keep an eye out for you.

Yoga teaches you to “be in the moment” and to feel your body and create that mind/body connection. I just read an article in the Yoga Journal that outlines some great studies on the benefits of yoga for people with auto-immune diseases.

Full confession: I used to despise yoga. I thought it was slow and boring. I never knew how to breathe appropriately and always felt faint or dizzy. When I opened Bexa Body Fitness, I met Jill Forster, who taught me to true meaning of yoga and how to maximize my time during a class. As a trained dancer, Jill moved flawlessly through the yoga positions and I aspired to be more like her in every class. I knew I would never be able to do some of the things she was able to do but I wanted to try to get as close as I could. I am thankful to have met Jill and the inspiration I have from her to do my best in class and understand its my practice and not anyone else’s. So, I’d like to personally and publicly thank Jill Forster for teaching me to love yoga.

My body thanks you.