It’s surprising to me that yoga isn’t a very common topic in the TMS world, given that it quite literally embodies all the elements required to master this mind-body work. Connection to our inner self, mindfulness, calming breathwork, meditation, regulation of the nervous system as well as a gentle and gradual return to physical movement.
Yoga was so integral in my recovery process that it makes total sense to explore this further and create a bespoke yoga method tailored to the TMS community and TMS recovery to help others discover the benefits that helped me heal fully from chronic pain and anxiety.
Click here to go to my YOGA for TMS page for more information on classes and schedule.
I’ve always been fascinated with human biology and so my voyage of self-discovery notched up a few levels recently when I pursued a lifelong dream and took a yoga teacher training course, followed by a course on ‘The Biomedical Science Behind Yoga’ to properly understand the proven science behind regular yoga practice.
It was during the tail-end of my chronic pain recovery when I was having big chunks of pain-free time that I decided to set myself the goal of attending a yoga teacher training course. It really helped me to have something to work towards, something that felt really ambitious and if I’m completely honest it actually felt way out of my reach even without pain. So when I crossed the two-month mark without any chronic pain, I booked it. A 200hr three-week intensive training course in Goa, to do nothing but work on me was the most physically and mentally demanding thing I think I’ve ever done. I was determined but honestly, I was also freaking out inside, but as with every part of this journey, I felt I had come this far and challenging myself had become something I wanted to carry on doing.
Once I arrived in India and completed a few days of intense advanced practice and long lectures in searing heat (and learning Sanskrit), I thought I’d made a huge mistake and it would set me back in my TMS recovery. I was riddled with self-doubt and fear that my pain would interrupt everything, but I faced it head-on and did the best I could (which didn’t feel was enough, even though it was).
I learned so much on that trip, and not only from the course. I discovered a strength within me that I never knew existed, using stubborn determination despite setbacks and what felt like so much against me. It showed me why yoga is SO important to my TMS journey and how I believe it can be a fantastically appropriate form of therapy for the body and mind.
There was a time not that long ago when I felt there was no way I would ever meet this goal. But as I walked this new path my inner journey started to mirror the outer journey, as I learned to develop physical strength I also learned emotional strength, no matter where you are now I know that if you start practising today you will become SO much stronger inside and out. It doesn't matter whether you can do the moves you see by the pros on Instagram, what matters is the strength you build on the inside, at the level of your heart and soul. JUST START WHEREVER YOU ARE AND KEEP PRACTICING.
Most modern yoga practices typically have a strong emphasis on postures and movement sequences, particularly in the west, but traditional yoga has a much more multifaceted style and the holistic effects of various mind-body elements combined. For me, this makes yoga one of the best options for TMS recovery that offers a myriad of both physiological health and mental health benefits.
Yoga by definition means ‘union’, the merging of body, mind and spirit - an all-in-one enormously beneficial holistic practice.
Scientists use to think that once your brain had matured, then you're done, you can't grow new neurons or neural pathways - which basically meant you can't change. Fortunately, that myth has now been busted and scientists understand that neuroplasticity (a changing brain) is actually the rule, not the exception.
By using the tools of yoga you can recruit neuroplasticity and improve your physiologic resilience, yoga also gives us an amazing opportunity to leverage our spirituality for even greater resilience. Resilience isn't something that we're born with (although genetics certainly play a role), rather resilience is something that you can build - and yoga is an excellent way to do it.
Initially, I sought-out yoga purely for the physical element, to get myself moving again in a way that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. I knew I would be able to take things at my own pace in a calm environment in class or even better at home where I didn’t have to drive to a studio and be worried about being judged for my lack of ability.
There are obvious physical benefits to any exercise practice, but I found yoga particularly perfect for chronic pain as the positions and movements are VERY low impact and can be adapted to any ability level with ease. Plus, yoga is inclusive of EVERYONE, you can have a class with yogis that have been practising for years, alongside brand new beginners with little experience but a drive to learn and better themselves.
As we all know, the mind is the key player in TMS recovery, so my long-term goal was to become a pro at calming my mind and regulating my nervous system using the three main elements that yoga practice encompasses - physical poses, breathing techniques and meditation. I had practised yoga regularly before TMS symptoms hit, but this renewed love carried a much stronger connotation for me. It connected me back to myself.
Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self - The Bhagavad Gita
Some of the main scientifically-proven benefits of regular yoga practice:
Yoga didn’t just improve my life, it changed my life...
Yoga also teaches us non-judgement, non-violence, complete acceptance of self, and reinforces the TMS mind-body teachings that everything we need to thrive and heal we have RIGHT INSIDE.
I have a new and profound relationship with myself, I’m much more accepting of what is, I have a deeper connection to my intuition, to nature, to other people and the world as a whole. Which honestly sometimes amplifies the stresses of the modern world, but it also amplifies the joys and has allowed me to heal much more than my aching body. I can now access a deep pool of peace inside that I never knew existed before...THAT WE ALL HAVE. I have never felt better physically, my health is the best it’s ever been as are my sleep patterns and overall happiness (from within).
This work - along with the other elements of my TMS recovery outlined in my Recovery Journey Roadmap - has shown me a new version of myself, one that is fully aware of my thoughts and behaviours and can directly influence my state of mind at will. I am still a work in progress, and I think I always will be, but these techniques and practices give me the opportunity to better myself continually and to keep uncovering reasons why we are who we are.
I would love to share these experiences with you and have you feel the same benefits that I have a thorough yoga practice. Reach out to me on social media (Facebook or Instagram) if you have any questions about taking part in a TMS-led method of yoga practice taught by me or go straight to the YOGA classes page here.
I think it’s about time yoga practices were integrated into western medical systems to offer patients a more integrative approach to healing and wellbeing. I’m happy to be able to bring this work to the TMS community to share these fascinating benefits and have some fun along the way!
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