When I first started practicing yoga, it was a lifeline for me. I’d recently moved to a new city, started a new job and painfully ended a long relationship. I was really looking a spiritual center that would take me out of my body and my head so I could find a few moments of peace–and healing–each day. What I found was a new foundation for my workout regimen. I found myself shifting more and more of my time away from the treadmill and kickboxing classes and into the yoga studio. In the studio where I practiced, there was a big eyehook in the ceiling–I have no idea what for. I can remember every time we moved into triangle pose my eyes and my arm would search for that little circle, and I would visualize threading my fingers through it, an anchor I could use to pulling myself above all the drama in my life. When I’m stressed now, I still turn to yoga for that sense of calm. And I still visualize that eyehook in the ceiling, an unwavering point of strength I can hang on to.
New York, NY
Yoga has made a tremendous impact on my health.
I have had been diagnosed with asthma since I have been 2 years old ( I am
When I had reached 28, my asthma was so incredibly bad that I was in the
hospital at least 2 times a month and going through 3 inhalers per month.
My doctor suggested that I look into yoga for breathing techniques. Within
a year I was only using 1 inhaler every 3 months.
I had also incorporated bellydance with my yoga practice. Never in my life
did I feel this good!
I have been practicing yoga for over a year now and I am amazed at the
impact it has had on all aspects of my life. The most noticeable area of
change is that I am no longer suffering from chronic anxiety. Before
practicing yoga, I was having IBS-type symptoms that I am pretty sure were
related to stress and anxiety. I was always fretting and worrying about
everything in my life, especially work. It would get so bad that I would
have panic attacks over small things and it felt like someone was sitting on
Yogic breathing and the increased sense of calm and peace that is brought
about by a regular yoga practice have really helped me combat anxiety. It’s
not that I no longer have stress in my life, it’s the way I handle it that
has changed so much. I attribute that change directly to yoga and I am so
I used to get the flu once a year, or at least one cold with the change of the seasons. Otherwise, I was very healthy. That was my story for about 30 years. I biked, ran, Nordic skied, and did yoga in between. Then I started a serious yoga practice, developed a sadhana, began aligning my practice with my dosha, and built a home studio. My asana and meditation practice usually lasts 90 minutes a day.
What I’ve observed is that my immunity is far stronger than it used to be; I caught the same flu that had some of my healthy co-workers sick for three weeks, and bedridden for several days. I was sick for only about 24 hours and worked the entire day, and by the end of the next day I had recovered completely. That was the first time I had been really sick with a common malady in three years.
I’m still discovering how much yoga is changing my life; and with every day my practice becomes more rewarding and more amazing.
F. Vincent Gerbino,
Two years ago I struggled with lower back pain. My doctor prescribed
anti-inflammatory medication to help with the pain. When I learned that
these medications can cause colon problems and abdominal bleeding, I made
a commitment to look for a healthier way. That is when I found out the
benefits of yoga. I started practicing at home through t.v. exercise
programs such as “Yoga with Lilia” and “Yoga Zone.” It changed my life
not only physically and cured my back pain, but spiritually and
emotionally. I practice every day (at least 30 minute sessions), I lost
two dress sizes and the things that use to bother, don’t anymore. I have
been enriched in so many ways.
I have been practicing yoga for three years now and it’s been that long since my husband has awakened at 2 am or 3 am to the sight of me cleaning my house, writing or cooking which were my favorite activities on nights when sleep refused to visit my active mind. A grasshopper, I hop from one activity to the next, from one project to another. I wonder how I ever got to finish anything. When I sit down to start a task, I’d be halfway through and I’d remember there’s something else I meant to do, then I’d do it by dropping what I’ve been doing and I’d move on to the task I just thought about until I’d drop it in favor of something else. Focus was an alien word for me before yoga. These days, I still have a little bit of my old tendencies, but the difference is that when bedtime comes and my mind still races, I’d just do the breathing exercises I learned and I’d be in slumberland. Of course, one hour of practice six times a week of Vinyasa flow yoga could have tired yet relaxed my body so it is ready for rejuvenation that sleep allows.
I used to be constipated, but now I go more regularly. It is no longer the “thick, hard to push out” stuff that comes out of my body but a more manageable size and consistency. I feel lighter too. I don’t know whether this is because I believe in what the teachers say about some yoga poses helping to rid the body of toxins and contributing to a more regular elimination process or whether yoga does just that.
I suffered a heart attack in August 1999, when I was 36 years old. As per standard treatment given to most patients like me, I was made to undergo Angiography, which showed that three of my coronary arteries were blocked and immediately balloon Angioplasty was done to open up the arteries and three stents were put. After I came home I was a total nervous wreck thinking I would have to spend the rest of my life worrying about this condition and not able to live a normal life. I was asked to have different medicines by the doctors.
Since I always had a complete faith in yoga I started practicing simple asanas at home in the beginning and later joined classes and now more than four years have passed and I feel completely different and have so much more confidence in myself that I have started practicing advanced asanas like Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, do about 12 Surya Namaskars every other day and go for a brisk walk for 1 hour every day. There are no symptoms of any heart disease and I’ve once again bounced back to normal life, all thanks to yoga.
I am a 52-year-old woman who began practicing yoga a year and a half ago. A studio opened nearby and I decided to try a class. I have been practicing from that day since. The healing that I have experienced has been profound. My life has taken on a new meaning and has allowed me to reach places within that I never knew existed. My journey has helped me to trust the wisdom that is inherent in all living things. The more I am able to let go and just be in the moment. The more connected I become to my own true nature. I have discovered the relationship between the interconnectedness of all things. I have felt the power and control I have given away as my mind interferes with the true nature of things. I practice yoga to reconnect with my true spirit and allow myself to see the interconnectedness of what truly is.
I am 72 years old, and have taught and practiced Iyengar and Ashtanga and other
forms of yoga or 38 years. For some time now I have had a regular
occurrences of atrial fibrillation. I used ujjayi breathing alternating
with the Valsalva maneuver (trying to exhale while the throat is closed) to
stop the fibrillation and restore normal heart rhythm. My doctor said that
this was a sound medical procedure. The alternating decrease and increase
in thoracic pressure caused by those breathing practices stimulates the
vagus nerve which helps to jump start the heart back into a normal rhythm.
I had intuitively created this therapy for myself. It was good to hear that
it is accepted by the western medical establishment.
–Eleanor “Teri” Viereck
I am 20 years old and have always suffered pain within my back, especially lower, knees and hips. Being young, doctors don’t usually listen or they put it down to growing pains. And in result of being told to deal with it for many years, I had to endure the osteopath pulling and crunching me from all directions. I took up yoga after I split from a long-term relationship, just to help me deal with my emotions. I am now a much stronger person, emotionally and physically. I never get ill and the pains have decreased to a few aches! I am thankful of yoga!
In my mid 40s, I thought of myself as being fit because I worked out at the YMCA several times a week with a varied program of weights, cardio machines, and aerobic classes. But I developed a sore, stiff knee that just would not go away. I also noticed that I was getting abnormally tired whenever I was standing around or walking slowly, such as on a shopping trip. Although I had practiced yoga in the past, my practice had deteriorated to a simple morning routine, lacking awareness. So I took a series of Hatha Yoga classes at the YMCA to see if I could learn anything new. Sure enough, in the first few classes I listened to the teacher’s description of how to distribute the body weight evenly on front and back of the feet in Tadasana and how balance poses such as Vrksasana strengthen all the little muscles in ankles, knees, and hips that are not exercised in the big muscular movements of normal fitness training. As a result, I started paying more attention to how I was standing, noticed a habit of putting too much weight on my heels, and focused on shifting my weight forward. I also incorporated leg balance poses into my daily morning routine. After a week, I noticed the knee pain was retreating, and it was completely gone in less than a month. In the year and a half since then, with additional classes and a richer personal practice, I have strengthened and toned muscles in my legs and back (another area neglected in normal fitness activities) and learned how yoga provides the best remedy for the physical effects of working at a desk job. I feel much younger, more energetic, and more at peace with myself.
Yoga has healed me in so many ways. Following the sudden and unexpected loss of my fiancé, yoga helped to keep me grounded during my grief. During class, my mind was often elsewhere and during savasana, I sometimes cried. It was a way to take care of myself while I walked thru the valley of the shadows.
I began yoga as a way to develop a stronger mind-body connection. I had a history of dieting, yo-yo weight loss, bulimia and a very negative and distorted body image. I now have a body that tells me what it loves and what it doesn’t enjoy. And, we love yoga!
I also practice yoga to deepen my spirituality.
And, I’m entering the creaky stage of mid-life where I have to do yoga in the morning because of stiffness. Yoga keeps me limber, loose and straight!
I am a survivor of severe childhood trauma: emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that spanned my life from a motherless toddler to a seventeen year old, when I left. The most basic need I had to meet for myself was survival. The cost of that was immense: I was a stranger in a strange land of dating and relationships, marriage, motherhood all happening too quickly for a girl who hardly had a self. Yet I had some tools to help with survival: books, music, drawing and working out physically. From an early age I was a member of Sokols, a Czech physical fitness program in my hometown. Sokols provided gymnastics, weight training, and ballet for the community. For me it provided a safe place, opportunities for success, structure, physical development and fun. As an adult, in a different place and time, I discovered yoga to be an even greater healer of the wounded self. I often cried during my first yoga classes, silently, deeply moved, while hidden corners of my self began to be filled with a warm light. I decided to study to be a doctor of natural health. I knew I wanted to help people to experience nature cure: water, light, air, earth, and curative movement in the form of yoga. I know how it has graced me. I am studying acu-yoga. I just found out about Viniyoga from Yoga Journal. I think yoga could be helpful to victims of childhood trauma by helping us learn to love and trust our own bodies; to unknot all the tension and tightness we we wrapped our selves in over our lifetimes.
With Yogic breathing I was able to recycle my menstruation at menopause,
I have been taking yoga classes for almost two years now and enjoy every minute of it. I initially began taking yoga as a way to regain my flexibility, as I work in an automotive plant and it is very rigorous, but repetitive as well. After the first few classes, I noticed that after class I felt much more relaxed and a few coworkers noticed that my level of patience was beginning to change. I noticed that I was able to deal with the tedium of the repetitiveness of the day much better and my whole day went better as well.
Since the first month things have greatly improved, flexibility and mental state are totally changed and I just feel better. Yoga also had a hidden benefit. When I found out that I was expecting a baby, it made it easier for me to deal with the added stress on my system.
I now have a healthy daughter and my yoga practice keeps me flexible enough to crawl around on the floor with her and I find that I am not as stressed out as a few other new moms that I am friends with. I am not trying to say that yoga is a miracle cure, I still have a long way to go to be as flexible and calm as I want to be, but my practice is making the place where I am at the moment easier to deal with. I also think that I have had such a good experience with yoga because of my two instructors who helped me along the way.
I was in a serious automobile accident in 1977 and woke up to a priest giving me my last rights. I had a broken pelvis, a ruptured bladder, and serious complications from a blood clot.
I also broke some ribs, and developed deep vein thrombosis plebitis. The more I realized my injuries the more depressed I became. I was hospitalized for a month and a half and before I returned home. My parents had to help me walk and talk again because the anti coagulent that I had to be on impeded my thought/ speech process.
I was twenty two years old at the time and I had a very strong will and desire to heal. I wanted desperately to become a Olympic figure skater before the crash. I researched different kinds of healing from that point on starting from holistic to Ayurveda to yoga.
Traditional Western Medicine served only to completely discouraged me and remind me of my limitations while yoga opened up great possibilities of healing and created the frame of mind that gave me great peace about my body and being inside it.
–Mary Gabriel Duncan
I just wanted to share my experience in finding yoga and how it changed my life. I’ll make it as short as I can. My mother was a yoga teacher in the early days of her life and while I was a small girl I practice with her and her friends all the time. Of course when I was a teenager I decided not to do it anymore. Later on into my adulthood after a couple of years at a desk job I got tendonitis and arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis in my shoulders. Of course this chronic pain disabled me and I was always on vicadin and vioxx which in turn ruined my liver. I received several broken bones in my fingers, wrist and collarbone as well. Through all of this I was always in pain and always complaining. Finally my mom suggested I try a yoga class. I couldn’t do any of the poses very well and at first I was frustrated but I decided to keep at it and eventually learned patience to go at each pose with mindfulness and patience for my body. Just a year and a half later I now have a new career in teaching yoga and helping others. As I go into any of my 12 classes a week I not only can do any pose I teach but on the days when I’m a little sore or have a little pain I can still back off and give my body the break it needs.
I started yoga back in the 70’s when it was kind of considered a cult. But after having a serious car accident that hurt my 3 mo. old son at the time, I almost lost my mind. I found yoga by myself looking for a way to learn how to cope with the stress I was living in. Little did I know this would be a life-long experience and change for me. I remember going to Dallas from my little country town and seeing the Swami Ajaya speak. I think right then and there a change came about and I learned that I was in control of me again. I am 52 yrs old now. I still practice at home with my videos ( all kinds) and try to meditate daily to calm my mind. It’s funny to watch over 35 years how Doctors now say “oh yes you should do yoga and meditate for it is very good for your emotional and physical well being.” I have tried to teach my sons and my grandbaby how to calm yourself and breathe. I have taken several Hatha Yoga classes at the University of North Texas and anywhere I can. I have had several experiences by calming my mind that were life changing.
I highly recommend any type of yoga for everyone and I believe this would be a less violent world if more of us practiced.
Yoga has transformed me in many ways. When I began yoga, it was in
complete ignorance of any of the benefits it could actually provide. I
chose it because when I had tried kick boxing and running, I realized that
without my knowledge, I had aged (42) and didn’t appreciate such shocks to
the hips and Achilles tendons. I thought yoga would be a way to begin to
get in shape without being hurt. Not long after, I noticed immediately that
I could breath. I am an inhaler dependant asthmatic. I didn’t wish to use
it, in fact I tried not to, but inevitably throughout the day, the left lung
would tighten up and fill with fluid. I was tired often due to lack of
oxygen. The very first thing I noticed was that I could breath and that I
didn’t have to use the inhaler. This continued, and I tried to think about
what it was that was making me feel so good, so energetic, so
well. I began suspecting it might be yoga, and starting doing some
research at the library. Most yoga books did indeed say that asthma was
one of the things that yoga relieved. I became hooked. I never miss yoga
now, and in further studying, I am completely off of the antidepressant
medicine I was taking. So, those are two huge benefits not to mention I just have a
certain sense of well being each day, very little anxiety, and a body that
is incredibly flexible now! Yoga class in part of my routine 3 days per
week and I can’t wait for the next class. I wouldn’t miss it and it is so
much different than other forms of exercise that people tend to dread. I
Four years ago, I began suffering severe, debilitating pain and loss of motor control in my right arm. My family physician eventually referred me to a neurologist. Nerve conduction and electromyograph confirmed impairment. Various treatments were ineffective. He ordered an MRI which revealed degeneration and disc herniation at C4-C5 and C5-C6 which was causing severe compression of the nerve roots. He concluded that the only available option was surgery to fuse the vertebrae.
I had studied Kundalini yoga extensively many years before, but had gradually allowed myself to fall out of practice. Wanting to avoid surgery if possible, I got an acupuncture treatment and began getting myself back into shape with 2 yoga sessions a day. Within 2 weeks I was virtually pain free. Today, I am active and fully functional. I have no problems as long as I get in at least one good session a day.
May you be richly blessed,
Edwin S. Purcell, Ph.D.
I can definitely relate to doing yoga for health conditions but in my case it’s not so much physical health as mental health! Yoga has helped me tremendously handle my depression and anxiety.
Currently, my partner and I are going through some very hard times with our relationship. I have discovered details about a love affair that she has been having (one that I suspected but had never been able to confirm). Without yoga, I do not think I would have been able to be as present moment oriented in dealing with these issues and I suspect I would be in some serious trouble with my mental health without it!
I started my practice about 10 years ago while living in Las Vegas. While I didn’t enjoy living there, I found a wonderful Yogini, Sherry Goldstein, and through my practice I found the serenity I needed. I have since moved twice and have taken yoga with me as a wonderful friend. My practice restores my well being and strength when I don’t feel well, gives me movement when I am joyful, and focus for everyday life.
Yoga has been a godsend to me. I first started
practicing yoga because I felt as though I wasn’t doing enough stretching
after my hard weight lifting workouts. I began Bikram Yoga practice and
quickly found that surprisingly, I was considerably flexible. The heat sure
After about 6 months of practice, yoga took a back seat in my life as I was
distracted with other things; relationship, dog, work, you name it. Then, I
was in the process of getting a divorce. I turned to yoga to help ease my
mind. It helped immensely in allowing myself to only focus on me, my health
and my inner peace. I’m convinced that without yoga, I would have had a
nervous breakdown, gone through depression and been basically emotionally
and physically unbalanced.
I am now an avid yoga student and have promised myself to always make it a
priority in my life. Especially when life throws the difficult curve balls
at me. I wish everyone would try it at least once to see the benefits they
personally can get from it.
Neena R. Chawla
My name is Louise and I’m 46 years old. Four years ago I fell from the roof of my house and sustained an injury to my neck, which greatly aggravated an existing condition of arthritis. I have spent the last 4 years going from neurosurgeon to neurosurgeon, looking for a solution to this problem. I have been living with chronic pain and the past 6 months I’ve spent using a Duragesic patch with the narcotic fentanyl without much success.
I’ve always done a little yoga but this past summer I decided to concentrate on learning as much about yoga as I could and applying it to my life. I needed to feel like I had control over something since the pain was robbing me in many ways (I had to leave my teaching contract last Feb. 2003 due to pain) and I found yoga offered me exactly what I needed.
I try to do yoga everyday and since I live in the country (Southwest Ontario) I use dvds with instructors like Rodney Yee to follow. I have devised my own Salutation to the Sun with many extensions and this very challenging routine takes me about an hour to complete. I feel for the first time in 4 years like I have power over my body and mind and my focus is so absolute that while I’m doing my yoga routine I can force the pain away from my mind and feel only the pleasure of what I am doing. Yoga has empowered me in many ways. I have taken myself off the Duragesic patch and have tried a homeopathic remedy, which has already shown a positive impact on my pain. I look forward to my yoga routine everyday and I always enjoy preparing myself and my living room for this very special event with candles and some incense to create a thoughtful and mellow mood and some delicate music in the background for further inspiration.
I have no idea if I’m doing all the asanas correctly or not but what I feel moving through my body gives me the confidence to know that yoga is giving me the balance and harmony that my body so badly needs .. it is the expression of life that I have been looking for.
My name is Robert Ford and I live in Ridgway Colorado. Yoga has made a big difference in my life. I began climbing rocks and ice about 3 years ago when my son, who was 13 at the time, began climbing with the first climbing team sponsored by a youth program in the area. I started going to his practices and all of the competitions and just naturally began climbing at the end of the sessions. Someone suggested yoga as a means to increase flexibility and strength. I went to the library and checked out several books before finding the one that made the most amount of sense to me–Ashtanga Yoga, by David Swenson. I brought to my practice a certain amount of injury. I had a shoulder problem from playing baseball in high school (rotator cuff injury) that was very painful in the wrong position and manifested itself in a number of the asanas that I was working with. I also lived with a painful right knee due to years of running 5K and 10K foot races with my sons. I gently, and sometimes painfully, worked in to these asana anyway. 2 years later I am happy to say that most of the pain is gone and the range of motion has been restored to about 98% of normal for me. Yoga has also played a huge role in getting me to meditate and slow down in my life. I began meditating about 5 months ago on the advice of an article that I read in the Yoga Journal e-mails that I signed up for. Last weekend I attended a meditation retreat for 3 days with a Tibetan Lama that has really had a huge impact on my life. I have noticed that I remain much more calm in any situation now, I have much more patience and tolerance of others and myself, and I have found genuine compassion, love and kindness within myself. I simply make the time every morning for meditation and yoga before I eat breakfast, and have generated the discipline to it almost every day, and my life has changed so much–for the better. I can truly say that yoga has healed my body, has unified my mind with my body, and has opened the door to a meditation practice that has had a profound impact on my mind. Thanks to Yoga Journal for keeping us all informed and motivated.
My first experience with yoga was in a beginners class that I went to with a friend of mine. It was very scary because I didn’t a thing about yoga, but as it turned out many people there were in the same boat as I was. I had a great time and from there I attended weekly classes at my yoga instructors organic farm in Nova Scotia. I went into the classes with high blood pressure, lower back pain, and trouble sleeping. After a year of attending classes my pain is gone, the high blood pressure is back to normal.
The thing I love most about yoga is how unique it can daily be, in intensity
and vigorousness. I have used the gentle cat/dog, child’s pose and forward
bend to ease back pain and stiffness. I even use a modified cat/dog on long
trips to stave off back stiffness. I love the more restorative poses and
gentle stretching, together with some incense and candle light, to sooth my
soul when I’m just, plain tired with life. I also love working up a sweat
with some continuous sun salutes when I’m feeling energetic. The
possibilities are endless–ain’t it great!
–Cara in MS
I am now a Kripalu Yoga Teacher. But four years ago, I was nearly non-functioning, with Rhumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. Yoga has truly changed my life! I stumbled into a yoga class on Sundays at my local gym and I was hooked. Slowly, I regained the body awareness that I hadn’t realized was diminished. Combining yoga asana and herbal supplements my energy returned. The yogic path has led me to trust myself, I wasn’t happy with the medicine the medical professionals wanted me to take. This year I underwent Apitherapy for the Rhumatoid Arthritis, and today my RA blood levels are back in the normal range. Thanks to the yogic path. Today I am symptom free!
I decided to get back my figure and flexibility back through yoga after me daughter was born in September 2001. I have been practicing for about a year now and I am truly grateful to have found it. I am forever learning new poses and ways it enhances my body and mind. Even my daughter at the age of 16 months can do about 3 poses and tries new ones when she watches me practice. Thank you for the opportunity to share.
I am a cancer survivor; I’ve practiced yoga for 7 years. If it were not for yoga and meditation I do not think I would be where I am today.
Trust in yourself and the Divine, have faith in yourself and others, love yourself and your kula, be grateful to be alive and you will find inner peace thru the practice of yoga.
–Amina Ann Rosen
Initially, I took a yoga class in college. At that time, yoga was not really popular. After the class ended, I started practicing yoga at the Ananda Yoga Center in Sacramento. I attended a workshop and found the information very interesting. I slowly started to use the yoga principles in my life. I had became a vegetarian. Next, I moved to San Francisco and I thought I had found heaven. San Francisco had many centers to practice yoga and many people practice the vegetarian lifestyle. I felt I was in the direction to become a “good” yogi.
Then I took a wrong turn. My boyfriend moved in and he ate meat and eventually I started to eat meat again. I continued to practice yoga weekly at the gym. My yoga instructor at the gym was very good. Her name was Juliet Lee. Her technique was gentle. However, I started going to another instructor because my work schedule changed. This instructor was more concerned about the physical aspect of yoga instead of the mental or spiritual aspect. Also, this was around the time yoga started to become mainstream. I ended up practicing yoga to lose weight, to gain strength, or to reduce back pain. I became more concerned about the destination than the journey. As a result, my yoga as well as my personal life took a negative direction. My boyfriend left me and I had a mental breakdown. All this was happening in spite of all what our society views as material and social gains I was happening in my life.
About seven months ago, I went to a retreat at the Expanding Light Center. When I first arrived at the retreat, I was really irritated because we weren’t practicing what I felt was “challenging” poses. I thought I would learn a better way to do a headstand or any pose I was having difficulty with. At the retreat, we meditated and did primarily restorative poses. I realized later this was exactly what I needed. Yoga is not for exercise or some miracle cure; although these are great benefits. Yoga is about finding the very best that is in you personally. I feel yoga is a chance to connect with God and myself. I still use my DVDs that offer all the benefits I described in the other paragraph. However, I use these videos to prepare me for meditation and I don’t view these videos as some sort of “exercise”. If I want to exercise I’ll pop in an aerobics video, cycle, or take a walk. I want to give yoga my undivided attention and love. After all, the journey is truly the destination.
In November 1999, I found a lump in my left breast, three months after a mammogram had pronounced everything normal. Over the next few months, I had surgery, treatment, and all of the other things that go along with a breast cancer diagnosis. The one thing I didnt have was a sense of fatalism. When I joked, my mother said that I was not taking breast cancer seriously. I explained that I took it seriously, but that didnt mean that I had to be serious.
I did go around telling everyone I had breast cancer. “Hi, how are you today.” “I have breast cancer.” A real conversation stopper. But I was determined, for some reason still unknown to me, that I would show people that I could have breast cancer but not be breast cancer. I was not going to be “attached” to this disease-a valuable yoga lesson. I also wanted to awaken people to the fact that mammograms are not infallible.
I wonder if my story would have been different had I not been studying yoga for years-in fact, three months before finding the lump, I enrolled in yoga teacher training. This would turn out to be a lifesaver in terms of my attitude toward myself and the disease.
In the surgical suite, I “connected” spiritually with my yoga class, which was meeting at the same time as my surgery. As I went “under” the anesthetic, I was in touch with my class, and they were in touch with me.
When I came out of surgery, the attendants were amazed at how strong my breath was-I could really suck up on that spirometer. I attribute that strength to yoga breathing.
The breath (Pranayama=breath control): One of the things I learned in yoga was breath control: Long exhalations to increase relaxation and directing the breath toward areas of the body that were in need. Throughout a painful 2-hour pre-operative procedure, I practiced pranayama techniques and focused my breath on the parts of my body that were holding tension. The results were amazing-I kept my equilibrium and was able to tolerate the procedure without undue suffering.
Over the next weeks and months, I eased back into yoga asanas (postures), immediately focusing on my lower body, as recommended by my teacher, Susan. After doctor approval, I began to work on my upper body-physical therapists found my range of motion to be exceptional-all from slow, methodical, non-harming yoga stretches and restorative poses.
–Cyndee Trower, RYT, RMT-IARP
When people ask , “Oh you do yoga? For how long now?” I answer, “I’ve been a
beginner for over ten years.” This answer came to me because of the
impressed reactions I would get due the length of time I have practiced. Ten
years in our fast food fad world sounds like forever to some people. This
gives a wrong impression not only of my level of competence but of yoga
itself. Yes I have had a steady and committed practice all this time. It has
been and continues to be a deepening into myself, a purification of
personality along with an increasing of flexibility and overall grace and
flow. I have teachers and attend classes and workshops at times. Mostly I
have developed a relationship with my mat. It invites me to ‘do yoga’, to
claim it, own it, make it mine. It is a part of my lifestyle. I do not
remember the names of poses and cannot yet do your basic headstand or other
poses that dramatically state, “I am a Yogi”. The inner work and benefits of
my practice are real however, I feel them, see them and experience the
benefits in every aspect of my Being.
It was most evident when I gave birth to my son last March. At 41, and with
a history of two previous miscarriages, the statistics cautioned me and most
health care professionals warned me about being irresponsible when I chose
an all natural birth plan. My labor was four hours short and very
tolerable. When I arrived at the birth center I was uncertain I was even in
labor. Turns out I was 8cm dilated. I gave birth without interventions or
drugs. It was the practice of the theory I had coached myself through as I
practiced each pose during the preceding months. “I am creative. I am
strong and powerful and capable of allowing my body to do what it was
designed to do naturally.” I contemplated the experience of pain and my
mental relationship to the idea of “pain.” I had my yoga ball, mat,
candles, incense, music and birth partners including a doulla and one of my
yoga teachers present. It was the work of setting conscious intentions and
relaxing into the present moment. Our birth experience felt celebratory! It
truly was the miracle of life for baby, his Dad and me and for all the
family and friends who participated.
We cannot control all life’s outcomes, but neither are we victims of life.
Developing an intimate relationship within- body, breath and being is the
greatest gift we bestow on ourselves and others. Yoga is not a religion or a
god. I find it to simply be a most reliable and helpful tool throughout
this lifetime process of learning and knowing Self.
When my father was on his death bed I was diligent about keeping up with my practice. I knew I had to keep my peace of mind in tack and the few minutes each day I could sneak in a bit of serenity really helped my keep my sanity during a time that was stressful. Those few minutes each day allowed me to see the beauty in death and allowed me to let go of a man whom I loved with all my heart. That week was so difficult, yet it was filled with joy, beauty, love and most of all peace of mind thanks to my practice. I know I can always go to the mat for that.
I was diagnosed by a physician with the above noted condition in my left shoulder. He indicated that my choices were limited and that he wanted me to have cortisone shots as the next thing for me would be a frozen shoulder. I am a registered massage therapist and this is not something I would ever undertake. I was on a mission to get my shoulder sorted as my livelihood depends on by body being in top condition.
I started taking Iyengar yoga once a week about 3 years ago. I had been working out prior to discovering yoga all of my life, however, I was mostly shortening my musculature with weight training at the gym. I was initially put off with yoga as I didnt think that it would be much of a work out. Boy was I wrong!
One of the first things that I noticed when I first started class was that the eyes of my elbows in downward dog were not facing each other. Slowly but surely after a number of classes they were staring at each other. I was hooked! After much practice my shoulder is as good as new thanks to yoga. My goal now is to become as flexible as I am strong (which should take a while!) I now am practicing Bikram yoga for the time being but I believe Iyengar is the best place to start for anyone who is a beginner as it really teaches you a lot about proper alignment (amongst many other things).
–Nicola Pauwels, RMT,
London, Ontario, Canada
I was initially exposed to yoga as a child. My aunt was and at 82 is still a
dance teacher and got into doing and teaching yoga back in the l960s. So as
her devotee I followed along. As I got older I got more into dance. Then I
had kids and worked and got into working out. For years, I was reading your
magazine, knowing that eventually I would return to yoga. Finally about 2
and half years ago, I attended a class with a friend. I loved the teacher
and her gentle yet challenging style. Around the same time, my mother’s
lymphoma, which she had beaten twice, returned with a vengeance and we were
told she had 4 weeks to live. I was very distraught. Throughout this period,
I continued to attend the class. My mother did pass away within the month
and it was and still is hard for me to deal with (that was in July 2001).
Grieving for my mother has been very difficult and I am convinced that
practicing yoga has allowed me to go through this with more calm and
peacefulness. It does not make it easier but somehow has allowed me to ride
the waves of emotion with more inner stability.
–Vicki Rosner Stein,
I suffered from migraines for fifteen years and had tried absolutely
everything from chiropractic work, cranial sacral, hormone therapy, herbs,
to massive doses of whatever my Neurologist prescribed for me including
pills, nasal sprays and shots. I even tried botox without any affect. One
year ago I started taking yoga twice a week to help with lower back
problems. Not only did the yoga help with my back condition, my migraines
became noticeably less severe after a few months, and the last three months I
have had no trace of a migraine. I believe the different types of breathing
along with the asanas did the trick. I am forever grateful to this
discipline. Because of it. my life is so much better on so many levels.
I started my yoga practice three years
ago. I am now 51 years old. When I was 16 I was in a
near fatal accident and broke my neck. I was very
lucky and had no paralysis but I was always very
careful to protect my neck and avoided strenuous
activity. After I turned 48 I began to experience
numbness in my upper body and weakness in my arms. My
doctor advised physical therapy and possible surgery.
I was introduced to Vivian Curry a yoga teacher. She
was a very patient and intelligent instructor. After
three years of Vivian’s classes I no longer feel the
numbness or weakness. In fact I have never felt
stronger. My yoga practice has given me back my
strength, balance and confidence in my body.
I discovered yoga about 1 1/2 years ago. I have had MS since 1990. I am 44 years old.
Without yoga, I don’t know where I’d be right now –not in a good place, I’m sure. I am living a prescription-free life. Becoming aware of my body through yoga has also helped in my food choices. I am eating “cleaner” than I’ve ever eaten before and so are my hubby and son.
Yoga has indeed changed my life.
I am currently recovering from an eating disorder. Low self-esteem, low confidence and a crippling contempt for the body are among the issues I have dealt with.
I have been doing yoga for five months, and during that time, not only have I found a form of exercise I absolutely adore, I have unlocked long-buried emotions that allowed my self-esteem to bloom, my confidence to strengthen, and best of all, the crippling contempt toward my body has diminished to the point where I can look in a mirror and find what’s right with my body.
I still have work to do, but yoga is definitely helping me get the job done with compassion and the pure joy of movement.
Recently I went through a bad breakup. It turned out that my ex-boyfriend was married. I was so frustrated and angry with myself for not being aware of it, for not seeing it. I dove into my yoga practice even more and day by day. I’ve released more of the anger inside me and have increased my awareness of all things. Yoga has helped me regain my sense of self and awakened peace and happiness in my heart. I’m thankful I found yoga because it has truly changed who I am.
My husband signed us up for our first yoga class because I have suffered for years with neck and shoulder pain from stress-related muscle contraction. I had tried analgesics, massage, traction, heat, cold, ultrasound, inversion table, and tears to deal with my pain. I knew at my very first yoga class that it was for me. I have been practicing daily now for 9 years and am almost always pain-free. I practice approximately 30 minutes per day. I plan to practice every day for the rest of my life.
When I was twenty-one years old I bent over to pick up a heavy box, on my way back upright I felt a twinge in my lower back that left me in serious pain. I was in bed for days I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without crawling or getting some assistance. After a week or so I was back to normal with all thoughts of lower back pain behind me. Six months later I aggravated it again doing push ups! It seemed like every six months or so it would flare up. Then at the age of thirty five I couldn’t take it anymore and went to the doctor. They took an x-ray of my back and found that my spine was fine! I was diagnosed with a very weak lower back or pinched nerve. The only thing the doctor gave me was some muscle relaxors. About that time my wife started taking yoga and was very excited about it. She asked if I would be interested in trying it. I was very skeptical but was willing to see if it was for me. The first class was very painful for my back but I fought through it! I was really sore the next day. I noticed that my back felt much better then it had in years a few days later so I went back again! Now I go three times a week and practice at home and I can proudly say that my back has been 90% better then it was before, I have been doing yoga for almost a year now! I had quit Karate when I was twenty one because of my lower back, not I’m back in karate with a vengeance at thirty five, and I’m going for my black belt in American Karate! I know yoga is awesome, nothing worked for me, I was doomed with a lower back that hampered me from doing anything remotely physical! Now I’m jumping around like an eighteen year old! Yoga for me has been a miracle.
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
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
Big, deep, freeing breaths brought in fresh air and a
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
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.
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
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.
I have practiced therapeutic yoga for the past 7 years and I can tell you that it is working. All of my clients told me that without any medication, their body healed by its own inherent power. Yoga has changed their lives in a very positive way.
Since 2002 I’ve done a lot of yoga. I found some asanas for my body and my soul. But after an accident in October 2003 and one week with a cast on the right leg, I started to know why I do yoga. The injured right ankle was in a terrible condition after cast and four weeks of brace.
I started with few exercises and filled my sequence every week with more asanas. After four months I have an ankle in a good condition, better than with physiotherapy. The healing of the ankle was very fine and I could save the total mobility. And all the bad moods and feelings about this accident were gone and with every asana I could do more.
Without yoga my ankle would be stiff and my mood would be sad.
I recently got a pleasant surprise when I visited my eye doctor. Over the past year, my prescription for contact lenses has gone down from @ -4.25 diopters to my newest prescription of -2.75 for my left eye and -2.5 for my right. I was amazed! I have not been doing any specific exercises for my eyes, but I do credit my Yoga practice for some of this improvement. I feel that learning to relax and see with “soft eyes” has really helped as has all the inverted poses (I am only at the Standing Forward Bend and Downward Dog stage–no Headstands). I was wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience. By the way, my age is 58 and I started doing Yoga regularly only two years ago. I had done some of the Hittleman exercises in the past but I find the Yoga Journal videos to be more helpful and inspiring.
Yoga has allowed me to live medication free in spite of pet allergies for the most part. Although I haven’t linked a particular pose to making my otherwise stuffy head clear, after a 40 minute session my head is completely clear and lasts until bed time. Although I have only been practicing yoga for a very short time, to date the only time I am in search of the medicine cabinet is when I have a severe outbreak with hives. While I do not understand how Yoga can make my allergy symptoms disappear as easily as it does, it is indeed the best therapy.
I started doing yoga at a local gym when I was experiencing a mild lupus flare. Though my symptoms over the years have included delusions, fevers, rashes, and cold extremities, my main symptoms at that point were muscle tightness and pain and profound fatigue. I remember vividly the release I started to feel as I stretched from fingertips to toetips, or hips to armpits, or wherever! It felt like I was literally breaking down a wall, or breaking up pain like dishwashing detergent breaks up grease, or unleashing water from behind an evil dam, and from that point on, I couldn’t get enough of it.
Since then, yoga has helped me to open up not only my body, but to recognize and start to open the dams in my heart and mind, as well (dams that I believe somehow were related to my lupus diagnosis, if that makes any sense; I enjoy the books and theories of Carolyn Myss, along these lines.) I largely credit yoga for helping me weather chemotherapy–for kidney lupus–with minimal side effects; contrary to doctor’s predictions, post-chemo nausea wasn’t that bad, I didn’t lose a lot of hair, and apparently not all of my eggs were killed. Now I’m enjoying a respite from my lupus symptoms altogether, though I still take some maintenance medications.
Probably most importantly, I have learned to really turn the “unfortunate” diagnosis of lupus into one of the centers of meaning for my life; I now lead a lupus support group, am trying to increase my little traveling yoga business for folks who tend to have difficulty getting out of their house, and I am currently putting together a Yoga for Chronic illness course. I call my little yoga “business” Svaruh Yoga; “svaruh” in sanskrit means “grown from its own root, or firmly rooted,” and my starting point for the chronically ill (or anyone, really) is to find the ground beneath their feet THAT DAY, and grow FROM THERE; as you well know, if someone tries to grow from a point where they used to be, or where they want to be, as so many chronically ill folks do, growth will not only not happen, but further damage is more likely.
As a 50 year old, after feeling progressively more miserable with onset of perimenapause, a car accident, arthritis, worn away knee cartilage and a bad back,
I happened upon a high school adult ed yoga class. My life has not been the same. It has been about a year and a half now. I no longer need any
medications (pain killers, anti-inflammatory, Xanex, etc.).
I’ve pretty much taken it slow and easy, never pushing too much, always listening to my body and lo and behold I feel like I have a new body.
I’ve become firmer all over, and I no longer stress out monthly. My job, my relationships and life have gotten so much easier. And–one thing that I don’t hear people mention too often–boy has it enhanced my love life. My agile and flexible body seems so young again. I am still working toward incorporating more yoga into my life, but even a few hours a week makes all the difference in the world. The physical and mental strength gained seems almost impossible to measure.
If there were a Ms.or Mr. Yoga I would send flowers.