My experience with Ankylosing Spondylitis, essentially rheumatoid arthritis in the spine, has been profoundly improved by the Bikram Yoga practice. When I started attending classes at Forge Hot Yoga three years ago, my range of motion was terrible. I could not touch my toes or do many of the postures. I needed to rest often–which is both accepted and encouraged. At the time, back pain kept me from sleeping through the night, and I was rarely ever comfortable.
Thanks to the encouragement and guidance of my teachers, I sleep comfortably now. I have more energy and a better attitude. More specifically, I’ve lost thirty pounds, improved my range of motion and my posture (all are essential to managing my condition). I’ve even reduced my dependency on the NSAIDS prescribed to manage inflammation and pain more than fifteen years ago!
On the best days, it feels like there is more space between my bones. And sometimes, when I am doing well in class, I find myself altogether forgetting that I have arthritis. Yes, there are bad days, and for me, mornings can be especially difficult. I sometimes don’t enjoy how I feel during class, but I always love the way I feel when I leave: warm, peaceful, loose.
My patient and helpful teachers have impressed upon me that yoga is about showing up and doing what you can today, honoring where you are and making incremental improvements by doing whatever small part of the posture you can. This disposition makes this challenging class accessible to everyone.
I strongly recommend the practice to anyone suffering from arthritis. At the very least, you can start like me, lying on the floor warming your aching bones.