Fitness Magazine

Yoga for Arthritis: Caroline's Story

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Caroline KadesYoga for Arthritis: Caroline's StoryFrom being an active professional woman who worked as a strategic town planner and commuted about 35km daily by bicycle on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia, at the age of 59 I found myself curled up in the foetal position in severe pain for about three days. 
The previous day I’d been really uncomfortable at work and had seen a nearby physiotherapist who gave me some deep massage and dry needling. The physio thought it was gluteus minimus and medius that were giving me the problem. I went back to work till the end of the day, albeit still uncomfortable. I rode the bike home, made dinner for some interstate friends who were staying a few days, enjoyed the evening, and went to bed. But the next morning that was it—the shocking pain. There seemed to be no specific trigger, and I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary. When the drugs finally took effect and it all eased off, I was diagnosed with arthritis of my right hip, lumbar spine, and facet joints, bulging discs, spondylolithesis, and canal stenosis. Twelve years earlier, in 2001 I'd destroyed a couple of discs in my neck (from poor posture at work with the advent of PCs on desks), and the X-rays had shown severe arthritis in my cervical vertebrae so I wasn't overly surprised at this new diagnosis in my lower back and hip. But I was totally dismayed. As I understood it, there is generally only one course for arthritis: it doesn't get better. In fact arthritis usually gets worse and a person can only manage it; it won't go away and can be completely immobilizing. It is indeed a chronic disease that hit me mentally, physically, and emotionally.“You should do yoga,” so many people told me after my neck gave me such problems in 2001. I didn’t see the need for it, thinking I’d get fit again once it all settled down. I was back at work when the other side of my neck became stiff and sore, and so a few years later I gave yoga a go. I'd occasionally have a burst of fairly regular attendance at classes, but then not go for weeks or even months. I was also started going to Swiss ball classes, which were great fun.But a couple of months after my lower back and hip problems in 2013 I tried going back to work, standing on the bus, standing at my desk. Sitting for any length of time was impossible. Again the pain escalated and I was back where I’d been before, off work, on drugs, and at times very depressed as thoughts of traveling with my husband slipped further and further away. We’d been intending to go on a bike tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Clearly that was out of the question. A bike ride around the block was out of the question. I went back to the ball classes and yoga, as I couldn’t physically do much else.Then the following October I was drawn to attend a five-day meditation, pranayama and asana intensive led by Rick Birrell, a teacher whose classes I had found inspiring. And it was in that intensive, during one particular session of pranayama, that everything became very clear. I realized yoga was what I had to do. It was wrong for me to keep wrecking myself through daily hours of sedentary office work. I was going to resign from my job. As I walked home mulling over the revelation and my decision I was almost euphoric. Finally the penny had dropped. Finally I had decided to “do yoga,” to learn about pranayama and meditation, and there was no doubt in my mind. The following week I resigned, even though there was so much I enjoyed about my work. Yoga, the combining of body, breath, mind, and spirit, felt so timely, and so right. So essential. The spirit, through the mind and body, was demanding its time. And yoga became my primary answer to dealing physically, mentally, and emotionally with arthritis. Whenever I could, I’d go to a class. Then the following year I started yoga teacher training.I'm now a Level 1 (IYTA) yoga teacher, still studying yoga, still attending classes, and practicing on my own. If I don't keep moving I seize up, but I'm back on the bicycle and in 2015 toured for two months through France, Andorra, and Spain with my husband. Generally I manage any pain and stiffness through yoga. Simple, gentle stretches are good in the morning especially for my stiff hands and feet when I get out of bed. I’ll make fists, then stretch my fingers wide, scrunch and stretch my toes apart, point and flex my feet, and do some ankle and wrist circles. I use slow, symmetrical poses to start my practice. I still use drugs when the pain gets too much and the muscles start to spasm, and won't release or relax through yoga. And sometimes I’ll go to a physiotherapist who specialises in backs. But it is through yoga that I have come to accept my arthritis, and even to feel a bit grateful to it for making me stop hurting myself through sedentary office work. Yoga is interwoven into my life. Because I still find sitting for any length of time uncomfortable, I stand at the computer now to write and read emails. After a while I’ll put my leg outstretched on the high stool nearby—a variation of Padangusthasana—and then maybe do a side bend, or a twist. I read lying on my stomach in a gentle Sphinx pose, and will go back into Child’s pose before getting up off the floor. I breathe, and move—the linking of body and breath, mind and spirit—it’s yoga in daily life for me.These days I’m teaching at home twice or three times a week, and covering for several other yoga teachers when they need me. And friends are always welcome to come and share a yoga practice with me, to strengthen and lengthen, relax, release, let their bodies and minds rest and heal, and enjoy the experience. If I can give people some relief, some respite, some sense of well-being through sharing yoga then I think that is a good thing. I hope the future for me holds a blend of travel and yoga. But who knows, and for now the present is good.Yoga for Arthritis: Caroline's StoryCaroline Kades, RYT300, trained at Byron Yoga Centre at Byron Bay, NSW Australia https://www.byronyoga.com/, and continues her yoga studies to specialize in teaching seniors, relaxation, and meditation. Byron Yoga Centre is a Registered Yoga School through Yoga Alliance, and Caroline is a full teaching member of the International Yoga Teachers Association. She has also completed the Integrative Restoration - iRest® Level 1 Yoga Nidra Training. Through teaching yoga, she hopes to offer other people perhaps even the tiniest bit of what yoga has given her: mobility, strength, flexibility, courage, and the confidence to do whatever is right for them in their lifetimes.She teaches small group and private classes at home on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia. You can reach her on Facebook or at kades@ita.com.au.Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging by Email ° Follow Yoga for Healthy Aging on Facebook ° Join this site with Google Friend Connect

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