The past several months have been trying to say the least. Just when I got my yoga teaching certificate last summer, my joints began to rebel. As the joint pain became worse, I became increasingly upset and anxious about it. What is that line about God laughing when you make plans? Well, that's really how it felt.
A mild form of rheumatoid arthritis that I had been battling for a few years decided to throw a wrench into all my plans, leaving me with incredibly painful swollen joints. Particularly hard hit were my knees, which developed huge Baker's cysts behind them that felt like bricks. The cysts made getting into certain yoga poses, such as the delightfully relaxing Child's Pose and the deep knee bend of Garland Pose, impossible. I found myself deleting poses that focused on kneeling in classes that I taught. Instead of breathing into poses and relaxing during classes I'd take, I'd silently curse my teachers for including so many kneeling poses.
Though I grimmaced and groaned through many classes, I gradually made some adjustments. My Child's Pose began to look more like Rabbit, where your backside remains in the air while your forehead presses into the mat. I also began to rely on props such as blocks and blankets. One or two blocks under my buttocks helped take some of the pressure off my beleaguered knees during Hero's pose. Strategically placed blankets under my knees also helped.
Things started improving for me physically when I cut gluten, sugar and dairy out of my diet about four months ago. The so-called anti-inflammatory diet has eliminated nearly all of my joint pain, though it still erupts if I'm under stress. Which brings me back to the "trusting" yoga part. Though I've always loved physically demanding classes, I find myself going to Gentle Yoga classes and exploring new studios these days. While often dismissed as the wimpy stepchild by the power yoga crowd, Gentle Yoga is just what I need these days. One of my favorite new classes is held mid-day at a new studio in nearby Old Saybrook. It's a pretty space off Main Street with bamboo floors, an industrial ceiling and funky Indian-inspired quilts hanging on the walls. With the heat cranking and Indian music softly playing, we are guided into poses by our teacher, whose voice is as calming as a cup of Chamomile tea. I particularly look forward to Savasana, or Corpse Pose, when she brushes our forehead and temples with essential oils.
After an hour, I emerge from the class with flushed cheeks, feeling as though I've just been in a sauna or had a massage _ or both. I was so mellow the first time I left the class that I started driving in the wrong direction for several minutes before I realized it. One of the other students who took the class said the world would be a better place if everyone took a Gentle Yoga class during the middle of the day. I can't argue with that. In fact, after months of feeling like a New York City cabdriver with my road rage _ the result of schlepping two kids nearly 25,000 miles in less than one year _ I'm a little calmer behind the wheel. It's not all yoga to be sure, but as they say with chicken soup and colds, it certainly can't hurt.