Friday, November 17, 2017

How Yoga Saved My Life and Keeps My Body Moving

by Lori Pierce

I started yoga back in 2010. I had just been sidelined from work and knew I needed to start focusing on some other things in life, like taking care of my body – as a job. At the time of my first class, I was unable to put socks on by myself without an assistive device or my husband’s help. My flexibility was all but non-existent. It’s not superb now, but it’s improved. Thanks to yoga.

Yoga helped me so much more than physically. The increased movement was what opened the door for me. Then, the community of people that I started finding myself around was so welcoming. People wanted to understand my condition and wanted to be able to help me lead an easier life.

Through the yoga studio, I was turned onto massage therapy. I had been for massages before, and yet, when I met Annette my massage life changed. I now get a weekly massage – hands on my muscles, as well as another set of eyes, so to speak, that is in tune with me and aware of when things are different and might need some extra attention.

Annette is also a yoga instructor. At the beginning of our relationship, we also began one-on-one yoga sessions. She was able to help me learn how to modify postures so that I was reaping the benefits, even if I didn’t look like a Yoga Journal model. The additional ideas were confidence builders and helped me realize even more that yoga was going to be a part of my life forever.

For me, this all became a transformative period in life. I found my attitude towards life and people changing. As my body was feeling better I was just better. I decided to dive deeper and took yoga teacher training. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I mean, my yoga looked absolutely nothing like anyone else’s yoga. I didn’t do it with the intent of actually teaching yoga, either. It was more for myself. So I could learn to help my body more. Here’s the thing though, yoga is personal. Yoga is different for everyone. (Sounds a little like having Scleroderma, right?)

Everyone can do yoga. Even if you can barely move. Some of “doing yoga” is really in your mind’s eye. Just thinking of your body part moving in a specific way activates those areas of the body, whether they move a millimeter or not at all. Remember, just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. As Scleroderma warriors, we’re experts at that idea!

During the yoga teacher training, my life transformed in ways I never imagined. There’s an anatomy portion to learning to teach yoga. I learned so much about the physical body and could apply what I was learning to get a better picture of how my body was being affected by Scleroderma. I learned more postures that could benefit me in the future.

There are portions that teach us about our breathing and how it affects our health. There are teachings on how to feed and nourish our bodies properly. Teachings on feeding and nourishing our minds and how we talk to ourselves and others. All of which have impacts on our health.

I have recently partnered with a yoga teacher (who doesn’t have Scleroderma) to offer Yoga for Scleroderma. We’ve begun to lecture and teach Scleroderma (and chronically ill) warriors across the country how to improve their health with yoga. One of her clients at her home studio began practicing yoga with her just over a year ago, after being diagnosed with Scleroderma. This individual had begun doing yoga in a chair. In the year since she has:

  • REVERSED affects that Scleroderma had in curling her fingers
  • Improved her lung function tests (due to a yogic breathing practice)
  • Completes her yoga practice on the floor versus a chair
It can really improve our overall health and wellness!

Yoga is more than just the moving practice, known as asana, where folks have their foot behind their head. Yes, there are some very bendy yogis out there. Good for them.

Yoga has a “spiritual” component that spoke to me as well. If you really study yoga – it’s a lifestyle. (Yes, hippie dippie sounding, I know). In yogic texts there is very little, if any instruction or guidance on the movement portion we know today. The benefits of the moving practice can spill into so many other aspects of our health and our lives.

It can be life changing, if we’re open to it. It can also simply help us move better and that’s OK, too! Moving these bodies is essential.

Lori Pierce was diagnosed at age 25 with Scleroderma in 2002/2003. Her desire is to be a positive force for others with Scleroderma by sharing her tips and tricks, and experiences – as raw and honestly as possible, so that others don’t feel alone in their fight, through the bad AND the good. Lori hopes to show her fellow warriors that life can still be beautiful while living with a chronic disease. Her life is full of love and laughs with family, friends and fur-babies galore. She loves yoga, loves to travel and dabbles as a hobby photographer ( in her free time.

Lori is currently an active scleroderma awareness blogger, writer, and helps to run a yoga studio in Tampa, FL. You can follow her at,, and she can be contacted via email at

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Eye of the Storm

by Jivana Heyman
With the recent series of natural disasters around the world and endless mass shootings, there seems to be so much suffering and devastation happening right now. It’s hard to read the news without feeling sad or depressed. On top of all that, I’ve been having a very difficult time since my mother passed away this summer.

Her death was beautiful in many ways, but I’ve never felt grief like this before. It’s an odd feeling, like that nauseated feeling you get in an elevator when it starts or stops. She was always a strong presence in my life and an incredible support to me. As the weeks pass, I find myself slowly coming back to steady ground but it’s hard to know how hard to push myself back to my everyday life. There is so much work to do in daily life: cooking, shopping, cleaning, laundry. I used to get all of that done and still be available to take care of other people, but now I’m trying to figure out how to take care of myself.

I remember one time I was at a talk with my teacher Swami Satchidananda, and someone asked him how much time we should put into taking care of ourselves versus doing service for others. He responded, “There is no limit to how much you should care for yourself. Spend as much time as you need. If you take good care of yourself, then at least other people don’t have to take care of you.”

For me self-care is doing my yoga and meditation practice. But, immediately after my mother died, I found myself avoiding my practice. I couldn’t bring myself to sit in meditation or do any asanas. I knew that if I sat with my feelings they would come out even more strongly, and I wasn’t ready for them. But when I finally got myself back to my practice, I had the opposite experience from what I expected. Instead of feeling like I was going deeper into the sadness, I felt a kind of inner calmness that was so surprising. I wondered if maybe I was just exhausted!

Now as I sit with this longer, it feels like I’m balancing between two worlds, my “normal” life and my spiritual life. In fact, this huge loss seems to have given me a push towards the spiritual side, because my mother’s death shattered many of my assumptions about the way life life works, like there is some specific goal or logic behind all of it. She created order out of the chaos just by being my anchor. The “normal” world feels different without her physical presence. It feels cold and strange without her patiently listening to my worries or lifting me up with her gentle encouragement.

Maybe this shattering of my “normal” life is actually a gift? I can’t help feeling the pull of my practice drawing me back inside to that space of peace—the eye of the storm—in my heart. The message that I keep getting is that I​ can​ love and nourish myself, just as my mother did for me. In fact, I’m beginning to see how the yoga practices prepare us to lose everything, because they teach us that we can give ourselves everything we need. I can offer my own mind the soothing and supportive presence that she was for me throughout my life.

I find my pranayama practice particularly helpful. I can feel the slowing of my breath in alternate nostril breathing soothing my nerves and untangling the knots of thoughts in my mind. My meditation has become an exploration of feelings more than a focused or directed practice. I seek out that neutral field somewhere in my heart and rest there as I explore my feelings and thoughts, offering myself a loving presence and learning to mother myself.

I am reminded of a famous passage from the Bhagavad Gita that I’ve always found confusing:

“Although you mean well, Arjuna, your sorrow is sheer delusion. Wise men do not grieve for the dead or the living.” (2:11, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

I always thought that passage was a kind of denial of our feelings. But, perhaps it’s a different lesson? Maybe the lesson is that a wise person knows we have what we need inside, and no matter who or what is taken from us, we are still okay. Maybe that’s why there is no reason to grieve?

I feel endless gratitude to my mother for loving and teaching me throughout my life, and now I can say I feel grateful to her for teaching me about death. She is showing me that by losing everything, we gain the most precious thing of all. We gain a deeper connection to the truth within us, a truth that will never die.

This post was originally published on Yoga for Healthy Aging Blog.

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