Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Bikram Yoga
NAME – Tina
AGE – 44
LOCATION – Salt Lake City
DIAGNOSIS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
I am a very active person and I always have been I’m also a plus size woman so being active is important to me for my health more than anything
In 2011 or so, I was doing Zumba someone said I would be a great instructor. I thought it would be fun, so I started teaching Zumba ad I loved it.
Not long after I started getting these weird muscle cramps that just wouldn’t go away. You know how you get a muscle cramp then it goes away and you’re okay? Well, the cramps I got, and I still get them to this day, these cramps will last half an hour, 45 minutes, an hour, even 90 minutes, so I knew something wasn’t quite right.
So, I went to the doctor and they said I was just dehydrated.
I said straight away “I’m not dehydrated!” I’m an active person who was very in tune with my body and hydration is something that I take very seriously. The response was still you are dehydrated.
Okay, so the doctor wanted me to track ounce by ounce, everything I consumed. Water, electrolytes, everything, so I agreed to do that for four weeks. When I went back to the doctor she basically fell over when she saw what I was doing on a daily basis to stay hydrated. I wake up in the morning and I do Himalayan sea salt. It is crazy what I do to stay hydrated.
The doctor said that maybe I should go to an orthopaedic person and I agreed. I live near the University of Utah which has some really good doctors, so I went to an orthopaedic group that takes care of all of the athletes at the University.
This was one of those moments in my life that I will never forget. They took a tonne of x-rays and afterwards the doctor sat me down with my husband the doctor grabbed my hand and said, “you have an extra vertebra in your back”.
I took a big gasp of air and then tears just started flowing down my face.
How did that never get found before and what does that mean? Am I looking at becoming paralysed in the next month? I mean, what does that mean?? Jump ahead. We then went for a second opinion, and according to that person I don’t have an extra vertebra. How did a specialist mess that up?
So, I got really frustrated and decided to go to a neurologist, and that practitioner just offered me drugs. Let’s try this drug, let’s try that drug…. no diagnosis but let’s start giving you drugs.
DIAGNOSIS IN MEXICO
My husband is from Mexico and I went to College in Mexico. Although I am not Hispanic my parents used to go to Mexico on vacation. One thing led to another and I ended up living down there for college. I learned that the medical system in Mexico is actually very good.
As a kid I suffered with inflamed tonsils and ear infections all the time. Doctors would tell my parents “if she gets another ear infection, we’re going to have to take her tonsils out.”
Well I had my tonsils out in Mexico when I was 21 and I have never had a single problem since. I also have had 4 knee surgeries before. The 4th surgery was in Mexico and my knee is now fine.
So, after the conflicting diagnosis with the vertebra and my experience with the neurologist my husband said “why don’t we go to Mexico? it’s cheaper and you could go to every single possible specialist they have.”
So, I did that.
In August of 2014 I went to Mexico for a week. I had multiple appointments every day. I had a heart doctor, an OB-GYN an orthopedist, a neurologist, internist, everything. I spent 4 hours in a lab having every possible ultrasound plus an ECJ. We were trying to rule it all out.
One of these doctors finally sat me down and said “these are one of those diagnosis that doctors don’t like to give people, but the blanket you have over you is fibromyalgia and it is stress induced fibromyalgia. In addition to that you have all of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.”
I suffer from all of it. I have insomnia, carpal tunnel, sciatica, the lot.
That same doctor said to me “I think you need to do yoga” and I laughed at him. He repeated to me “I think the best thing for you in addition to these medications is yoga”.
And all I could think was “but I don’t like yoga! I do insanity and Zumba and weights but not yoga no way!”
I DON’T LIKE YOGA
I just don’t like yoga. I don’t like ashtanga yoga. I don’t like regular yoga; I find yoga really boring.
I have a membership at 24 hour-Fitness. I have been a member there forever. I pay $69 a year. I have tried yoga there and I always walk out. It’s boring to me. I don’t want to offend anybody, but it is boring to me. So, when this doctor suggested yoga, I literally laughed in his face. For me, yoga is very slow motion. It’s doing poses I can’t do. I’m a tin-man kind of person, I’m stiff, I’m big, and I just can’t do it. It frustrates me. it is slow, even the things I can do send me to sleep. I just don’t enjoy it and I’ve tried a lot.
My first yoga experience was the P90X video and I always dreaded Thursday – the yoga day. I love P90X but yoga for 90 minutes was just too much. So now with the fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue diagnosis I started trying a bunch of things on my own. I was going to a chiropractor and getting massages. At one point a massage therapist told me “hey, you might want to try Bikram yoga”. It’s funny because when all my pain had started, I vaguely remember another friend telling me I should try Bikram yoga and I was like “no, no chance.”
But I remembered hearing that some people do like Bikram and there was a studio literally a mile from my home. They had this $20 pass for unlimited classes in 10 days, so in 2013 I went and tried it but I lasted two days and never went back. I thought “this really isn’t for me” but I was also very closed minded to it because it was yoga.
And for me I don’t even call it Bikram yoga. I call it Bikram because if I put yoga at the end, I don’t like it. I do Bikram it’s just easier that way.
…. I tried it anyway
In October 2014, a year after I had tried Bikram and then received the diagnosis and recommendation for yoga, my husband was going to be out of town and I was thinking “what am I going to do with myself?” I decided to go to Bikram, and I made up my mind that I was going to go for 10 days in a row this time to truly give it chance to help me.
The first couple of days I was thinking “what have I got myself into?”
I remember I hated the first day, “why did I do this to myself?” I thought, “you have wasted $20!”
The next morning, I was packing up for work and I was packing my bag and I was thinking “this is stupid”, but I went to Bikram anyway. I was so nauseous, I felt terrible. I literally thought I was going to pass out from the heat.
The instructor said, “if you need to take a sit down go ahead”, but I’m not the kind of girl to sit down. I was frustrated with myself that I couldn’t do a lot of it, but by day three I started looking around and talking to people before and after class and it was interesting because everybody at Bikram had a story how they got there. Because they had an automobile accident, or they had reconstructive surgery on a joint or they have back problems ….
It felt like everybody there had a story.
We also have some of the NBA jazz players that go to our studio!
So, after hearing about these other people who practise, my mind was opened, and I was actually thinking “I can do this for 10 days!”.
I have a saying for myself I can do anything temporarily and this is no different 10 days is temporarily it is a blip on the radar of my life
I think I actually signed up for a membership on day 8 I woke up that morning and realised I feel good at that moment I understood why the doctor told me I should do this yoga and I realised that I can do the sugar I had a whole little conversation in my head about it
90 DAY CHALLENGE
Just a few months later – January 2015 – I went completely chemical free and did a 90-day Bikram challenge. I did 91 Bikram classes in 90 days I felt amazing! I thought I was already in tune with my body, but this took me to a whole new level, plus I detoxed my body from the drugs that I had been taking for so many years. Even before all my symptoms hit hard, I had been on birth control for years. I had been taking Advil and Tylenol probably to mask the pain so that whole detoxing period worked.
The 1st 20 days or so wasn’t amazing but afterward after that I just went with it. It was an amazing thing; the support from the studio was so uplifting.
Once I did the 90-day challenge I knew what Bikram did for me and I kept going on a very regular basis. I have kind of experimented with how often to practise, my minimum is 3 days a week; five to six days a week is perfect. the main reason I don’t go seven days a week is that Sunday is the only day that my husband and I both have off work I feel bad leaving him for three hours so I don’t go on Sundays.
Benefits That Keep Me Going
the heat! It is interesting because summer is the hardest time of year for me, physically. The heat at first was really hard for me, but then my body started craving the heat.
I also started to notice changes such as:
- less cramping in the middle of the night
- I was less tired in the middle of the afternoon
- I would stay up later and stay awake for most of a movie which was right
- PMS symptoms weren’t as bad
- When I did get sciatic pain, it wasn’t quite as debilitating
So that is what keeps me going. The other thing I love about Bikram is I know exactly what I’m walking into. I’ll let myself go I don’t try to think ahead and rush into a pose, but I know what to expect because it never changes.
Diet and Bikram
I eat very clean I don’t need anything out of a bag a box or a tin.
My only exception is a shake because I’ve taken them for years and they have a tonne of super foods in them it definitely helps me to feel better and keeps my body in cheque. I have done a tonne of research on nutrition and have attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I’m also certified health coach through the American Council on Exercise and a personal trainer.
For me, the optimal diet is raw vegan, but I get bored with it, so I eat really clean and don’t eat a lot of meat.
Exercise and Rest
Currently in addition to Bikram I am doing at home doing workouts. I’m a beach body coach so I am always doing one of those at home. My latest adventure is F-45 which is a workout from Australia.
As a child I was a super sound sleeper and I slept 8 to 10 hours all the time. Nothing woke me up. Even in college I remember being a fairly good sleeper but when all these health issues started happening insomnia hit me as well. Getting to sleep is hard, staying asleep is hard.
With Bikram, honestly, I don’t know if it helps me sleep any better. But what I have noticed is that with Bikram I no longer have the terrible fatigue during the day that I used to. I used to be non-functional by 3:00 PM every day.
I also have restless leg syndrome so sometimes that kicks in and I can’t get comfortable it used to be really bad, but it has calmed down a lot with Bikram.
I think this is one of the most important pieces. When I started doing Bikram, I was actually managing a business for a friend and it was very stressful.
She wasn’t living nearby so it was stressful trying to get her the information she needed. I was always trying to make sure she was happy, and always sending pictures. I worked 24 hours a day, and it was a little overwhelming.
Those 90 minutes at Bikram – not being able to be contacted – felt like travelling to another world. For me it is still that way.
Now I work from home and do my own thing, but I still have that 90 minutes where nobody can find me.
During a Bikram class, even though I am in a room full of people, all those people are in the same state that I am and they don’t want to talk. It’s just an amazing thing.
It literally lets me shut my mind off. Without Bikram I have a mind that just goes on and on and on! For example, when I feel a pain, my mind goes to that pain. I think “poor me, my body is hurting” or something else negative.
But when I’m in a Bikram class, even if I have a pain or a spasm or a cramp, my mind doesn’t go to that “poor me” thinking. It stays in the moment. A Bikram class makes me just be in the room, be present, and enjoy the heat. And just simply listen to the instructor.
It may sound weird, but sometimes just listening to the vibrations and tones of the different instructors keeps my mind from wandering and thinking about negative things.
I think that the Doctor Who prescribed yoga for me was referring to this process and describing. I think he knew that I needed to be able to shut down my mind for a little bit of time everyday.
I have realised that the power of the mind is huge. I have historically had a really high tolerance to pain, and now it is even higher. I can talk myself out of it.
Two weeks ago I woke up with a really bad cramp in my hip flexor and I literally could not stretch my leg out. I could not walk crawl or move. It lasted an hour. I just took some deep breaths and focused on not getting worked up.
I have often had these cramps that last a really long time, and I have noticed that if I let myself get worked up mentally, it will stay longer and it will get worse.
That power of the mind is pretty amazing. I tell people all the time that I could put myself in a wheelchair with my mind. I could become completely disabled and unable to walk if I let my mind go there. But I choose not to do that.
Bikram has influenced me so much in this regard, in training me to choose to stay in the present moment and training me to choose the focus of the thought that I am having or going to have when something is uncomfortable.
Some people make themselves so sick by just thinking about how sick they are. They read my story about going chemical free and say “I could never do that.”
Well, why not? I’m nobody special. I really am not. I’m just a girl that wants to live more years and live healthy and be happy and a little less painful. I don’t want to be in a wheelchair. I want to be active. I like doing active things. The only difference between me and that person who is sitting at home and is still feeling the effects of chronic fatigue is the mental aspect. It really is.
I have read a few books about the power of the breath, and that has helped me to be receptive to yoga ideas. I am a really spiritual person too, and it goes hand in hand with my Bikram practise. A lot of the people that practise Bikram with me have similar thoughts and we can talk and bounce ideas off each other, having that supportive community of people has helped me a lot.
How Badly Do You Want To Feel Better?
I am in a lot of Facebook groups about fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. When I mention to someone that they should try Bikram, their reaction is the same as mine was. “no way!”.
More times than not, people say it is the heat that keeps them away.
“I could never do the heat”.
I hear that over and over again. I get it. I understand it completely. I can’t do that the summer sucks I get it but the heat at Bikram is amazing. The heat at Bikram is a completely different beast.
Bikram has just been so life changing for me on so many levels. The mental level, the physical level, it really is quite amazing. I don’t think any of the other kinds of yoga have the same power to heal the body, I just don’t. Nobody is going to change that opinion.
I have shared my Bikram experience so many times. I’m like a walking billboard – I talk to people about it a lot!
I do all these things – running, Zumba, spin classes, outdoor workouts, I am very active. But Bikram specifically is the piece that helps me stay as active as I do. It keeps me more fluid and mobile than if I don’t do it.
The people who say they can’t, or think it will be too hot, I think if they would take the time to really try it something huge would happen.
Just try 10 days. Take class for 10 straight days after the other then let’s talk are you still laying on the couch do you still feel like you can’t function or make dinner for your kids if you don’t feel you would still be on the couch trust me I see people who come and go from the studio all the time people who make the 10 days in a row stay the people who don’t don’t and the people who stay do it because it’s working they notice something huge in those ten days and they decide that it is better than the old way
the trouble is that if you just come once or twice then it’s not going to stick, and you will lose out on knowing what it can do for you
I have done my first class and the instructor said to make sure to come back on the second day so I said I would, and I went back. I hated it even more! BUT that’s exactly when you just have to keep going it’s only 10 days of your life and by then you will see things changing.
I think Bikram has the whole package. It has the mental aspect and the physical aspect and something more. I know it is said to exist in other forms of yoga, but it just isn’t the same. There is something magical about Bikram. It is the only yoga that my mind and my way of thinking can handle.
There is a guy at our studio that is trying to do 1000 days in a row. He’s on day 800. He started this on his very first day and instead of doing 10 days in a row he just kept going!
His transformation is physical, but it’s so much more. He has lost a tonne of weight, his skin colour is different, and he looks healthier. He just glows! He has read all the Bikram yoga books.
When he first started, he didn’t talk to anybody or even look at you, and now he talks to people, he smiles and he high fives everyone. I would guess already he has lost over 100 pounds.
Before Bikram I used to wear 150 pounds more than I do now I’ve lost a whole person. Literally.