You know that painful, vibrating feeling you get after you slam your funny bone into a piece of furniture? That’s how my entire body felt for days after each sweaty class during my yoga teacher training.
Yoga is supposed to make you feel good. And for years it did. So why did I begin to resent it? I wanted to quit. I kept going, though. As usual I just pushed myself through it like a champ. I graduated. I started teaching.
And then I finally got a diagnosis: Lyme Disease. It was likely I’d had it for years although I don’t recall ever having a tick bite.
During the long treatments, both natural and conventional, I dragged myself to my job as a chiropractic assistant and then to the recording studio to do countless radio show episodes about health and vitality.
Health and vitality! I felt like a fraud. I felt like I was on the verge of death. I felt like I should win an Emmy for fooling family, friends, coworkers and patients who called me “one of the healthiest people they know.”
I finally cut back on teaching and spent the extra hours resting in bed while practicing yogic breathing techniques. Sometimes I'd even spend time on the floor in gentle, still postures.
When I started feeling better, I left my job and segued into teaching yoga full time. My husband and I celebrated with a hiking trip to Arizona. It was in Sedona that I spotted a bull's eye rash on my foot. The new Lyme diagnosis was accompanied by infections and crazy new side-effects.
By this time, I was already offering a special Yoga For Lyme Disease workshop because I knew how frustrating it could be to have to give up your yoga practice because you felt like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. You know the saying, “yoga is for ever body”?
Well, it is. You just have to find the right practice for you.
Most people I’ve met with Lyme have given up yoga or put it on hold. Why? Because they don’t realize there are other ways to practice. There are endless postures and breathing techniques that you can use to help get through those dark, painful, foggy and frustrating times, even if it’s from the comfort of your own bed.
Here are 4 ways to maintain a yoga practice when you need to be extra gentle with yourself:
1. Restorative yoga
The active rest that this practice offers gives your body an opportunity to repair. It allows for increased oxygen to cells, improved circulation, the movement of lymph and decreased stress. If you’re low on energy, it doesn’t take much to get into a pose and camp out on the floor in front of the television, or even turn your bed into a makeshift yoga mat, using your pillows as props. It’s a great way to restore your energy and feel rejuvenated.
2. Yin yoga
This practice has made my stiff, achy joints incredibly happy! And if I happen to be feeling inflamed when I get on my mat, the inflammation is always gone by the time my practice is over and I can enjoy relief for the rest of the day. My energy and sense of well-being are also improved from this practice.
Many controlled breathing exercises are calming to the nervous system and can help relieve the stress of being ill. There are various yogic breathing techniques that offer a wide range of benefits. I have used right nostril breathing when in need of energy to get me through a work day, or to warm my body from the deep chills that can accompany Lyme Disease. After my second round with Lyme, I was also diagnosed with a co-infection, called Babesia, which brought on symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes. During treatment I was able to control the flushing and cool my body by practicing left nostril breathing. Slow, deep breathing from the belly helped me to calm down when I started stressing about losing touch with my old outdoorsy and adventurous self.
It’s so easy to star in the role of victim when you have chronic Lyme Disease. For many of us, there is the adjustment of a new normal. We can be bitter about it or choose to accept the new version of ourselves. Mindfulness meditation teaches us to accept whatever is happening in the present moment. If we can come to a place of accepting what is, a big weight is lifted and real healing can begin.
I may never be as active or strong as I once was, and I have accepted it. Being forced to slow down has opened up a whole new world to me, one that I may have never experienced had I not been given the opportunity to be still.