Lucid Dreaming= Controlling the Dream?
I am often asked if lucid dreaming means controlling the dream. My answer is: No.
Let me explain more: Yes, it is right, when we get lucid we can choose to a certain extent what to do in the dream, comparable as when we are in the waking state. And yes, there might be less limitations in a dream as flying and materializing something out of the nowhere might be suddenly in the possibilities of the choices. But if you already have had some lucid dreams you might have experienced that not always everything worked as you planned or that some dream figures tell you something absolutely different to what you expected. So, why is the dream not under our control? And why is it nevertheless a good idea to have a plan for your first or your next lucid dream?
Why do I teach in my workshops that it can be usefull to have a plan, an intention for your next lucid dream if lucid dreaming is not about controlling the dream? The reason is because one key to become lucid, probably the most important one, is to REALLY WANT to become lucid. If you come up with something thrilling that you want to explore you are way more likely to become lucid. Especially in the beginning of learning how to lucid dream this is very helpful. You can see it as a learning process. During dream experiments we get familiar with the new worlds that open up in our dreams and we can get rid of many limiting believes. “Oh no, I can not reach with my hand through a wall. Oh wait. Yes, I can!” And you will be surprised, getting rid of limiting believes about what you can or cannot do will be spilled into your waking life as well.
And if it feels not right for you to create an intention like “Tonight I will fly.” You can also note down in your dream journal this intention: “Show me what I need to know right now.”
Why does not everything work that we planned to do in our dreams? Why do some dream figures react so different to what we expected? To answer these questions we also have to look at these questions: Are dreams only produced by our own brain and is consciousness limited to the brain of each person? Or might there be a universal consciousness to which we get access through our dreams?
I like a lot what Waggoner says: “No sailor controls the sea. Only a foolish sailor would say such a thing.” It´s similar with dreams. Dreams are so much bigger then we are. Dreams give us the incredible possibility to get in touch with our own subconscious and additionally with so much more. We get access to the past, the future, different dimensions. Lucid Dreaming is another state of consciousness that opens up so many doors. We can learn so much, get access to the source of creativity, have a look at our past lives, communicate with departed, see into the future, talk with animals and plants and so so so much more. It´s not about controlling, this is way too big.
Sleep well and see you in the astral
Hariom,This post is about my Ayurvedic Panchakarma treatment in India: 2 weeks in a hospital and 3 weeks in a private clinic. Read about my experiences with treatments like purgation and induced vomiting, stopping medication for rheumatism and difficulties I faced during the process of the detoxification of body and mind. Other contents are change and growth, thoughts during meditation, our perverted relationship with our bodies, the 5 Koshas (bodies) in yoga philosophy, yogic diet and Ayurveda & Yoga as holistic concepts.
Panchakarma and Ayurveda
Panchakarma is an
ayurvedic treatment to detoxify. According to Ayurveda we are made of three doshas
(forces), known as vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth). We're all made up of a unique combination of these
three forces. This combination is our prakriti (nature). When there is an imbalance of
the doshas, we suffer from disease. Panchakarma helps to restore the balance.
But these are just a few words for something that´s very complex. Every treatment is highly customized and many factors are considered, so a good doctor is important. The decision to which hospital I wanted to go for a Panchakarma treatment was not easy. I wanted to go to India and I was looking for an authentic treatment, not a wellness stay. In the end I decided for a clinic in Kerala, the state which is known for ayurvedic treatments.
Panchakarma at an Indian Hospital
I was very enthusiastic when I got off the airplane and I was so excited about going to the hospital. But each day I faced more and more problems. Nevertheless I wanted to take the best out of this time and I tried to focus on the treatments. I had Dhara (two therapists poured warm medicated water over my whole body), Lepam (paste was applicated on the body parts that were inflamed), Choorna Pinda Swedam/ Podikkizhi (two therapist scrubbed my whole body with small medicated powder filled bags), Abhyangam (two therapists massaged my whole body with medicated oil) and Nasyam (oil was poured into my nose).
During the stay in the hospital I tried to reduce my medication. Soon I had to rise the dosage again, as the pain increased, the stiffness in my hand became worse, I couldn´t sleep anymore and had terrifying nightmares. Before leaving Germany one of my doctors already warned me that I might experience withdrawal syndromes if I reduce medication. So I knew that it was because of this and that helped me to cope with it and to realize that I had to take even smaller steps regarding reducing medication.
Detection of Thought Pattern, Decision to Leave + Thoughts during Meditation
After two weeks I really wanted to leave the hospital. The initial plan was to stay longer but there were many situations that made me feel very uncomfortable. But my mind reacted: “No, you can´t leave, you just have to be stronger, if you leave now, you are a quitter!” Suddenly I realized that this was not the first time I heard my mind telling me these kind of things when I felt that I should go out of a situation. I could detect it as a very old thought pattern which kept coming back to me. All of a sudden I could think immediately of many occasions when my mind was talking to me like this. It was a crazy feeling when I could detect this voice of my mind.
And something else happened. It is important to accept things or situations that you cannot change. Very important. But it is also important to change things or situations you can change. And I felt that I did not just internalize that but that I was capable to take action.
Change + GrowthIt is always possible to change direction if you feel that the way you are on is not your way or not your way anymore. To do something just because your ego or other people think that you have to do it makes no sense. If you feel that it´s wrong what you are doing, change. You are changing. You are growing. And it is not necessary to choose the way with the most resistance. And to choose another way has nothing to do with being weak. It is about being open and seeing the situations and things that suit you more, rather than staying stubbornly forever on the same way.
I started to look for a clinic. I could find one very quickly and could arrange to go there the next week.
Thoughts coming back
By the way, this negative thought pattern still keeps coming back to me. It´s not that easy, like: “Ok, I have seen that, now I am over that.” No. But the difference between then and now is that I can detect it and I am getting faster in detecting it. Additionally I start to detect more of these patterns and instead of listening to the voice, I open up, stop fighting and come back to flowing.
It nevertheless still costs me not to follow the voice and I often still follow it. But I am aware. One day, I was back from India just since a few weeks, I was taking a walk along a river in Germany, I detected this thought pattern and I could actually catch myself laughing at me. Catching my mind telling me again the same old things it keeps on telling me since such a long time just felt so ridiculous. In this moment I could stop taking my thoughts so seriously. In the end these are just thoughts. And I am not my thoughts. You are not your thoughts.
Thoughts + Meditation
Sometimes when I talk with somebody about meditation I hear: “No, I can´t meditate, I cannot stop my thoughts.” My answer to this always starts with “Don´t worry when thoughts arise during meditation, this is completely normal.” Actually it is not possible to “stop” our thoughts and this is also not the purpose of practicing meditation. What is possible, is to change our reaction to them, to take them not so seriously anymore, to witness them arising, to recognize them and to let them go.
What we can also do is to focus on the gaps between the breaths, between the inhalation and the exhalation. In this gap, there are no thoughts, the mind is still. We prolongate these gaps to finally fall into the silence. In the space between the breaths there is a complete surrender, everything lays in this gap, in this silence. In meditation it is the same as in music. In the end music is not about the music. In the end it is about the silence in between.
Virechena - Last Treatment and even more Clarity
The day before I left the hospital I had Virechena. Virechena means you get something to drink that induces purgation. Through massages etc. the days before you bring the toxins into your body center and then you release them with the purgation. I was alone during this process and had time for myself for what I was very grateful. The process was quite painful but when I was empty I started to feel a huge clarity. My body felt very clean inside and I felt light and especially my thoughts felt very light and clear. I could appreciate even more the detecting of this voice of my mind and I could see and appreciate that everybody in the clinic was giving everything that was possible for them to give me and that I took everything that was possible for me to take. I could let go any frustration I felt before. Even if the stay at this hospital was not what I was hoping for, I could take something with me. I could let go all kind of expectations, making it possible to take something with me. And I knew before that Panchakarma is not just a detoxification of the body but also of the mind, but at this moment I could clearly feel why.
Writing this blog entry I was rereading my diary entry of that day and I found these lines :“Is it possible that it was necessary to let arise all the feelings like anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness fear of pain and so many other faces of fear, everything I felt so intensively the last weeks? Might it have been necessary to let them arise, to let them go?” The next day I left exhausted but with a feeling of “letting go”.
Panchakarma at an Indian Clinic, Vamanam, Yogic Yleaning, Relation to our Bodies, the 5 Koshas (bodies), Yogic Diet, Dropping Medication
In the Indian private clinic I felt that I was in very good hands. The doctor was very carrying, the communication was very good and the treatment was extremely beneficial for me. I had Enema (a clyster is inserted in the anus) Shirodhara (oil is dripped on the forehead), steam bath (sitting in a wooden box with steam) and other treatments I already knew from the hospital, like Choorna Pinda Swedam, Lepam, Abhyangam, Nasyam and Virechena.
Another new treatment for me was Vamanam, induced vomiting. At 6 o´clock in the morning I was sitting outide, a bowl in front of me. I could hear a man vomiting downstairs and two very lovely female therapists were massaging my back and chatting about casual stuff while I was vomiting. During this process I realized how normal everything became to me and how the cleansing lost the connection with “disgusting”. We tend to have a very perverted relationship to our bodies and also to what´s going on inside our bodies. But it makes so much sense to clean our bodies also from the inside not just from the outside. Why is it ok to take a shower every day but not to care at all about the insides of our bodies?
There are also various techniques in yoga regarding cleaning. One is Shank Prakshalan. A very easy way to perform purgation, a cleaning of your intestine. It´s very important to do it the first time under supervision of somebody experienced. Afterwards you can perform it alone. It´s a very ancient technique and you just need salted water and you do yogic exercises. No money needed. I do this every change of the season to evacuate toxins.
Outer + Inner Body
We often have a very strange relationship to our bodies in general. We don´t like them, we cannot accept them, we fight against them. The outer body might be seen as a very faint illusion and this is true, but our body is nothing bad, quite the contrary. Through our outer body we get connected to our inner body. And our inner body, our true self, is the connection with bliss, with everything, the universe.
In Yoga it is said that we have 5 Koshas (bodies): Annamaya Kosha (physical body), Pranamaya Kosha (life force body), Manomaya Kosha (mind) Vigyanmaya Kosha (widsom) and Anandamaya Kosha (bliss body). One can imagine this like sheets or layers, the outermost layer is the physical body, and the innermost layer is the bliss body. In Yoga we work on all these sheets to connect to bliss, the universe, the true self, atman. But everything starts with the body, so we should accept our body and take care of it.
I could trust the very skilled doctor and therapists and could immerge into a very healing process. I did Yoga everyday (no asanas during intense cleansing days), took walks, took a lot of quiet time for myself and had mainly sattvic food. Food is an important pillar in ayurveda as well as in yoga.
Sattvic, Tamasic and Rajasic Food
In Ayurveda and Yoga we differ between sattvic, tamasic and rajasic food. Sattvic food promotes clarity and calmness of the mind. It is food that is full of prana (life force) that means food that´s “alive”, in other words natural, organically grown and as unrefined as possible. Tamasic food is food that is toxic for the body and that makes you dull and dark, like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, processed food or overeating in general. Rajasic food has the quality of actions, also stimulates aggression and imbalance of emotions. It includes food with a lot of flavor, very hot, bitter, sour, dry food, also meat and eggs. In the last post I was writing about “Ahimsa”. Ahimsa means non violence, it is a code of conduct and you can read about this in the book “Yoga Sutras” of Patanjali. This code of conduct is also applicable to the diet. So meat cannot be part of a yogic diet, as it would violate the code of conduct of non-violence. And fear of death permeates every cell of the body of an animal when it is slaughtered. You can read more about yogic diet in the recently mentioned book “Yoga Sutras” of Patanjali and other very important books such as “Bhagavad Gita” and “Hatha Yoga Pradipika”.
You are what you eat. Literally. What you put in your body influences you so deeply, not just on the physical level but it also influences your emotions, your mind, your thinking. When I change something in my diet I can experience it very clearly on all these levels, it´s significant!
I started again to reduce my medication, very slowly. At the end of the treatment I had stopped all my medication for rheumatism. I cannot put in words the gratefulness I felt. I never thought I would be able to live again without medication. And I was pain free! I could not even imagine being pain free again, not even WITH medication. Now I was pain free WITHOUT medication.
The carrying doctor and the lovely staff of the clinic in Varkala
Considering Panchakarma? Ayurveda and Yoga as Holistic Concepts
If you consider to undergo an authentic Panchakarma treatment, it is important to know that it is not a wellness stay. There are clinics which offer these kind of stays as well, this also has its purpose, just select what you are looking for.
Prepare yourself not “just” for a detoxification of your body but also of your mind. It might be a very intense process for your body and your mind. I can also recommend to have some time afterwards to recover.
Another thing I would like to emphasize is that Ayurveda is not only about going a few weeks somewhere for a therapy; it rather influences your whole life, your everyday life. A treatment does not only focus on the symptoms as we are used to in the western world where you get some pills, but it will consider everything: your environment, sleeping habits, your diet and many other factors. For me it is like yoga. Yoga also does not just mean to exercise on your mat. Yoga is everything. For me both are holistic concepts that influence and transform the whole life, creating space to heal. And these two concepts make a wonderful combination!
If you are planning to go or if you already are on this journey, I wish you a wonderful, profound healing process!
Thank you very much for taking the time to read my post. Feel free to comment this post and feel free to share your own experiences. Have a wonderful day
Thank you very much for your interest in my yoga blog. My last post was about the beginning of my journey, how I started to suffer from rheumatism and how yoga started to change my life. This post is about my travel to Thailand, the first yoga teacher training I did in India, my return to Germany and practices that helped me to deal with the challenges of rheumatism. Themes which are also included in this post are the feeling of being a burden, accepting help, gratitude, Ahimsa (a code of conduct in yoga which means non-violence and compassion), the power of thoughts and how to change negative thought patterns.The practices are underlined and in cursive.
My decision to go to Thailand and India + practice to accept help
The cold during the winter in Germany had worsened my rheumatic pain a lot. With the thought helping me to escape the cold, my aunt who lived in Thailand offered me to come a few weeks to her place and recover in a climate which would be much more suitable for my condition. I had a lot of trouble accepting this offer, I was afraid that I would be a burden. But I also felt physically not capable to go somewhere alone.
The feeling of being a burden I had since my condition became more severe. Accepting help was extremely difficult. I never accepted help before, I felt so vulnerable and helpless. But I had no other choice. Gradually, with a lot of resistance, I had to accept some help.
If you also feel this resistance it might help to take the role of the person offering help. It is very hard to see a loved one struggle and you have the possibility to help but the person does not want to accept it. You may actually hurt the person even more because she/ he also looks helpless at the disease which is affecting you.
And if you do not have the fortune to have such a loved person in your life at this time, which is something to accept at this moment, there might be nevertheless persons around you trying to share some of her/his love, compassion with you, for example a neighbour helping with laundry or somebody at the supermarket. Try to be open for these offers.
We don´t have to pretend to be strong enough to do everything on our own all the time, accepting help has nothing to do with giving up. It´s just opening up. What will stay, and what will stay in me, is gratefulness for this wonderful people who supported me. I accepted the offer of my aunt.
There were also people who turned away. If somebody can not be there for you or turns away, it´s also ok, everybody is dealing with something and they face their own challenges and everybody can just give and do what he or she is capable to give at the moment.
And if you actually loose persons, it´s nothing bad either. You are just going separate ways. Life changes in extreme situations, you also change. In order to get something new, dissolution is needed. So you will first loose some persons and things and then there is an empty space. This is extremely painful. But a space can not be filled with something else and new if it is not empty before. Dissolution is needed.
Additionally I dealt with a wish I had since a long time: I wanted to do a yoga teacher training in India. When I vocalized this plan not many people could understand why I wanted to do this. Some were afraid that it could worsen my condition and for example my psychologist discouraged me completely.
But I felt deep inside me that I wanted to go this way. When I nevertheless decided to do the training, I got the support of my family. I also had one unconventional thinking doctor which approved my wish, gave me enough medication for the time and worked out an emergency plan regarding medication in case of a worsening of my condition.
I canceled my apartment in the town I lived, as I felt clearly that I didn´t want to come back to this place anymore. So much suffering was connected to this place and I was ready to move on. Ready to create empty space.
Thailand +practice of moving in warm water
It was January when I left Germany. My mother, who supported me so tremendously at uncountable occasions, drove me to the airport as I was physically not even able to roll my luggage.
When I landed in Thailand I was extremely exhausted but I needed to feel the sea. When I stepped into the water of the sea for the first time, when I could feel the warm sea water on my skin, I could feel peace waving through my whole body and that everything is good. This feeling was overwhelming.
I spent three weeks in Thailand, doing yoga every morning and swimming + moving in the sea every day. I could already experience in Germany during my stay in the health clinic that moving in warm water helped me a lot. And in combination with the warm sea and the climate it was even more beneficial.
In the beginning I was not able to swim because it caused me a lot of pain afterwards. I tried out many many different sports. I was always very active and it was horrible to realize how many things I could not do anymore. Many sports caused me so much pain and after practicing I was tied to bed for several days, forced to rise medication. But I kept on searching.
out different things even if you think you might not like it. Just try it once.
Having rheumatism, movement and staying active is very important but moving often
causes pain. I had the problem that I wanted to do much more than I was able to
do, but I learned to find ways to move with these limitations. The learning process was very hard, I often felt like moving one step forward and two steps back but it is important to stay attentive
and listen to your body if it needs a break or a smoother way of moving. Keep
on trying out in a gentle way what suits you, everybody is different. And your condition is also constantly changing, so keep on trying.
What I could discover was water gymnastics, as it is a wonderful way to loosen your body, to experience movement and it is not as one-sided as swimming. It´s a very gentle way of moving and the joints move smoothly. You can also do yogic joint movements, yoga warm ups and even asanas in the water. It is important to experiment as well what´s good for your condition regarding water, for some people with rheumatism cold is more beneficial then warmth. At this time for me it was warmth , if it´s the same with you, I can recommend thermal bath.
Going for walks was also something I discovered being very beneficial. You are in nature so it´s easier to disconect and it´s a gently way of moving. But there were days I could not even walk because of too much pain, but even if it´s just 10 minutes you can make, it is better than nothing. Stay active and respect your current limitations.
My first teacher training in India
After regaining a lot of strength in Thailand I headed to the teacher training in India. It was such an amazing experience and I kept regaining more and more my physical strength. There was everyday a program with asana practice and yoga philosophy. I enjoyed fully every day after this long time being at home. And I was able to do things I did not even dream of anymore after this horrible 8 years. At the end of the training I was able to do a headstand. A year before I was not even able to hold a spoon. It was incredible.
The training I did was a multistyle yoga teacher training, so I had the possibility to learn Aerial Yoga, flying yoga, were you use ropes. It was very good for me as I saw the therapeutical effect of the ropes. You can go for example into inverted postures and get the various benefits out of the postures without the need to lift your weight, as the ropes support you. Additionally I loved that you feel weightless, the playfulness you can include, the laughing and fun and that you are completely in the moment. So I decided to do my exam in Aerial Yoga. When I gave my exam, which was my first one hour Yoga class, I felt so much happiness. For the first time in my life I could feel that this is what I want to do. That I want to share yoga.
I could connect with like minded people and I started to believe that there might be some people I can connect with again after a long period of time having the impression of not fitting in anymore. I still felt sometimes like not belonging as the other students were talking about what they were missing at home and about what they were having in their lives and I did not feel at all like this. I felt as if there would not be so much waiting for me “at home”. Actually I did not even have a home, as I cancelled my apartment. The most precious thing I was having was this very moment. Looking back at this time I can say that it was perfectly fine how I felt, I just lived completely in the moment and I felt deep gratitude for every moment without thinking too much about the past or the future. I enjoyed. Fully. I felt great freedom.
And it made me so happy to be back on the road, to be able to travel again and to experience different cultures.
The veil of depression started to lift. It was as if I would have lain in a hole in the earth, I imagined myself many times like this. And I was not able to move and not able to see the outside. I started to climb up and could finally see again something. I experienced true happiness of which I could not even imagine to feel again in my life.
I learned that it´s always worth it to risk something, always worth it to do what you want to do with your life, always worth it to follow your heart and trust in yourself. I felt like being on the right path.
Return to Germany + practice to change negative thought patterns
I still faced some challenges. During the teacher training I sometimes had to rise my medication and back in Germany I still had pain attacks. Additionally I had a muscle rupture in my hamstring due to an accident at the teacher training were a teacher pushed me in a seated forward fold. I felt some frustration but I also learned that I had to work on saying “stop” and also that I will never push any of my students into a posture. I believe it is important to recognize where you are at the moment and that you are comfortable in the pose, everything else is bound to happen and that there is no need to be pushed or push. Another word for this is Ahimsa. Ahimsa is a code of conduct in Yoga and means non-violence and compassion and it is applicable to others and to yourself.
Because of the rupture I was forced to modify my practice for hamstring ruptures, injured legs. I started to transform the frustration I felt by telling myself that nothing is permanent and by thinking that all the limitations I experience on my own give me the possibility to try out yoga therapy methods on my own body and mind, helping me to become a better yoga teacher. So I transformed a negative thought into a positive.
It is very important how we talk to ourselves and what we tell ourselves. Each day we have 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts. 95% of them are repetitive. And 80% of these thoughts are negative. This was published in an article about human thoughts by the National Science Foundation. It makes a huge difference if we start to focus more on positive thoughts. And Ahimsa is not just a rule for physical aspects but it is also important regarding mental aspects, and again, not just for others but also for ourselves, speaking to ourselves with non-violence and compassion.
1. Detect repetitive negative thought patterns
The first step is to pay attention to how we speak to ourselves and if we can detect repetitive negative patterns. For this, just observe yourself in various occasions. One possibility is for example when you sit down for meditation, trying to do nothing apart of watching your breath. Concentrate on nothing else except your breath. At one point, nevertheless, there will be coming thoughts. Now realize how you react. Do you get angry with yourself? Frustrated?
Or take any other situations in your life and try to step back a little bit, just observe how you talk to yourself. Probably you will notice that this inner dialogue is negative and full of self-criticism.
2. Change consciously harmful thought patterns and let them go
After we have noticed how negatively we talk to ourselves, we can start to change consciously harmful patterns and let them go. We do have the power to transform ourselves.
-We can talk to ourselves differently and we can change our point of view for different things, as I changed the sentence: “I am frustrated with my body.” to “The challenges my body gives me helps me to gain more experience regarding yoga therapy.” So I changed the angle of looking at it.
-Or you can also change a negative pattern to a helpful statement. So if you failed in a project at work instead of saying “I am loser, I can never do anything right.” You can replace that by saying to yourself “Yes, I did a mistake, but I learned of this mistake and I am valuable.”
The most important is to realize how powerful our thoughts are and what a difference it makes if we treat and talk to ourselves as a friend or an enemy.
3. Do not get discouraged if you fall back into a negative thought pattern
is not an easy process to change thought patterns and we tend to fall back into
negative thought patterns. But if this happens and if we are then able to
detect that we felt back into a negative thought pattern, this is the most
important. Because then we can see them already! And when we can see them we are already able to step a little bit back and
take them not so serious. So we do not give the thoughts the power we gave
Decision to go back to India to do a Panchakarma treatment to get rid of medication
Being back in Germany I suffered from side effects of the medication. The pain killers and antidepressant influenced my energy level massively. But I gained more and more strength and felt more stable. I felt ready to move on. So I decided that I wanted to get rid of my medication.
Half year ago, I would have never thought that there would come a moment when I wanted to live again without the medication as it helped me so much. But now I felt that it was not something I wanted to have forever. I also wanted to specialize in yoga therapy, do a 300 hours teacher training and get deeper into the matter of yoga. I felt that the 200 hours training was a very small fortaste and I wanted to look for a place to learn authentic teachings of yoga in a non touristic place. I wanted to get deeper into philosophy and meditation as I felt that asanas, the movements of yoga, were important but that there was so much more to discover. So I started to plan my next trip to India. I started to look for a place to do an ayurvedic panchakarma treatment, a detoxification method, to get rid of my medication and a place far beyond touristic places to do a yoga therapy training. I also wanted to go back travelling as I felt there was so much more waiting for me in the world.
The next post will be about my panchakarma treatments in India, 2 weeks in an Indian hospital and 3 weeks in a private clinic, after which I could stop my medication for rheumatism.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read my post. Feel free to comment and share this post and to share your own experiences. Have a wonderful day.
Thank you for your interest in my yoga blog. My name is Maria, I am 30 years old and I am from Germany. This blog is going to be about my journey with yoga. In this first post I briefly summarize the beginning of my journey, how I started to suffer from rheumatism, how yoga changed my life and I also include some practices that helped me. The practices are underlined and cursive.
It was not easy to write about this. For a very long time I tried to hide the situation I was in. But as I started to share a little bit of my story I realized how many people are also affected by rheumatism or facing other challenging situations trying to find their way. We are shoulder to shoulder. So I decided to share my story, I hope it helps somebody in some way.
How rheumatism affected my life
The worst thing in your life can turn out to be the best thing that could happen to you.
I was always very active, I studied romanic languages, I loved travelling, did a lot of sports like Capoeira and worked in many different jobs during my years at university. When the rheumatic pain started 8 years ago, I didn´t know what it was. I started to have pain attacks in my shoulders and my lower back, but I just kept on doing everything I was doing, trying to ignore it by taking pain killers. Suddenly the pain became so severe that I could not ignore it anymore. I remember clearly one night when I was overwhelmed by the pain and a doctor injected me cortisone and did a blood test. The blood test showed a high level of inflammation in my body. Then a very long and exhausting history of doctor visits started. A clear diagnosis was never possible, so I kept on taking pain killers, but I got more and more restricted regarding all parts of my life. I couldn´t do sports anymore, I couldn´t travel anymore. Additionally my body added various other diseases, insomnia, fatigue, depression etc.
I tried to be as strong as possible and I did my best not to show to the outer world how I felt inside. But I was suffering from more and more pain and I couldn´t stop the constant worries and thoughts.
I started to work in a big company. My life got more and more divided and I was playing more and more roles. But looking from the outside I had achieved everything I was working hard for my whole life, regarding career and social life. But I started to realize that I was not happy at all with what I thought I had to achieve. My depression got worse. At the same time my left hand became very painful. It was treated like a typewriter´s cramp. But after some time, my hand suddenly inflated, got red and blue, stiff and hair grew on it. I went to some other doctors, then the clear diagnosis: rheumatism, CRPS, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Additionally I suffered from more attacks regarding my shoulders. Then doctors told me that the pain in my back and my shoulders would be a different kind of rheumatism, called Ankylosis Spondylitis. I got cortisone, different painkillers, basis medication, pills to sleep and antidepressant.
I was not functioning anymore, I could not do anything what the society or I was expecting me to do, I felt useless, worthless. I couldn´t even clean my apartment, go to the supermarket, hold a spoon. I would not have been able to survive in this time without my wonderful family and very few, but true friends. I lost the ability to move freely, I lost my job soon, I lost my relationship, I lost many friends. And I was full of fear of never getting better again. I lost everything but I could also feel that I actually wanted and needed to drop some of these things. I realized that I felt trapped in my life and that I had to change my life and what was more important that I wanted to change my life. I started to reflect what made me feel bad and then I started to let it go. I let go of some things, some persons, some unhealthy living patterns. It was very hard to realize some of these things. And realizing and actually changing were two completely different things, as most of the time we already know deep inside what we would have to change to feel happier, we just don´t do it because it is a very uncomfortable process to step out of old patterns. What I basically did was to start to listen to myself. I started to investigate what I really wanted, who I was, as I lost myself completely on the way. I spent a lot of time in nature, I did things I liked since always, like reading and I also tried out new things, like drawing. I tried to give myself some freedom and also tried to explore. And yoga came back to me and created space for all this, created space for healing.
I took this photo later in India, but it reminds me of how I felt at this time of my life. I felt like standing in an empty hallway, where the door at my back, my old life, was already closed and I could see another door, but the door was not open yet and I was not sure either if I can reach this door. I felt like being nowhere for a long time.
My first yoga steps + practices for meditation and pranayama
Yoga played a role in my life since I was 14, but since a longer time I didn´t practice, as I “had no time”. Caught in the fast-paced life. But as my life was changing I started to think about what I actually want to do in my life and yoga was definitely a part of it, still not knowing how important it would actually become to me. I started to integrate some pranayama and meditations, laying or sitting, whatever was possible at the moment. As pranayama (breathing exercises), I started with diaphragmatic breathing which is very soothing.
You can do
this sitting or laying, whatever is comfortable for you. Bring one hand to your
belly and the other hand to your chest. Then start breathing into your belly
and observe that just the hand on your belly moves. Observe how the breath
enters into your nostrils and comes out from your nostrils. Just observe the
process of breathing without influencing the breath. Feel that the breath
automatically slows down and feel calmness spreading over your body and mind.
You can do this breathing for 10 minutes or however long it feels comfortable.
For more detailed explanations you can watch Rolf Soviks video to practice this
very simple and effective Pranayama. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q82YnmL0Kr8
I was hospitalized in a health clinic specialized in rheumatology for 3 weeks. This was a big step, there I could experience to swim again for a little while, as the medication was helping me. Another important point was for me a walking meditation method a psychologist explained to me during this program.
Walk slowly at your pace and with awareness. First look at 5 things and name them in your head, then hear 5 different sounds and then feel 5 different things. After this look at 4 things, hear 4 things, feel 4 things etc. till you reach 0. For example : see a leaf of a tree, a stone, a bird, a dog, a fence, hear a car, the wind, people talking, the stones under your shoes, your breath and feel the fabric of your clothes on your skin, the movement of your feet, the wind touching your skin, the warmth of the sun, one finger touching your other finger and so on.
This practice brings you in the present. It is also very easy but very effective. We worry a lot, and when we worry we are either in the past or in the future. But if we are in the present we are just there. We are just in the here and now.
In the beginning I was not able to do many asanas (physical exercises of yoga). But gradually I integrated some joint movements and I did asanas with variations according to my limitations, which were a lot. I felt frustration as I was not able to do asanas “properly”. But there is no right or wrong performing asanas and it is not about looking good or achieving certain fancy poses. It is normal that we tend to want to achieve, as we grew up in an achievement oriented society, that´s why it is very important to remember that it is about ourselves, about feeling good what we are doing. And we are often so rigid and unloving with ourselves. One day I was asked: “Would you treat a friend of you like you treat yourself?” And I started thinking. I would not at all. So I tried to respect my limitations and to accept them, to accept me. And yoga is so much more than just asanas, in the western world we tend to underestimate the power of meditations and pranayama, as the focus is on the physical aspect, on the asanas, but meditations and pranayama are so extremely powerful.
Due to my daily little self-customized yoga practice I felt very soon improvement on the physical and the psychological level. Thinking and reflecting became easier. I could feel already how important and good it was that yoga came back into my life and that it would help me even further.
My decision to go to India
Another thing I realized reflecting was, that I needed to travel again. When I was with just one little bag at the health clinic I felt how much I was missing travelling and having less things, I missed to feel this freedom. I decided to combine the wish to travel and yoga to go to India. I wanted to do a yoga teacher training since a long time but I never did it, because I was always worried about adding something important to my curriculum. But I could feel clearly that I had to let go of this as well.
Actually going to India did not really feel like a choice I made, there was just no other way. I lost already everything and I could not live my life anymore like this, everything that happened was too painful. I surrendered. And with surrendering I do not mean giving up or what we sometimes associate with the word surrender. With surrender I mean, I surrendered to the moment, I accepted. We tend to force and want to control everything. But we can not. By surrendering I could see my way.
Of course, I was full of fear of increasing the pain with my decision to go to India. We are all full of fear and guilt. Fear of taking a wrong decision. Fear of failing. And so much more fears, each of us with own personal fears. Like my fear of pain. But I had nothing to lose. I was already living in pain. Yes, there was the possibility of even more pain. But the life with the pain which was already there was not possible for me to live. And guilt, guilt of not doing what society expects us to do. We feel the need to fit in, to achieve the things we are supposed to achieve. Career, money etc. And as we live in an achievement oriented society it's sometimes not even that somebody tells us directly what we should do, but we have already internalized all this and we put so much pressure on ourselves and the only person that stands in our way are we, ourselves. If we let go the fear and the guilt we can create the space to find ourselves. And if we do not step out of our comfort zone, growth can not happen.
My next post is going to be about my travel to India where I did my first yoga teacher training and my visit to Thailand. Other contents that will follow will be my other teacher trainings and my ayurvedic panchakarma treatment in India during which I could stop my medication for rheumatism and many other themes.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read my post. Feel free to comment and share this post and to share your own experiences. Have a wonderful day.