One day I received a desperate call from a lady who wanted yoga classes to help her manage a rare autoimmune disease. When she came with her medical reports, I could tell that she was very frightened.
She was a lady in her fifties, successfully running her own business, she was fitness conscious and exercising at the gym regularly. Two years ago, she started noticing that her muscles and ligaments were becoming very stiff, and extremely painful. A lot of tests were done, and it was discovered that she had an autoimmune disease called Panniculitis.
The subcutaneous fat layer under the skin is inflamed and hardens into painful nodules that block and damage the muscles and ligaments. The inflammation can spread through the body and organs, causing intense pain, stiffness and extreme fatigue. There is no known cure for this condition and treatment is only palliative with antibiotics, steroid injections and pain relief tablets. This lady was told that eventually she would be bedridden. This lady had lost hope, was unable to sleep at night and was sinking into depression.
I explained that Satyananda Yoga was an integral system and not about stretches and exercises. She was very surprised to learn. Here is a brief outline of the sadhana which she did:
Yoga in the bed – moving the toes, ankles, hands, shoulders, head, in order to get the blood circulation flowing before getting out of bed.
Standing asanas – Hasta utthanasana, tadasana, tiryak tadasana.
Kati chakrasana: the first few days, she could not even move her arm behind her back. Two weeks later, she was able to do the practice comfortably.
Surya namaskara – Since she could not bend her knees, I taught her only the first three positions, to be done slowly while chanting the mantras and feeling the strength of the sun entering her body.
Pawanmuktasana Part 1 – She practised slowly with focus on breathing. Janu naman, knee bending, was not possible in the beginning, but now she is doing it very well.
Pawanmuktasana Part 2 – She practised only the first two practices, utthanpadasana and chakra padasana, with focus on breathing and feeling the energy flow in her legs.
Nadi shodhana – with the ratio 1:1
Mental nadi shodhana – to be done at her desk, whenever possible for a few moments or when feeling stressed.
Full abdominal breathing – while lying down.
Kaya sthairyam – ten minutes
Ajapa japa – She loves Swamiji’s short technique with the instruction to breathe in harmony with loved ones.
I felt that her prana is stuck and needs to flow again. She was amazed to learn that prana flows in different ways through our bodies yet very willing to practise it.
Beginners yoga nidra – with a positive sankalpa, every night before sleep.
Three mantra sadhana with the focus on the Mahamrityunjay mantra. She is also focusing on the Mahamrityunjay yantra and on the amrit pouring from the kalash onto her the body, symbolizing the constant cycle of rejuvenation.
This lady is intelligent, sincere diligent with her daily practice. I received a very excited message from her to say, that she cannot believe the change in her body. She can do all the practices well and is sleeping peacefully at night. She still has a day or two of intense pain off and on but says, “It is nothing I cannot handle now.” She knows her yoga sadhana is a lifelong commitment. It is saving her life and she is so grateful.
In her sea of pain and fear, yoga is like the rock she can cling to. The Bihar School of Yoga method, with its focus on the aspects of body, mind, emotions and spirit has really transformed her life!