It has been nearly two months since I started my yoga teacher training program and I have learned so much.
Yoga heals. A recent study on yoga for fibromyalgia conducted at Oregon Health & Science University confirms what I have been experiencing since beginning my yoga practice 18 months ago – “yoga appears to assist in combating a number of serious fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, fatigue, stiffness, poor sleep, depression, poor memory, anxiety and poor balance. All of these improvements were shown to be not only statistically but also clinically significant, meaning the changes were large enough to have a practical impact on daily functioning. For example, pain was reduced in the yoga group by an average of 24 percent, fatigue by 30 percent and depression by 42 percent.”
Yoga is a joyful practice, and the results are undeniable as is clearly demonstrated in my own personal experience and the above referenced study. I cannot say it enough. Yoga heals!
I can, and am getting better! I am not only feeling physically stronger, I am also feeling mentally and spiritually stronger. I have hope. I have joy. I have peace. I have a new love and enthusiasm for life that I have not experienced in many years.
We are not alone in our suffering. One of the unexpected benefits of the teacher training program is the camaraderie I have found with the other students. Suffering is not unique to fibromyalgia, and the program has reminded me of this. Each of the students was drawn to yoga from a different need, and listening to the stories of others has helped me understand how universal suffering is, which has allowed me to let go of the limiting belief that anything I am experiencing is unique or unusual.
I do not have to accept the level of suffering I have been living with for 14 years. Suffering is found in more than just the physical manifestation of FM. It can also appear as self-judgement and criticism, guilt and regret, isolation and silence. These are all conditions we create in response to our illness, but they are also conditions we can change. As we being to improve our mental and emotional suffering, our physical suffering improves naturally – and vice versa. Love yourself. Be kind and gentle to yourself. Embrace your body’s natural ability to renew and restore. It can and it will if you nurture it properly. You are worth the effort!
I still have symptoms and must remember to continue to listen to my body and honor what I am feeling. I experience so much joy in movement, but given the neurological nature of FM, it is possible and even likely to over do it and trigger a flare. It is not in the practice of yoga that I find myself overdoing it, but in the routine of my daily life. Because I have so much more energy and much less pain, it is easy to get carried away and take on too much. I do not want to slip back into the unhealthy patterns that lead up to and contributed to the severity of my FM – always on the go, saying yes to everything and everyone, never slowing down to enjoy the moment and breathe! But the good news is that when I do experience the symptoms of a flare, they are shorter and less intense. I recover more quickly. I am hopeful that the 2 week and 2 month flares are behind me!
If I had to nail down the one thing that has benefited me the most, it would be the understanding that I can and do control my health. Fibromyalgia is a very real condition, but that does not mean it is a permanent condition. We have options, and there are things we can do and lifestyle changes we can make that will diminish the symptoms we experience. I have no idea if I will ever completely eliminate the symptoms I experience, but I am continuing to improve and better my quality of life. If I only improve to the percentages stated in the study above, that is enough improvement for me. But I believe I will improve much more!
As much as I want each one of you to experience the same improvements I am, I understand that we all must take our own journeys. Yoga may not be your exercise of choice, and that is okay, as long as you choose something that improves your health and slowly betters your quality of life. Did I mention it has taken me 18 months to get to where I am? It does not happen overnight, and it certainly has not been a straight line from my first yoga class to the teacher training program I am in today. If I had to map it out it would make us all dizzy! But there has been a lot of joy in the journey so far, and I have a lot of motivation to continue on, regardless of the obstacles and dangerous turns ahead.
Make the choice – choose to improve, choose an exercise you love, choose to feed your body the foods that nourish and heal, choose to love and forgive yourself, choose to love and forgive others, choose health. It is possible. The choice is yours!