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Autoimmune Awareness: How Yoga Can Be a Great Ally to Find Empowerment - Amy's inspiring story

Amy’s Inspiring Story

Q: How did autoimmunity show up in your life and how has your recent journey here on the 1-month Teacher Training Immersion helped?

What I have is fibromyalgia which is ultimately based in trauma. I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and bipolar. All of that brought my fibromyalgia to the surface. I started having episodes when I was about 14 but I never knew what it was.

Q: What were the symptoms?

Pins and needles, numb feet, throbbing legs, couldn’t sleep because my legs were throbbing. If I worked late nights, I couldn’t walk the next day. It was intense, an intense pain. Some days it felt like you were internally bruised or had this heat that you couldn’t get rid of and pins and needles on top of it. Just really uncomfortable and draining. But then it would go. No one really knew. In my late 20’s, from having so much trauma, I went down the area of drugs. When I went to doctors they all put it down to drug taking and alcohol and kept flicking me off and no one really looked into it.

It got better because I kind of started managing it myself. So over time it got better and often I didn’t know what it was—stress, trauma, or something else—but I just knew that I needed to lay in bed and let it ride. Sometimes I was in bed for a couple of a days, sometimes a week. My worst was 2 and a half weeks. But it didn’t get really bad until I was working full time travelling in my late 30’s. I fell pregnant with my daughter Lily and had a lot of stress with my relationship and family. Then having to deal with my past trauma plus no sleep with a new-born—it literally paralysed me. I got really sick and was at my worst. I remember the first time I was in the bathroom on the floor in tears and agony. I got taken to A&E and they said it was a panic attack. I asked but why is it in my legs and why is it in my arms and into my neck? One night in bed I just couldn’t move. My whole left-hand side was numb. I couldn’t feel it, couldn’t do anything with it and I was freaking out. I literally had to pick up my right arm, flick it over and roll over on the ground to get my daughter who was crying. My fight and flight was on 24/7. After that day, I couldn’t get out of bed, go to work and had nothing to help me get through it except for prescription drugs. Then I saw a specialist, as I knew it wasn’t just panic attacks. But even after seeing specialists, it hasn’t gone away at all and it’s now been 5 years of chronic weekly episodes with only prescription drugs to numb it. They haven’t helped, they’ve just numbed the pain.

Then about 6 months ago I had enough of taking prescription drugs and started looking elsewhere. I spoke to some friends and one recommended coming to Ashram Yoga. And I thought, you know what? I’m going to give this a go. I got here and I was determined to try something else. It sounds silly, but literally within a week that I was here practicing breathing techniques, my pain started to fade faster. My recovery is a lot faster. I can actually breathe through my chest. It’s opened up. It sounds funny that it can change in a week. I’m not saying it’s cured, but within the first week I was thinking to myself, this is insane that I now have movement in my back. Week by week, I’m getting stronger which is lessening the attacks. I’m stronger in my joints and my lower back, in my breathing and that’s all from learning how to breathe properly, how to stand properly, how to hold yourself properly. It’s really changed my life and I kick myself for not doing it any earlier.

Q: All at the right time. It sounds like you’ve come to the point where you want to take action. Your courage and determination have also helped you commit to this and embrace it.

Before this I did yoga classes, Zumba, Pilates and everything to try and get healthy and better myself. But I actually didn’t know what I was doing. At Ashram Yoga I am learning to connection to a strong foundation. Setting it up, knowing how to place my body and breathe into a posture. This is amazing and I needed it. It has also been an emotional journey which has been really good.

Q: How do you feel that yoga supports your emotional wellbeing?

It’s given me more confidence in myself. It’s bringing out my fun inner child that I never got to experience. I would definitely say it’s given me strength. Strength and confidence. It’s awesome.

You never get rid of autoimmune, it’s here for life. This used to make me think, “Oh my god, I’m going to have to live with this and it will take over”. Now I honestly feel confident that I can manage it. It’s not going to overwhelm me; it’s not going to stress me out. This has made me feel safer having Fibromyalgia.

Q: What three practices work best for you?

What works for me is the Nine Count breath because I really needed to learn how to breath from my abdomen and then chest. Before I was hyperventilating, and it was all in my throat and back of my neck. So that really works for me. When I finish a few rounds of the nine count I have a whole new breath and feel fresh and relaxed. This is my number one go to.

And then Corpse Pose to remind myself to let my whole body relax into the floor. Let it all go. Not having one tight bit of anything in my body. It’s quite hard to do that, so getting myself to do this is a biggie for me.

The third one is a powerful flow which is Sun Salutes. It’s giving me confidence and letting me move in a nice flow which my body enjoys. I’m not in any position for too long so it’s not hard on my joints. My body really likes it. Because we can make it as strong as we want it to be, I make it soft and flowy, until I can get the strength to hold the pose longer. I go with what my body allows me to do and it feels wonderful.

Nine Count Breath, Corpse Pose, and Sun Salutes are my three favourites!

It’s all about knowing. I now know how to breath and relax and let my mind go into a space where I can actually let stuff go. For me it’s like cleaning everything out and that’s awesome, having a different perspective. I’m really blown away. This is intense coolness. Not only am I finding myself and my body again, I’m finding my voice again, I’m finding my mind again, I can breathe, the whole feeling is awesome. It’s addictive.

Being here gave me routine, which I needed. I’ve never had routine in my life.

I’m really looking forward to seeing myself in a year.

My goal coming here was to teach myself, get to know myself. My goal wasn’t to be a teacher, but to learn about my body, how I can work with my body and get healthier. That’s exactly what’s happened. Plus managing emotions and mind. It’s a safe environment. It’s like a bubble… it’s a great bubble.

This experience has made me a better person, which is going to make me a better mum and is going to benefit my daughter Lily so I’m proud of getting myself here and being here!

We are super proud of you too, Amy!


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