Yoga: One major, and often time debilitating symptom of lupus is the effect that it can have on your bones, joints, and muscles. It can be so painful that mobility is often time impaired. My experience was when I was first diagnosed was no exception. There was a period of time when I could barely walk, and I would have to hold the railing when walking up and down stairs while only taking them one step at a time, with breaks every few steps. This is not optimal pace in NYC, and I often took cabs and buses to avoid the pain of excess walking or stair climbing. I also couldn’t do the same high-impact workouts that I once really enjoyed doing, like zumba, boxing, or boot camp classes. Running or jogging was no longer an option for me at all. I had started practicing yoga years earlier to build strength and better flexibility, but when I attempted to go back it was a bit too face paced for my body to keep up with, especially during my lupus flare. So I pulled back and started to listen to my body and started to practice a slower flow of yoga, also known as Hatha, where the poses are held longer and it is not quite the intensity of a Vinyasa or “power yoga” class.
This was a bit of an adjustment for me, but I did notice that the stiffness in my joints and muscles improved within a few weeks and I was getting around with a lot more ease, although stairs were a bit of a challenge. It can be very intimidating when you walk into any yoga studio, even if you have practiced before. I know for me I was walking in with a new body that I was not sure of its capabilities, and how far I could push myself. I learned to really listen and feel my body and no longer push to pan but to just before discomfort sets in. I also did some simple things that I found really helped me endure and get stronger despite the lupus flares.
- Get to class early and pre stretch or work on a particular body part that was bothering me; moat times it was my left hip or lower back. Because I don’t know what the teacher will focus on during that particular practice I want to make sure that my needs are met
- If the instructor asks if there are any requests speak up. I have been in yoga classes where a teacher will ask if there is a particular pose or body part anyone wants to focus on and I am the only one who speaks up. By speaking up you can customize your yoga experience without having to pay for private lessons
- Soak or steam at least 2-3 a week a warm bath with lavender and sea salt really relaxed my body as well as 10-15 minutes in a sauna or steam room. Now this is something you should consult your doctor about depending on what kind of meds you are on, if you are on a water pill it is probably best to stay away from saunas and steam rooms
- Don’t compare yourself to others. This is hard to do when you look around, and it seems like you are surrounded by a room full of acrobats, but just remember you are there for yourself and focus on that truth during your practice.
- Make all the adjustments that you need to, to help build up my strength I would practice with a block to protect my lower back, I would drop a knee during side plank if until I could get stronger, and so on. Don’t feel like you have to do everything the instructor does and when they offer a less advanced, but just as effective pose and you it feels better. DO IT!
- Relax and be totally conscious throughout the entire experience. You will see how much stronger you can get, how it helps with the stiffness, pain, and stress, and how much stronger you are then any diagnosis of lupus.
Namaste and God Bless!