I am excited to have another guest post to share with you guys! Today’s post is by Genevieve Goetz who like THIS Genevieve also has Lyme Disease. We met on Twitter and then have gotten to know each better on Instagram. Genevieve is a yoga teacher who uses her knowledge and experiences with yoga to navigate her way through Lyme Disease. Best of all she shares what she has learned with her writing as well as videos. I thought she would be a perfect guest blogger and I was right! So here is Genevieve’s experience of using yoga and breathing to help with the many challenges of living with chronic illness and pain.
When most Westerners think of yoga now a days, it’s usually in the physical sense of the practice.
Social media is a flood of the yoga selfie, but the dichotomy of having a “yoga body” and the actual practice of yoga is vast.
The practice of yoga starts with the mind, not the body. This hails from the Yoga Sutras, created by Pantajali wrote the sutras in Sanskrit, possibly in the 4th or 5th century, and it has been translated by many. The Yoga Sutras pass the traditional values of yoga on.
When we think of healing, we often think of the physical body first, then mental health.
However our inner dialogue and how we feel sets the tone of how we conduct ourselves, what we believe in, and how we self care. The practice of yoga is, in large part, self mastery of the mind. This can sound controlling but it is truly the opposite. Freedom is palpable, and living in a sick body everyday, that sounds damn good.
Monkey mind is one of many ways I’ve heard to describe the endless chattering of the mind and it’s stream of consciousness thoughts.
The way we perceive the world is through our minds, such as the notions of right and wrong, and who we are. Beginning yoga is taking to task becoming an observer of your own mind, identifying when thoughts wander. We may form preconceived ideas that have no rooted truth, and this can stump our personal growth.
This is known as the “wheel of thought and subtle impressions”.
With so much time on my hands with being so alone and sick, my mind has no more place to hide. I can watch thoughts grow and bubble, pass like clouds or fester like rotten wounds. I can hang onto them, creating whole stories in my head, of things that may never even be said or done.
It can get so intense, my physical symptoms kick in and get worse. Anxiety can cause great obstacles. Using meditation and yoga poses have helped me not let my mind ruin my healing process and my battle to get better.
The practice of yoga is meant to stop that cycle and allow your essential nature, your core being, your pure consciousness to blossom. Healing from a chronic illness is a lifelong process of ups and downs, but so is studying yoga and all it’s lessons.
Our minds have a natural, peaceful flow that can release negative tendencies.
Yogic tradition has been that breath and mind are eternally intertwined. When we take deep breaths, our minds calm down.
For people with chronic illnesses, sometimes the only thing to do is just breath because so much of the circumstance is out of our hands. Fear can seem larger than life but with a few deep breaths and an intention to center yourself, you can create a peaceful environment wherever you are.
One very simple breath practice is to:
Sit up as straight as you can, if unable, lay on your back
Inhale deeply with both nostrils
Exhale slowly through the mouth
Place your right hand on your belly
Inhale slowly through the nose.. Fill up the chest, ribs, and let the belly rise with air
Exhale through the mouth, slowly, drawing your navel up and in towards the spine…
Pressing all the air out
Begin new breath, with attention to your hand on your belly
Observe your hand rising and falling with the long, slow rounds of breath
The mind may wander, allow yourself to now observe your thoughts without identifying with them or judging
Let each thought go, focusing on each new inhalation and exhalation
Try this once a day for a week and see how you really feel.
If you want to dive deeper, keep a journal of your experiences each day with your breath practice. The more you practice, the more your body becomes accustomed to using your breath as a way to calm down, center yourself, and get through a moment of bad pain or a flare up. Remember to keep it simple, and grow your practice from there. There are many different kinds of meditation and pranayama (breathing techniques).
Genevieve Goetz was diagnosed in 2016 with Chronic Lyme Disease while studying Occupational Therapy and teaching yoga. She is still battling this disease and now using her background of yoga and writing to help heal herself and her new community. She created Lyme Yoga Warrior to share yoga classes and tutorials online for people with chronic illness, her personal story, and many other aspects of living with Lyme on her blog. You can find her on a number of social media sites sharing her story along with how to use yoga to heal yourself and cope with the many painful aspects of being sick.