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.