Learning acceptance through yoga

One of the hardest things I have found when it comes to living with Rheumatoid Arthritis is the disconnection between your mind and body.

It has at times felt like my mind and body were pulling in different directions. Some days my mind is raring to go, ready to take on the world but my body doesn’t want to get out of bed.

When you are in a good place mentally but in a bad place physically it highlights how separate our mind and body can be and how important it is for us to maintain that connection.

There have been times during this journey when I have hated my body, resented it in fact for letting me down and holding me back. The result of this internal conflict is one of two things; you physically push yourself beyond your limits, hurting yourself further or your mental health starts to suffer. I was trapped in this cycle for a long time, until the point where it became unsustainable.

Having always used physical activity as a way of managing stress, I was at a loss when the stress I was feeling came from a physical disability – now what would I do? I had to rethink how I approached life and what alternatives there were to long gym sessions.The answer was yoga.

Yoga wasn’t really something I was into before my diagnosis; I was more of a circuits, spinning or gym kind of girl, wanting the biggest bang for my buck from my workouts. At this point I was very unaware of how amazing and beneficial yoga is and how physical it can be, although it doesn’t have to be.

I looked into yoga after seeing sessions advertised at the clinic I attend for my RA. If it was being advertised here it must be beneficial, right?

I found a local yoga studio and began my journey. The amazing thing about yoga is that there are so many different practices, from vinyasa flow, a fairly fast paced practice working with flowing movements to yin, which is predominantly floor-based and focuses on holding poses. I have found that there is a type of yoga to suit me regardless of where am I with my physical health. This has been incredibly important as it has provided me with stability and consistency in a life with illness that is inherently inconsistent.

Besides the physical benefits of yoga the mental impact for me is where I have benefited most. One of the key messages in yoga is to be kind; kind to yourself and kind to others. Yoga teaches you to accept your body, whether that is during the practice, in that moment or longer term. Yoga teaches you that everyone is different, everyone’s body is different and to embrace you as you are.

I have learnt to hear the negative thoughts I have about my body both whilst I am practising or during everyday life and acknowledge them but then let them go. I have learnt to become more accepting of myself and my disability.

Yoga has reconnected my mind and body, re-energised my life and allowed me to accept myself as I am.