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I went on a short retreat last month to a friend’s home in the Texas Hill Country, near Austin. She lives in a rural community that is the best of both worlds for me: quiet and beautiful, and only a short drive to the city. Families of deer roam her yard and neighborhood, which are alive with birdsong and the sound of wind moving through the trees rather than the dull roar of traffic on the pavement. I am very lucky to have such a close friend who will share her small bit of paradise with me, allowing me to recover and regroup.
I took advantage of an excellent acupuncturist and yoga classes during this last visit. The acupuncture relieves pain and helps balance my system. I have been going to him for a couple of years, and I believe this has helped heal a lot of nerve damage a neurologist identified several years ago. Acupuncture to relieve the pain from epilepsy can be helpful as long as you have the right practitioner and you have the ability to devote the time and resources for regular visits. Many of my books on alternative epilepsy treatments discuss acupuncture, and because of this, I have a certain level of expectation when it comes to outcomes.
The yoga, however, was a surprise. I have practiced yoga on some level since I was in my teens. My first yoga teacher was a pilot, newly returned from the war in Vietnam, who used yoga as a means to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They didn’t call it PTSD back in the 60s, but that was clearly the driving force behind his work to master the practice and pass it on through community classes.
Yoga, once a method of developing strong muscles and staying at a good weight, was shoved out of the limelight by gyms that advertised perfect bodies from personal trainers who would think for you. Like everyone else at one point or another, I tried the gym; however, it was to yoga that I would instinctively turn when dealing with too much stress in my job.
I recently restarted a yoga practice at home with the goal of improving my health and reducing stress. I would have preferred a class, but there is none within a reasonable driving distance. Home practice has its advantages and disadvantages. If it’s all you have, then you make do. So, I jump at the chance to attend a real yoga class for a couple weeks.
Elaine is a wonderful instructor who seems to have figured out the best environment for her students. The room is dim, lit only by small lights up front. This was a huge relief since I constantly battle fluorescent lights that trigger pain and seizures.
The classes were full each day, but once the session started I forgot about the others and concentrated on my positions. The quiet and the movement allowed me to breathe, relax and think. I could feel myself slowing down and focusing on the moment rather than having my mind rush ahead to where I was going to be in an hour. For that 90-minute session, I was fully present.
After two weeks of regular classes, I discovered the benefit.
The first week of the visit, I had my acupuncture session and attended yoga classes. I had a couple of seizures that week. That was low for me. I was pleased. The second week I had my session and classes, but found that I went an entire week without seizures. I was amazed, but I know this was accurate because I have the Epilepsy Diary app from Epilepsy.com on my Android phone, which lets me record immediately any seizure activity, auras, or related pain issues. Seizure Tracker is another option for those interested.
I have always felt there was a benefit in practicing yoga, provided the individual was willing to quiet down enough to perform the postures accurately. Now it could ultimately mean freedom from seizures and the resulting pain. Who knew?