Day one, I knew I’d found ‘my thing’. I had never seen myself bead with sweat like I did in my first hot yoga class. I loved that though it was an extremely challenging workout, it was much more forgiving on my joints than running. I had finally discovered my ideal activity; little did I know that it would soon change my life forever.
an unexpected therapy
When I was 17, I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a chronic autoimmune disease. I was told by my doctor that the discs in my spine would erode, my spine would fuse as one and I would be hunched over in a wheel chair by the time I was 30.
The strength of the pain medication and treatment would drastically lower my immune system, leaving me vulnerable to any bug people were carrying. It reached a point where small acts like shaking someone’s hand would make me nervous. Though the side effects left me fragile, I knew I needed the drugs to manage the pain. Sometimes I had such painful episodes that I would have to get out of bed at 4:00am and crouch over until the extra pain killers kicked in. I was so young but I felt so old.
Within the first two months of practicing hot yoga at least 4 times a week, the protruding discs in my L3, L4 and L5 moved completely back into alignment! Once the discs had moved back into place, I experienced incredible pain relief because of the reduced inflammation in the area. As a result, I started to notice that my immune system was also getting stronger. I was finally able socialize without the fear of getting sick! I also recognized other positive changes in my body: my skin cleared up, I was sleeping like a log and the anxiety I had been experiencing for years, just disappeared. I was healthier than I’d ever been.
My specialist was so pleased with my results that we decided to switch to a drug that I could inject myself with at home. As my condition improved, we started to space the treatments out more and more. Now I only take the medication when I feel I need to, and I hope to one day be free of it completely.
moving beyond the body
In order to deepen my practice, I decided to sign up for a 30 day challenge at my local studio. I now understand why it’s called a challenge! I think I had all the same side effects that everyone else experiences and then some. I could feel the benefits of my body detoxifying and I was surprised by all of the emotions that surfaced over the month. Some days were harder than others, but giving up was never an option. I was determined to finish every class, even if I had to crawl through it. My determination was not fueled by pride, but rather it was as if my soul wouldn’t let me quit. I knew I needed to keep pushing through.
The weeks following the challenge, I began to reflect on the various influences in my life and their impact on my state of mind and overall happiness. I came to realize how the unhealthy relationship with my partner at the time was negatively affecting both my physical and mental health. Thanks to my regular practice and the empowerment of completing the challenge, I was able to assess the situation with a clear head. Making the decision to get out of that 7 year relationship was a huge wake up call and one of the hardest choices of my life. Though it was undeniably difficult, I surprised myself with how well I handled the change. A year of practicing had been both healing my body and strengthening my mind. Hot yoga has forever changed my life and its benefits are still amazing me today!
This post was written by Renae, who worked as an educator at lululemon Perth City.