Sup, no-coloned ones? Who is this chick, you may ask? Why, I am Liz, the gutless. Actually, scratch that. I am one badass bitch. Of course I am, how else would I have befriended fellow gutless-wonder Jackie Z.? This afternoon we were making sick people small talk…”How’s your MS? How’s your ass?” I responded that I, “Felt pretty good as long as I did yoga regularly,” and Jackie, super-advocate and master-blogger said, “Hey, you should do a blog about how yoga helps with your autoimmune crap.” I agreed. So here I am. Yoga Rx seems pretty self-explanatory, but let me explain how I was lured into it. (It’s not actually a cult…)
My earth-mother southern mama had been doing yoga on PBS for some time. I grew up as a dancer, then taught tap, jazz, and ballet, rode horses, swam, but took one look at the crazy poses and said, “No, that’s not for me, mom…”
Eventually curiosity got the better of me during college (as it so often does-insert lesbian/bi-curious jokes here) and I went to a class. Then, I went to another, and another. Maybe this wasn’t so crazy after all. I’m naturally very flexible, but when I realized the strength and mental focus it took to practice yoga, I saw a challenge. When I learned the techniques, and saw the changes in my body and mind, I knew I was hooked. After multiple surgeries, recoveries, etc. yoga is the thing I’ve always come back to. That, and swimming are my sports. I like them because they both essentially have no rules, you are interacting with yourself, moving through space fluidly. They are both hugely peaceful activities, and sometimes that’s what type-A, anal-retentive bitches like me need. When I told some co-workers that I was going to yoga tonight, they asked me about it, as people oft do. I said, “Oh, I love it. I’m such an asshole if I don’t go.” And it’s true. I’m a short-tempered ass because I don’t feel well. Whatever yoga does for my body, it does as much for my mind and I cannot discount that connection. When I’m stressed, I’m sick. That’s how it’s always been, so when I finally wised-up and realized, “I need to find ways to de-stress,” I found my answer. It’s great for my body too. I sweat out all kinds of gunk, it helps my lupusy joints without putting too much strain on them, I get the good endorphins flowing. In short, it makes me happier, healthier, and nicer.
I do it even when I’m not feeling my best, because I know sitting on the couch ain’t gonna make my achy hip feel better. It also stirs around my insides and releases some wicked gas sometimes. If I don’t feel up to a class, I do some less-intense, gentle poses at home. Meditation is also awesome. It’s amazing what silencing those yappy voices in your head can do for your overall health.
My first yoga teacher was a biomedical engineer (yowza!) and she did some research on my conditions and decided that inversions would be awesome for me. I thought, “I will never be able to do that [stand on my head, handstand, etc.],” but it’s one of my favorite things to do now. It gives you a crazy burst of energy. Now, I suggest trying this under supervision and learning the techniques so you don’t hurt yourself. Take a private yoga class if you can afford it, or find a donation-based studio in your area. Always tell your teacher about your health history. We get dehydrated fast, and they need to be privy to that. You also need to avoid straining your abdominal area if you have a J-pouch. This comes from the mouth of J-pouch Jesus himself (Dr. Bo Shen at Cleveland Clinic). Most yoga poses utilize supportive abdominal muscles, but just chill during the crunch portion of class if you need to.
In short, it’s the physical, but at least as much, if not more, the peacefulness and mental focus of yoga that help me. I hope you’ll give it a try too.