One more reason for doing Yoga

I’ve mentioned before that Yoga is a key part of my health maintenance and relapse protocols. Today I happened upon an article that may explain why I find Yoga so beneficial: It directly effects the production of compounds that enhance the immune system. Here’s a quote from an article in Salon discussing the study:

“The researchers found that the nature walk and music-driven relaxation changed the expression of 38 genes in these circulating immune cells….  yoga produced changes in 111”

I also looked up the original study  (published in 2012, and open access). On reading more deeply, it appears that the research Salon is referring to is focused on a combination of pranayama (the facet of yoga concerned specifically with breathing) and asana practice (the facet of yoga concerned with poses). They also review past work on the physiological effects of yoga practice. The study tested for gene expression 2 hours after practice but does not shed light on the effects of regular yoga practice over time, or the length of time for which a specific practice has an impact.

Qu S, Olafsrud SM, Meza-Zepeda LA, Saatcioglu F (2013) Rapid Gene Expression Changes in Peripheral Blood Lymphocytes upon Practice of a Comprehensive Yoga Program. PLoS ONE 8(4): e61910. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061910


Yoga and my toes

I’ve been meaning to write about this for ages, and I’m finally taking time for myself today, which means in part two posts to this blog. Although I didn’t do much yoga immediately after Elena was born  (the year before and the first year of my illness), I used to do lots of it — both when I was healing from a repetitive strain injury in 1997-2001, and during my first pregnancy and after my son was born in 2003.

So when I decided to tackle being ill in the fall of 2007 under the assumption that I had another repetitive strain injury, one thing I started trying to do when I had time was a little bit of yoga. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t even touch my toes (I am normally very flexible). I had little time to think about yoga, and did not connect the problem to my illness (I thought perhaps I was just getting older). But I was very pleased when I discovered in January that my old flexibility was back — it seemed a clear sign that things were heading in the right direction.

Now, I have seen very clearly over the years since I first took up yoga in 1997 that it can help with healing and wellbeing. So when I renewed my determination to take my healing into my own hands in January, I made the switch from massage (a passive physical form of healing) to yoga (an active physical form of healing). I ambitiously visited the level I/level II class at a nearby studio, and that was both a big mistake and exactly the right thing to do.

The studio I visited, Yoga on Centre, turned out to be a true gem. I’ve always said you can find at least one of everything good in Pittsburgh. You may not get choice, but one is usually enough, and in this case, it’s more than enough. The teachers at this studio are very knowledgable, and they practice a type of yoga that’s well suited to healing – iyengar yoga. They quickly steered me to a less energy-intensive, restorative class, which I found very relaxing and helpful.

Given how helpful the yoga was in a class setting, and how great the teachers were, I decided to try taking the yoga home with guidance. I arranged a private session with one of the instructors (I’ve now met with her twice privately) and got her advice on a practice that I could do before bed each night, and in the morning upon waking up. It was also on her advice that I shifted my sleep schedule to be asleep before 10 each night.

The yoga practice I do is intense and restful both, and I truly believe that it is helping my body to process and respond to my illness. It’s a big time commitment, but I think that it helps prepare me for sleep and for healing. The sleep itself seems to be more effective when I start sleeping earlier, and indeed I have found that I almost never nap, and during good weeks often wake up after only 7.5 hours feeling rested, now that I go to sleep earlier. It also helps that my husband has sacrificed his sleep to ensure that I am never interrupted at night by our kids, who still do not sleep through the night.

So, sleep and yoga are my most consistent and helpful daily adulations to health.

my story, treatment

Who coordinates the doctors?

Perhaps one of the reasons lyme is so hard to deal with is that it falls between specialties. Is it an infectious disease? An auto-immune problem? Are you simply sick in the head as many will claim? Lyme literate physicians come from many walks of life, and the treatment for lyme itself necessitates recovery — long term antibiotic therapy can lead to yeast overgrowth and other syndromes that may themselves cause fatigue and malaise.

So far (as of 1/1/08), I have discussed or received treatment for different aspects of my disease and its treatment from a: massage therapist, homeopath/naturopath/MD, cranio-sacral therapist, infectious disease specialist, kinesiologist and lyme literate physician (formerly family practice, now lyme specialist), neurologist, ear nose and throat doctor, and several pediatricians (to learn about whether my children could be infected and how it might have occurred). In the near future I plan to see a dentist (since my teeth have turned black, presumably from the antibiotics) and begin yoga for strengthening, stress relief and immune support.

At first, I found that I had to carry around a packet of my test results and prove to each doctor that I had lyme. I also found my spreadsheet invaluable and brought printouts of it to almost every appointment. Every one of them (excepting the lyme literate physician and massage therapist) approached me with an attitude that implied they thought that I could be one of those poor folks who thinks they have lyme when they don’t. While this skepticism is valuable in helping folks who are in that situation, it is intimidating to have to prove something rather than simply to be able to say “My doctor says I have lyme, can we now discuss what comes next?” I quickly learned which test results to emphasize when telling my history.

Which physicians and therapists/therapies should I spend money and time on? How in the world do I coordinate amongst them all so that they work in synergy instead of simply working in parallel (best case) or against each other (worst case)?