By Laura Mills
When I received my lupus diagnosis back in 2009, I already had a history of anemia and constantly-cold, color-changing hands; rashes after time in the sun; occasional redness on my nose and cheeks; general tiredness; and a little bit of stiffness, especially in my legs. But after the official diagnosis, I struggled to digest the fact that I now needed a regular medication regimen as well as to get blood drawn and visit a rheumatologist every few months. I could barely believe that coping with a chronic and unpredictable autoimmune condition would characterize the rest of my life…. Fortunately I found a rheumatologist I liked and trusted, and after accumulating a sizeable history of lab results and follow-ups, I understood enough to know I could coexist with lupus as long as I stayed mindful of my health and took responsibility for it.
Lupus can affect anyone, and cases run from mild to life threatening. It can flare up at any time and affect all parts of the body: skin, joints, internal organs, even the brain. Thankfully, my case has so far remained mild. My chief symptoms are currently fatigue and sensitivity to cold; as long as I’m smart about my rest and my skin exposure, I manage pretty well. And, as long as I keep up with my lab tests and rheumatologist visits, any worsening of my case will likely be caught early enough to manage.
And then there’s my yoga practice…. While I’m far from an expert on lupus, I believe I feel as good as I do today because of yoga. It makes sense. The physical postures promote mobility, flexibility and strength, and they keep bones, joints and muscles in the best working condition possible. Yoga encourages improved circulation; not only does it keep the blood moving, but also it tones and massages internal organs and helps move fluids and nutrients throughout the body. In addition, yogic breath work encourages one to breathe more deeply, using greater lung capacity. And it includes relaxation strategies that enable one to better focus and calm, more effectively handling stress.
Plenty of days my legs still feel stiff and I am generally achy, or else I am just too tired to practice more than a few simple postures. And plenty of times I look at test results and worry that they mean an increase in medication or another more dramatic intervention. But overall, physically and mentally, I feel more energized, alive and positive than I ever have. With yoga, my mood, my demeanor, my entire outlook brighten considerably—regarding lupus and so much more.
Which is why yoga seems the perfect way to help others who must coexist with lupus as I do…. On Saturday, May 28, I will be teaching a donation-based class in honor of the Lupus Society of Illinois, an organization dedicated to the support of Illinois lupus patients as well as lupus education, awareness and research. I would be honored if you joined me in a celebration of the path we all walk towards feeling good in body, mind and spirit!