Happily, I have found a new yoga studio here in Charm City called, not surprisingly, Charm City Yoga. Over the last three weeks, I’ve been trying out different classes to find out which ones will work for me. I’ve found one teacher whose class I really enjoy, and her teaching style reminds me of some of my favorite teachers back in New York.
Her classes are pretty difficult. They are marked for all levels, and she is great about giving different options, but there is no doubt about the fact that you are in for 90 minutes of hard, invigorating work. I usually have to modify poses slightly or back off so as not to aggravate any of my joints, particularly the smaller ones. It is not uncommon for me to pause after a sun salutation or other pose to roll out my wrists and gently stretch out the tendons and ligaments. While I don’t think I stick out like a sore thumb, it would only take a little observation to guess I’ve got something funky going on.
This past Saturday after class, the teacher was standing by the door as I put my blocks away, so I stopped to thank her for such a great class. She said thanks, then paused and asked casually if I had anything going on with my wrists. I took a deep breath of hesitation, unsure I felt like taking the time to go into It All, but then went ahead and told her that I have rheumatoid arthritis.
All of you can probably imagine my shock (and infinite delight!) when, instead of responding with a blank stare or making one of several well-meant but ill-informed comments such as ‘Well, now is the time to have RA’ or ‘but you’re too young to have arthritis’ or fill-in-the-blank with your favorite lame response, she said, completely unphased: ‘Wow. How are you doing with that - does the yoga help?’
It took me a second to recover. In my mind, I had already geared up to explain that RA is not osteoarthritis, that it is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects my entire body, not just my joints, blah dee blah dee blah. Instead, I told her that it helped quite a bit, but that it had taken me a long time to be able to practice again. In fact, that class had been the first time since RA that I had practiced arm balances (VICTORY!!!! Just don’t tell my RA.)
She then went on to ask if I was on any steroids, and we ended up conversing easily about the meds I do take, how the yoga has helped, whether or not I am in (knock on wood) remission, and she inquired if I had ever tried acupuncture.
Indeed, I lamented that I had been meaning to for quite some time, but hadn’t yet, so she recommended an acupuncturist she goes to that has a practice nearby. Such was my surprise at having a well-informed, compassionate, non-judgmental conversation about RA that I had to remark on it. I told her most people don’t even know what rheumatoid arthritis is, let alone what type of meds might be prescribed as treatment. She nodded her head as if she totally understood, and then smiled and told me she was a massage therapist. Score. I got her number along with the acupuncturist’s.
If only every conversation went along these lines when you told someone you had RA. I feel like the world would be a completely different place to inhabit, and a much easier one at that. It was amazing how much relief and happiness I felt when I realized I didn’t have to explain what RA was, what it does, and what it likely means for someone my age. Instead of wasting so much energy explaining, I was able to simply communicate and have a dialogue with someone about what I was going through. I didn’t feel self-conscious, annoyed, frustrated, or like I needed to deflect pity. It was, quite simply, great. I already felt terrific from the yoga, but this experience left me feeling lighter in spirit than I have in a long time.
So, to my new teacher, thank you, and I’ll be back next week.