How Yoga Has Helped Me Manage My Scleroderma
Editor’s note: The following is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before starting new treatment or activity programs.
I started yoga back in 2010. I had just been sidelined from work and knew I needed to start focusing on some other things in life. Like taking care of my body – as a job. At the time of my first class, I was unable to put socks on by myself without an assistive device or my husband’s help. My flexibility was all but non-existent. It’s not superb now, but it’s improved.
Thanks to yoga.
Yoga helped me so much more than physically. The increased movement was what opened the door for me. Then, the community of people I started finding myself around was so welcoming and people wanted to understand my condition and wanted to be able to help me lead an easier life.
Through the yoga studio, I was turned onto massage therapy. I had been for massages before, and yet, when I met Annette, my massage life changed. I now get a weekly massage – hands on my muscles, as well as another set of eyes, so to speak, that is in tune with me and aware of when things are different and might need some extra attention.
Annette is also a yoga instructor. At the beginning of our relationship, we also began one-on-one yoga sessions. She was able to help me learn how to modify postures even more so I was reaping the benefits, even if I didn’t look like a yoga journal model. The additional ideas were confidence builders and helped me realize even more that yoga was going to be a part of my life forever.
For me, this all become a transformative period in life. I found my attitude towards life and people changing. As my body was feeling better I was just better. I decided to dive deeper and took yoga teacher training. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I mean, my yoga looked absolutely nothing like anyone else’s yoga. I didn’t do it with the intent of actually teaching yoga, either. It was more for myself. So I could learn to help my body more. Here’s the thing though: yoga is personal. Yoga is different for everyone. (Sounds a little like having scleroderma, right?)
Everyone can do yoga. Even if you can barely move. Some of “doing yoga” is really in your mind’s eye. Just thinking of your body part moving in a specific way activates those areas of the body, whether they move a millimeter or not at all. Remember, just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not happening. As scleroderma warriors, we’re experts at that idea!
During the yoga teacher training, my life transformed in ways I never imagined.
There’s an anatomy portion to learning to teach yoga. I learned so much about the physical body and could apply what I was learning to get a better picture of how my body was being affected by scleroderma. I learned more postures that could benefit me in the future.
There are portions that teach us about our breathing and how it affects our health. There are teachings on how to feed and nourish our bodies properly. Teachings on feeding and nourishing our minds and how we talk to ourselves and others. All of which has an impact on our health.
I have recently partnered with a yoga teacher (who doesn’t have scleroderma) who offers Yoga for Scleroderma and we’ve begun to lecture and teach scleroderma (and chronically ill) warriors across the country how to improve their health with yoga. One of her clients at her home studio began practicing yoga with her just over a year ago after recently being diagnosed with scleroderma. This individual had begun doing yoga in a chair. In the year since, she has:
• Reversed effects that scleroderma had in curling her fingers
• Improved her lung function tests (due to a yogic breathing practice)
• Been able to complete her yoga practice on the floor instead of a chair
It can really improve our overall health and wellness!
Yoga is more than just the moving practice, known as asana, that we often think of where folks have their foot behind their head. Yes, there are some very bendy yogis out there. Good for them.
If you really study yoga as a lifestyle, it has a “spiritual” component to it as well which spoke to me. In yogic texts there is little instruction or guidance on the movement portion we know today. The benefits of the moving practice can spill into so many other aspects of our health and our lives.
It can be life-changing, if we’re open to it.
It can also simply help us move better, and that’s OK, too! I believe moving our bodies is essential.
Follow this journey on LoJo’s Sclero Scoop.
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Thinkstock photo via littlehenrabi.