Yoga has been in the local news recently. The Encinitas Union School District received a grant to teach yoga to the students in all nine schools. Parents on both sides have been vocal about the ramifications of yoga inside the classroom. But there is also another example of yoga in our community. While yoga definitely possesses health and wellness aspects, it also is a conduit of hope.
I started practicing yoga a few years ago. I had heard about its healing properties - both physically and emotionally. I knew it would be good for my body. I run a lot
and often don't take the time to properly stretch. I knew yoga would help me in that aspect, but I was a little skeptical about the emotional side of it. But after a few weeks of going to classes, I "got" it.
Yoga is basically all about trying to balance yourself in unusually hard and often seemingly impossible positions. You are stuck there until you either collapse or you figure out how to "flow" your body and mind into the next pose. The only option is to breathe through it.
Living with a chronic illness is not unlike yoga. Both require lots of sweat, flexibility and stamina. However, if you plant your feet firmly on the ground and take just one breath at a time, you will be amazed at what you can do. Already my family has accomplished so much...
At the age of 2, my son Sean was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF). As you can imagine, your entire world stops when your child has been diagnosed with a disease. It is even harder to wrap your head around the fact that that he acquired this disease because of you. Similar to blue eyes or other “recessive” genes, Sean inherited one protein from me and another from my husband. The combination of the two faulty genes essentially causes thick sticky mucus to build up in the lungs resulting in inflammation, chronic infections and irreversible damage. It also blocks the enzymes that are naturally secreted in the pancreas to break down and digest food causing malnutrition.
And yet, at the age of 14, Sean walked onto the campus of La Costa Canyon High School as an incoming freshman. He is taking a demanding course load, attends every football game and is excited about all that life as a teenager has to offer. He has great hopes for his future, but he is very realistic about what that entails.
Sean works very hard to keep himself healthy. He spent seven days in the hospital this summer (and seven more days of home health care) due to decrease lung functions and recently was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis Related Diabetes, a common complication of CF. In addition to swallowing 30 pills, inhaling 3 different nebulized medications and injecting himself with Lantus (long acting insulin) every day, Sean is slowly adding small doses of Humalog (short acting insulin) to his routine. He wakes up at 5:30 every morning to complete his chest therapy sessions before going to school and repeats it again before going to bed. The amazing part is that he handles it all with maturity, patience and acceptance. Mostly he does it because he is smart enough to realize that he needs all these treatments and medicines to stay healthy. But the other heartbreaking part about it is that he also doesn't know any different.
But I do. I remember life before cystic fibrosis entered its ugly head into our daily lives. I remember his life before medicines, doctor appointments, tests, procedures and fear of the future. And for me personally, that is the hardest part of this disease: the unknown. Right now Sean is happy, healthy and active. But we know that at any point in time, that could change. By nature, Cystic Fibrosis
is a chronic, progressive and fatal disease. A year ago this month, my family lost a good friend to the disease. I know three other brave adults who received new lungs this year, as well: one received a lung AND heart transplant. Another received her second set of lungs and third chance at life. And another ran a 10K three months post transplant with his lung surgeon by his side. These are all amazing people. They inspire me and all that know them with their passion for life and determination to fight this horrible disease. But they would be the first ones to agree with me that so much more needs to be done. CF IS a curable disease. So much progress has been made recently. And I want to make sure we get there sometime within my son's lifetime.
For all of these reasons, I am helping the San Diego Cystic Fibrosis Foundation introduce a revolutionary new fundraiser – The Big Breathe. Not only will the event raise valuable dollars for research, but it aims to educate thousands of participants about Cystic Fibrosis and our hope for a cure. One of the biggest underlying reasons for this event is that yoga is an ideal form of movement for a person living with Cystic Fibrosis - strengthening vital core muscles, opening airways and reducing stress and anxiety. In turn, the CF Foundation would like to offer this event as an equally ideal way to combat the disease. What better way to find a cure for CF than to address it at its most basic level – breathing.
The BIG Breathe will feature five yoga studio partners, Masters Mark Whitwell and Tim Miller, each conducting an hour-long session, as well as a Sunrise Meditation, conducted by Davidji of the Chopra Center. Classes will be held in the Mission Tower ballroom and will offer a variety of themes. Registration for the event is easy. Simply click here to register. A $25 registration fee gets you one yoga class. Fundraising or donating more money gives you more options and classes. Participants will also enjoy a marketplace, a relaxation lounge, and refreshments. Lectures
are also planned for and given by local health leaders and experts.
I am dedicated to finding a cure. I am equally dedicated to practicing yoga. It is a healthy reminder that one of life’s greatest gifts is the simple act of breathing. The other gift is hope. And I am grateful to The Big Breathe and the Cystic Fibrosis foundation for giving me (and my son) both.