The healing power of Yoga is well known: a broad range of conditions, from chronic to acute, can be alleviated if not completely resolved by a constant practice of of this discipline. Consequently, much has been written on the subject of Yoga and health; still, nothing can be more inspiring than hearing the histories of healing directly from those who experienced them. I am thus excited to publish an interview with Eduard, a friend and fellow Yoga student who has managed to win a battle against a very serious condition: multiple sclerosis.
Fragments of Evolution: Can you give me a brief introduction about yourself and your main interests in life?
Eduard: My name is Eduard, and I’m 25 years old. My main interests right now are informatics and engineering, and anything related to electronics, computers, programming and science. And Yoga, of course!
FoE: Nice! As you know, this interview is mainly about healing. I know that you have a story to tell, so I’d like to ask you about the beginning of your journey into health and Yoga.
E: I was interested in Yoga since a young age, but my studies and intellectual curiosity took me towards other paths. Around the age of seventeen I developed a form of Multiple Sclerosis, an inflammatory disease that provokes a degeneration of the nervous system. After trying to deal with it through the “normal” health system of a modern European state, it just got worse and worse. Thus, I was open to try new therapies and natural treatments – for example I tried acupuncture, which had good but short-lived effects. Then, I came across Yoga. At first I was very skeptical, because, to my scientific mind, it sounded a bit like Voodoo!
FoE: Can you tell me a bit more about the symptoms of your condition, how it progressed and how it affected your lifestyle?
E: The disease basically brought my life to a standstill. Before that, I was a very outgoing and communicative guy, with lots of friends. I was skiing, snowboarding, playing basketball, always smiling and happy. I was also enjoying all kinds of intellectual activities: I even joined the physics and chemistry Olympics of my country.
When the disease appeared, the symptoms were subtle at the beginning but they developed very quickly. At first, I would lose sensitivity on one hand or a small part of my face for a couple of days, and I would think that maybe I had pinched a nerve by sitting on it or by shaving – I wouldn’t give it too much importance. Around the age of eighteen, however, I noticed that I couldn’t feel my legs properly. I could move them, but they constantly felt like they were “asleep” – like when you sit on your foot and it goes numb. Then, this feeling started to crawl up from my toes to my knees, thighs, pelvis… up to the lower abdomen and the lungs.
One day, I fell down the stairs; I didn’t feel any pain – anything. That was starting to look a bit dangerous, so I decided to see a doctor immediately; I ended up in an hospital for almost three months. From then on, I was prescribed loads of medicine; the side effects of the drugs combined with the symptoms of my disease were terrible. I couldn’t tell the difference between hot and cold, pain and pleasure – everything felt painful. After a while, my eyesight was also affected: I started seeing double and blurry. It got to the point that I wasn’t even able to walk unassisted. Moreover, the muscles around my lungs were somehow contracting, so my capacity to breathe was slowly degrading to the point of suffocation. Finally, after three months of intensive care my condition stabilized; I was able to walk again, though I still didn’t feel many parts of my body. The lung condition improved, so I was out of immediate danger.
In the following months I visited many hospitals and clinics, and consulted several specialists on Multiple Sclerosis – luckily my family could afford those expenses. I got assigned a recovery plan, but I never got back to a normal condition. All in all, in the first two years I spent about 10 months in the hospital with strong medication such as interferon. That definitely stopped the rapid evolution, but the disease was still slowly creeping up my body. For example, because of my degraded vision, I couldn’t attend the courses in the university I had applied to. I still couldn’t feel my hands, so I couldn’t really touch or caress anybody. In order to write, I had to use a special glove so that I could have a feedback of the hand moving on the paper.
FoE: What was your emotional state as you quitted the hospital and tried to get back to a normal life?
E: I was used to always looking to the future and never to the past. Right after quitting the hospital, I thought: “Okay, this is an unpleasant situation, but I’m 18 years old… what’s next? I need to find a way to get better”. I definitely didn’t curl up in a corner and start to cry. Unfortunately, anything that upset me or triggered my anger would affect my nervous system so badly that I would end up in the hospital again – the same would happen if I was overwhelmed with joy. So, although I tried to always keep a positive thinking, as time passed I tended to suppress my emotions more and more. I basically had to train myself not to get too involved with anybody, something that has consequences on my personality even now.
In some moments, especially when I was alone, my condition even brought me to thoughts of suicide – but I always said to myself that I am not a quitter. Once, when it got a bit too close, I had to punch myself in the face, just to get out of this endless mind game. Overall, I became very cinical, and it was very difficult for me to find joy in life. On the positive side, I got a lot of support from my friends and family – that was definitely one of the things that got me through it. This was my general condition when Yoga came into my life.
FoE: What happened then? How did you encounter Yoga?
E: Well, my parents are friends with a Yoga master, and at a certain point he came to visit our country so they convinced me to meet him. He never told me that Yoga would do miracles; he just said that it could maybe improve my condition a bit. This was very smart of him. Now, I can tell you that if somebody had explained to me what Yoga can really do, I would have told them to get lost. This man gave me a percentage of expected improvement low enough for me to believe, but high enough to motivate me to give it a try.
At the beginning, a friend of his was my private Yoga instructor. She would come to my house almost daily, and she didn’t have an easy task. Just to give you an example, if I rotated my head for a couple of times during the warm-up exercises, I would immediately fall on my knees. I could not perform the Sun Salutations for more than a couple of minutes. You need to consider that I am 185 centimeters in height, and I was something like 90 Kg before the illness. After my disease and treatment, I gained around 50 Kg, and lost my flexibility and eyesight, apart from being in a very difficult emotional state. So, when I started doing Yoga, I encountered many, many obstacles. But I had been warned that it wasn’t going to be easy, and that it would take time and patience before I could see any results.
FoE: So at the beginning, Yoga made your life almost most difficult than before, right? When did you get the first real reward?
E: I was very quick in perceiving movements of energy, which was quite rewarding. Being a curious person, I was immediately attracted by the possibility to experiment on myself. That also helped me endure all the difficulties. As I told you, because of my condition the practice could get really demoralizing at times. It was a huge fight with myself.
After a while though, I began to regain flexibility in my body, the ability to control my muscles, and much later on I started feeling my extremities again and even my eyesight improved, although this went really slowly. Emotionally, I found myself more content and joyful. But all of these improvements came very gradually, and sometimes they disappeared – for example, when I got overconfident and stopped practice for some months, the symptoms came back. Also, I had to endure some purifications which apparently worsened my condition for a week or so; now I know that this is a normal process, but at that time it took a lot of willpower not to quit. Everytime I would look back though, I was forced to realize that I was much better than some months before.
FoE: When you started practicing Yoga, how did this affect your relationship with medicine and hospitals?
E: After 2 years of treatments, I was really fed up with hospitals – even just entering in a house with white walls would make me feel uncomfortable. I still think, however, that in the acute stage of my disease I did require medical and hospital treatment. During such a situation, you need to make yourself stable enough to start using Yoga or any other natural therapies: they all take time. Yoga is not magic – but neither is western medicine! Every drug has collateral effects, although these are often more manageable than the symptoms the drug is meant to address. Also, I believe that whenever you do a transition from a healing system to another, for example from western medicine to Yoga, you should do it very gradually. The body has gotten used to the medicines, so it will need time to find its balance without them. In my case, it took me around six months to ease out of the drug treatment I was under.
FoE: After all this time, and your experiments with Yoga, what is your current health situation?
E: It’s been 5 years since I started practicing Yoga, and my practice is still building up, but the effects are quite evident. I do not use interferon anymore, which was my main treatment. I am slowly but steadily rebuilding my vitality, sexual potential, intelligence, vision… I am now a vegetarian, and I’m very careful with what I eat. My levels of cholesterol, glycemia and other blood parameters that were affected by the disease are back to normal. I do my daily Yoga practice, which includes asanas (Yoga postures), meditation and other techniques. Physically, from falling on my knees every few minutes I have come to a point where I can practice martial arts, go to the gym, climb a mountain… although I still don’t quite have the endurance that I had before. I am able to read again, and I don’t suffer from severe headaches anymore.
I haven’t taken any medicine for more than 4 years, although I do constant tests – but I have been taken off the “urgent patients” list! My latest checkups show that I am no longer suffering from brain damage, and that my nervous system is recovering. The doctors are quite surprised, especially since the evolution of my symptoms at the beginning had been really fast and aggressive. But most of all, I’m able to be happy, to be angry, to fall in love… I won’t get anymore into hospital just because somebody made me blush!
FoE: That sounds amazing! One last question. Do you have any advice for those who might be passing through a similar situation?
E: I think that with any difficult situation, the most important thing is: try not to panic! It is crucial to maintain a clear vision of things: your life does not end when a disease or abnormal condition starts. You need to move on, you cannot hang to the past. Solutions are out there in the world, and maybe it’s not even necessary to completely cure your disease, as long as you can improve your life condition enough. For example, my disease is considered to be incurable, but by being careful I can prevent it from ever manifesting again.
It’s great if you can get support from your friends and family, but the main factor is you. You need to sincerely want to change your life for the better: stop thinking that you are in a pit, and use the ladder to get out of it – don’t break it just to make a bonfire that keeps you warm for ome hours! My mantra and my motto is: never lose hope. There are always opportunities to get better.
FoE: Thanks Eduard for sharing your story with us. I hope that this will inspire many people to have a more holistic approach to their health, and to give a chance to the amazing healing power of Yoga.