You Said: Reader Comments on Yoga as HealingBlessings,
John Eric Younkin Jr.
I began practicing yoga after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I started with a very gentle series to help loosen my tight and painful muscles. I really started to make progress when I enrolled in Bikram classes--the heat is so soothing! Poses meant to lengthen muscles are the most beneficial to me; those that are strength building have to be practiced with caution or I will experience a flare up. In addition to the pain relief, yoga has benefited my sleeplessness as well. Regular and deep sleep also helps diminishes pain. I have a prescription sleep aid to aid my insomnia, but regular practice is far more helpful than the medicine. Through a gentle, regular practice I have been able to eliminate most of my Fibromyalgia symptoms, and flare ups are rare.
Yoga helped me regained balance, poise, flexibility &, stamina. It was a joy to be able to stand on one foot to try on a shoe, and stand perfectly balanced. It also gave me confidence that I could improve my health.
Who hasn't felt the relief of deep breathing and compared it with the relief of a sudden wind storm through a stuffy house. I hadn't until yesterday when after a day I really wanted to write off ended with a glowing gratitude for my breath, my body, and surprisingly myself.
I made the decision to practice "just ten minutes." I thought I could handle a little breathing and moving prior to crawling under the covers and forgetting it all.
Big, deep, freeing breaths brought in fresh air and a new perspective.
Practicing yoga kept me grounded during the most impossible time of my life--our son died June 1999. I so wanted not to be "here" and felt the struggle in my body, my mind, my soul, my spirit. My left side was dense and rooted, my right side wanted to fly off to escape the hurt. Oh, but I stayed here practicing my yoga--the pranayama, the asanas, the readings, all of it. The support and guidance of my teacher, the love of family and friends also fed me. I don't forget and will never get over it. Grief is a part of life. But the belief in God and the strength my practice has given me to go on is a gift. I now teach and hope that those who practice with me find that their yoga brings a balance of spiritual, mental, physical, emotional and universal well-being to their lives.
I am a psychotherapist who also happens to teach yoga--or a yoga teacher who also happens to be a psychotherapist. For a number of years I have worked almost exclusively in my psychotherapy practice with children and adolescents and their families. While I haven't been able to introduce yoga into my agency, I do have youngsters attend my yoga classes from time to time. Recently, a mother brought her teenage daughter to my class. She asked if the girl could attend even though it was an adult class. She said she had been signed up for a teen class but it was cancelled. The girl had a diagnosis of ADHD, was not involved in any outside activities and the mother hoped yoga would benefit her. After checking it out with my class, I invited the girl to participate. She is very quiet, rarely says much, but continues to attend. She is now in her third session. While occasionally, she gets distracted, for the most part she stays with us and actively participates. I probably wouldn't even know she was ADHD, except that she fidgets some during final relation. However, even that could be attributed to normal kid stuff. Her mother tells me she loves the class and is always the first to sign up for the next session. She has only missed one class in the past six months.
It is my opinion (and I have seen some research to back it up) that yoga can be extremely beneficial to individuals with attention or behavioral problems. It allows them to practice breathing techniques that help them calm down, stay focused and builds self-confidence. Frequently these children suffer from low self-concept and yoga can be a tool to help them feel good about themselves and their bodies.
My caution would be for yoga teachers to be aware of these youngsters emotional and developmental levels in order to help them build on their strengths rather than any form of punitive practice.
St. Louis, MO
I started doing yoga when I was 13 and became fairly good by my late teens, practicing several times a week, mainly Astanga. Looking back, I know I pushed myself both physically and mentally in many ways, not just in my yoga practice. From my readings on Ayurveda, I now know I am Pitta-Vata dosha and the kind of heating, fast practice I was doing was detrimental to my health. There is a lot to be said for tailoring yoga to each individual and always coming from a place of compassion as a teacher and student. I ended up being seriously ill with CFS and bedridden for one year at age 22. I couldn't move--I could barely even walk to the bathroom. I was an invalid. I didn't even contemplate yoga in that state, but slowly, as I started getting better, something triggered in my mind and I thought yoga could help me if I started from the beginning again. And I really had to start from the beginning. I was lucky in the sense that I could practice on my own at home as I still remember what all the previous years had taught me, but I had lost all my muscles and I was terribly weakened from one year in bed. My immune system was seriously overactivated and my muscles twitched and jerked continuously. Nevertheless, I got out my old mat and I started with simple leg raises and forward bends and healing visualizations in savasana, and with each month I got stronger and stronger physically, and calmer and more accepting of my situation mentally. I can honestly say that my yoga practice saved me and I feel indebted to it. It has taught me the value of "being" as opposed to "doing" and I can honestly say that I have achieved more in this small time I have been practicing while ill, than I did in all the years preceding it, because this time I approached my practice from the right place--my heart. I am 24 now (although I feel about 80!) and I am truly on the road to recovery. I can practice everyday, but I also accept the days that I am too tired to practice asanas and I meditate instead. For the first time in my life, I am at peace with myself and I have found what I want to do with my life. I want to teach people who are chronically ill--the kind of gentle and compassionate yoga that has helped me and I know I will do it. My body still needs time, but I am getting there. Yoga is truly a wonderful thing for CFS. Even if you are bedridden, leg raises and other simple variations on asanas can be attempted in bed and you can always try meditation even while lying down. I send out good and healing energy to all those who are ill.
Since applying yoga, pranayama excercises, and daily neti pot useage, my asthma has vastly improved. Yoga has helped me learn how to breathe, and I can't express enough how thankful I am.
After 18 months daily practice, I joined a Toronto yoga class and practiced 3 times a week with a teacher. I then took the postures home to add to my own daily practice. Now, the joint pains from playing squash, in the knees, the elbow and shoulders, are things of the past. My frequent chiropractic adjustments are no longer needed. I have become more 'self aware'; physically capable, and better able to manage myself in all of my activities. And I sometimes wonder, did I ever really breathe, before yoga?
Born in 1935
When I first came to yoga I had been under treatment for five years for Lupus and fibromyalgia. I was taking daily medication which helped me get through the days but there were always a few bumps in the road. When first diagnosed in 1997 at 27years old, I could not get out of my bed in the morning without feeling as if I had been dropped out of an 18-story building and landed on cement...I woke up feeling a sense of despair everyday! I knew there was something wrong with me when I was unable to move off the couch for days on end, ran a low grade fever every day, woke up swollen, could barely move my hands and knees due to the aching pains, experienced horrible headaches, and was extremely lethargic all the time. So, I took myself to a Doctor who ran tests on me such as thyroid, diabetes, and Lupus.
The results yielded positive for Lupus and I was instructed to immediately get myself to a hospital. However, I was working for myself at the time and did not have any health insurance. Therefore, I went to the local clinic which was a nightmare and ended up moving home to my Mom's house in New England because I felt that I could no longer take care of myself. After visiting my Doctors in Boston almost once a month in the beginning, I was put on several medications to mask the pain that I was experiencing. Once the medication began to take effect, I was able to be somewhat of a human again. I could actually go out and not feel as if I needed to lay down from flu symptoms. I began to work out again at the gym walking several miles a day and stretching daily. Although I was feeling much better, I would have months on end when my body would relapse and I would have to simply push myself through the pain. I first attended a yoga class out of pure curiosity. What was it like? What is this new craze that everyone is talking about? What will it do for me?
Almost immediately after attending my first class, my aches and pains had subsided. Even though my bloodwork is still at times abnormal, I feel great. My aches and pains have subsided, I haven't had a relapse in almost two years, I'm off some medications and no longer experience Raynaud's Disease. To say the least, my doctors are amazed! As am I! I went to class with an open mind and came out feeling the best I've felt in years! I had no idea what yoga was going to do to my body and mind but it has definitely helped me to heal wounds that I didn't know existed. I've now recently completed a Yoga Teacher Certification and plan to help others with similar immune deficiencies and medical conditions. Not only do I credit yoga with healing me both mentally and physically, but it has brought me to new heights spiritually and has given me renewed direction.