I first started doing yoga after being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 15. I was already an avid hiker and tennis player, but I needed to consider some form of exercise that was more joint-friendly. Yoga gave me a healthy physical outlet and helped to strengthen my joints after having damaging flare-ups. Over time, Yoga has become much more to me than just a form of joint-friendly exercise. When my joints hurt, yoga takes me to a place mentally, if not physically, where I feel at peace. Once my joints have stopped hurting, yoga takes me to a place where I can take back the mental and physical strength that the arthritis flare-up take away.
I am graduate student in the M.S. in Clinical Psychology program at UAA where I have learned through coursework that mindfulness, meditation, and focused, manageable exercise is an excellent way of coping with chronic pain. Most importantly, I have learned this lesson through personal experience. My practice has also become an important self-care activity because GRAD SCHOOL IS STRESSFUL! After practice, my focus is often greatly improved, and the menacing stack of homework looks a little less scary. All-in-all, yoga keeps me grounded, focused, and in-tune with myself.
If I could go back and tell myself anything when I began practicing Yoga, it would be, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you can’t do a handstand today, but you still leave feeling peaceful, stronger, and more compassionate, you are succeeding”