Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yoga and Illness

We live in an overwhelming culture. Work can be intense, home life can be busy and we're continuously connected to other streams of "information" (ie social media). Combine that with an underlying sense of impending doom (whether economic or environmental) and it's funny we're ever surprised when confronted with our body in a state of panic.

Although this blog is meant to be a focus on sharing information, learning and growing in my eco-yoga practice, I feel like there's been a huge white elephant in the room.

For the past several months I've been struggling with some pretty intense health issues. These concerns have been there for a while (years actually), but have come to a head this year. The consequences of which I'm having to re-evaluate what I thought my life would involve, what my role as a person, wife, woman will mean. I've vacillated between sharing and not sharing. I don't want this to be a "woe is me" thing, I'm not dying. However, I've decided that by putting it out there I won't have to tiptoe around the fact that it's happening.

As I'm still going through the process of testing, seeing specialists, dealing with how I'm feeling and working out my day to day physical health; I'm choosing to keep the actual concerns private. I thought I could share how I'm coming to realize a few tidbits about yoga and even my obsession with keeping my body "clean" of toxins.

First up for this post, a few thoughts of yoga and illness.

Yoga and Dis-Ease:
I've been using Yoga as an escape. I have a very strong urge to attend as many yoga classes as possible. In a studio- gasp! You may remember that for the longest time I was very "no yoga in a studio" kinda gal. After some thought, I've realized that although I'm still practicing at home, yoga in a studio allows for more of a complete escape. I can forget about my life, my worries, my body even, for a blissful hour.

If that means I have to drive to Dartmouth's All Yoga studio- so be it.

I'm not too sure whether using something as a means to escape from an emotional issue is wise, at least yoga does help keep my body health and is way to practice dealing with stress.

After reading a very interesting article on yoga and stress written by a Neuroscientist (can't remember where I read it- sorry!), I've realized that the most prominent benefit from yoga was encouraging the person to practice breathing and staying calm during a stressful event- asana.

So, the other day when I thought I was going to have a panic attack while driving home (as I was ruminating on my health), I started treating that event as if it were a yoga practice. Breathing fully and deeply, letting go of my thoughts and focusing on being in the present. I thought about a few yoga classes I'd had recently, conjuring up the positive emotions surrounding those events and the type of breathing they foster. It helped (no panic attack-woo!).

There's been some recent discussion around the distrust with western medical health professionals. As a health professional myself, I get that it's often challenging to merge west-east and historically it's been a "western scoffs at eastern" type discourse. That said, I do believe that both have something to offer... and when it comes to my health I tend to stick with evidence based practice.

Although I know yoga instructors have some training regarding anatomy and physiology, I will be frank in that I know Physiotherapists have more. An intensive Clinical Master's level university degree, Physiotherapy is grounded in a well founded and established evidence based practice (re: research).

Instead of colouring the discussion with "why yoga has all the answers, and instead of listening to your PT you should try these yoga poses" we should be encouraging building trust and teamwork from both directions to benefit from what each area can offer to our health.

(Next up, Dis-Ease and the Environment).

article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com


  1. Share what's going on with you only as much as you feel comfortable to do so.

    I've been going through a huge learning curve in regards to my health in the last two months and to be honest, that's part of why I haven't been blogging that much about it. I'm still assimilating all the information.

    One of the things I've been coming to terms with is the importance of western medicine in healing/stabilising my autoimmune disorder.

    I'm mainly interested in alternative health and before last year I'd never really had a GP. Now I have one of those and an NP as well as my acupuncture and kinesiology therapists.

    They are all important to my health, but the more I learn about how and why I was susceptible to PTSD (and therefore an autoimmune disorder), the more I see the bigger picture, and it's shifting my thinking considerably.

    So I appreciate what you're going through. It's not easy, all of those tests and specialist. And it is hard not to feel crappy about it all. I don't think there's anything wrong with you if you do feel crappy!

    Yoga can be used for escape, like anything else. But if you let it, you'll also be able to use it to help you understand the truth of your body, mind, energy and health. That's certainly what I'm finding...

    My first ever yoga teacher (who I still train with at workshops) is both a yogi of 40 years AND a physio. Which is why I love studying and practicing his style of yoga.

    I wish you well in your journey and just so you know, if you need an ear I'm happy to listen. xx

  2. Our health can be such a source of stress. Or at least it normally is for anyone that wants to be healthy.

    I don't think using yoga as a way to escape is a bad thing. It doesn't mean that you are ignoring issues in your life, it means you are giving yourself time to not think about it. That's a good thing. Stress can affect our body negatively so having an activity in your life that allows you to relax and "check out" is a good balance. I've had a lot of crap happen in the past year and yoga has been one of the major things in my life to keep me grounded and focused. Without that time to check out I'm sure I would be in a mental hospital at this point.

    I too wish there was a better balance between Western and Eastern medicines. My biggest concern when it comes to Western medicine is the amount of pill pushers there are out there. I believe a lot of our ailments can be attributed and sometimes fixed with diet/exercise. Not all, but a good amount of them. I wish naturopath doctors were covered under MSI.

    I hope that the doctors find out what the problem is and come up with a solution to help quickly. If you ever need anything and I might be able to help just let me know.

  3. @svasti: it's so true, I feel like there's a bunch of info i need to absorb, but I'm also still in limbo re: what exactly is going on...
    It sounds like you're working out the perfect balance- which i think is amazing.
    i think PT and yoga are a good mix as well!
    Thank you for your kind words and support, even your tweet a few months back has stayed w me :)

    @Christine: Ahhh, yes I think MSI plays lip service to being 'free health care' in our country. I know my insurance covers some things, but I haven't looked into NDs (plus in Nova Scotia, the regulation and educational history around NDs aren't nearly as rigid or standardized as out west- so I'm a bit leary).
    I'm sorry to hear you've been struggling! we missed you at C&Y last night, but it would be great to catch up.
    Thank you- and same goes to you!

  4. People tend to be very dualistic, even as they claim that yoga's made them non-dualistic. Thus, there's the attitude that if you accept the value of Eastern/alternative medicine, you have to not only accept the whole kit-and-kaboodle, from things with proven value, like massage therapy, to the most out-there stuff like channeling fairies to heal your warts, but reject all of western medicine. A more realistic--and, one might say, healthier--approach is to approach both with a certain mix of openness and skepticism.

  5. I hope you are doing well and that you make sure to take time for yourself when needed. I can tell from reading your blog that you are a very busy woman. Just make sure, as you are going through this period in you life, to focus on what is important to you and don't let the rest of the "stuff" get to you even if it means getting a little less busy for a while!

  6. Life can be so busy and until something goes "wrong" with our bodies we take our health for granted. A lot of the time our work is not only a source of stress but is also physically demanding in our repetitive motion and sedentary society causing us physical, emotional and mental dis-ease (love that new way of looking at the word, it is definitely right!). I think if you are using yoga as an escape, it is a good one...much better than alternative like alcohol... yoga keeps your body strong, grounds you and calms the mind. Easing all the parts of you that are feeling the dis-ease and delving deeper into yourself, your mind, body and soul. It is journey that you must travel alone until you feel ready to share it with others. Just know that we are thinking of you and are here to support you all the way!

  7. Well said! I have been forced to confront some pretty intense health issues through yoga as well (and not just the stress-related ones I'm currently experiencing). For years, I was adamantly opposed to Western medicine in just about every arena except emergency. But now I just wish they would work together. I wish physiotherapists learned more about the body's energy, and I wish yoga teachers learned more about anatomy. I wish there were more funding for research of things that are more difficult to test and slightly more esoteric. What an amazing healing world we would create if all people learned from one another rather than simply trying to disprove one another. All the best to you! I have some folks from Halifax currently living with me (my cousin and his girlfriend), so I think about your blog a lot and have obviously told them about it.


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