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Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

As a mentor of mine once shared, “Most people don’t come to yoga because everything is awesome”.

This still makes me smile because it was so true for me.

I came to yoga as a young mother in 2002 looking for a way to feel better. I was struggling to simply get through the day due to fatigue, persistent pain and a host of other health problems that had plagued me on and off throughout my life. Having tried yoga in my 20s and finding it “too slow” for my fast moving body and mind, I was hesitant to go back and try again. At the same time, I knew something had to change. So I went.

I left class that day with a gift I never saw coming…I could breathe. I had no idea how rigid and stressed my body had become. Driving home from class all those years ago, I noticed something I couldn’t name but could definitely feel. I knew that whatever “this” was, I needed more of it.

Although I had no way of knowing back then that I would one day be diagnosed with a genetic connective tissue disorder called Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), I did know that yoga helped. A lot.

Yoga soon became a bedrock of healing for my body, mind and heart and I loved sharing what I was learning with others. I found that the poses came easily to my bendy body and I fell in love with both the practice and the people. I was so excited when I thought about the ways in which yoga could help people with all sorts of challenges and landed on a teacher training that resonated with me.

Like so many of us with JHM (Joint Hypermobility or the ability to move joints in a greater than expected range of motion), getting myself into the end ranges of yoga poses came naturally. Although JHM is common and is not a diagnosis in and of itself, it can be associated with a wide variety of health issues and is a frequent sign of hereditary disorders of connective tissue such as hEDS. This turned out to be true for me. I just didn’t know it yet.

Years later, as I approached midlife, the types of health issues that drew me to yoga in the first place began to pop up in the form of curious injuries and challenging bouts of pain and fatigue. Intuitively, I knew yoga would always be a part of my world, but I couldn’t help wondering if the way I was practicing asanas had become “too much of a good thing” for my body.

It wasn’t until a student approached me after class one day to express her gratitude. She shared how she was ready to give up on yoga altogether until she found my class: “I feel safe in your class. I am not hurting myself and my body feels stronger. Thank you”. She went on to share her own experiences of bewildering health issues along with a lifetime of odd injuries and intermittent bouts of chronic pain and fatigue due to a condition called Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS).

My first thought was, “I think I have this.”

I was teaching differently but hadn’t even realized it. I had begun a new journey on my mat and I wanted to better understand it. I began to read everything I could find on hypermobility, pain science and therapeutic movement.

Although that quick conversation with a kind soul was my first exposure to the world of hypermobility disorders, it wouldn’t be my last. Shortly after, a cardiologist would recommend me for testing and I was formally diagnosed with hEDS.

This new understanding of myself as a person with a sensitive constitution woke me up to a whole new way of taking care of myself for which I am forever grateful. Turns out that my intuition was right all along. Yoga was never the problem. In fact, it has always been part of the solution.

Life has a genius way of tapping us on the shoulder when it’s time to change things up. There was no need to abandon my beloved yoga practice after all. It was simply an invitation to grow into a new version of myself both on and off the mat. This new awareness of how my body feels most supported was a second chance (and our bodies love a second chance!).

I began to notice when my body had something to tell me and I really listened. In other words, I returned once again to the very essence of what drew me to yoga in the first place. I must say that along with the challenges, I have had so much fun.

Learning to tune in to my sensitivities and respond with love to my body’s messages continues to challenge me in all the best ways. It is at the heart of what yoga teaches us and I am so grateful to be on this path.

How Yoga Heals: Embracing the Lessons of a Sensitive Body by Amy Yapp, Yoga therapist and Yoga Instructor at Revolution Community Yoga and Fitness in Acton, Massachusetts

by Amy Yapp, March 2024

Amy Yapp is a yoga therapist with a specialty in helping people with sensitive bodies to heal and thrive. Working with people who “just need to do things a little differently” brings her great joy.

Email Amy at amyyapp63@gmail.com.

To learn more about Hypermobility disorders visit: https://www.ehlers-danlos.com/what-is-hsd/

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