YOGA and LUPUS, taming the wolf …

3rd week into this YTT journey … Master PAALU says “You need to trust your body!”. Hum … How could I trust my body when, as a woman, I cannot conceive and carry a baby without medical assistance? How could I trust my body when my immune system is not able to fight a simple virus? How could I trust my body when it gives me joints pain when I get a little bit stressed at work?.. I started to get emotional that week thinking I might never be able to “trust my body” and do most of the postures.

I was diagnosed with Lupus about 10 years ago but it took 4 years from the first flare to the proper diagnosis in 2010. Lupus is a chronic immune system disease that “attacks” normal and healthy tissues damaging the joints, the skin, the blood and vital organs such as the heart and the kidneys. Lupus means “wolf” in Latin because in some ways of the disease, the patient may develop a “wolf mask” on the face.

There is no permanent cure for Lupus, treatments can only help the patients to relieve symptoms (fever, hair loss, rash, extreme fatigue, etc…) and protect organs by decreasing the inflammation.
Those treatments (anticoagulant, hormones, anti-inflammatory, etc…) can affect your body and your mood. Patients may even need to go through surgeries to “repair” their damaged bodies.

A lot of medical studies connect Lupus and Stress. Stress doesn’t cause Lupus but triggers the activation of the symptoms meaning you have no choice but managing your stress level and emotion cycles.
Your first step as a Lupus patient is to “tame the wolf”. So I decided in 2018 to start yoga thinking it could help me to manage my stress level. The teacher was very inspirational and I enjoyed the physical workout.
I also adapted my diet to a more healthy and homemade food. I came to know during this YYT that there is a name in yoga for that kind of diet: Sattva! Food definitely plays a role in your immune system especially if it is dysfunctional.

But the Covid-19 turned our lives upside-down this year and yoga was my only “routine” in the chaos at home. I signed up for this YYT, not really knowing what I was getting myself into!

First thing to do before signing up for these high physical 2 months was getting approval from the hematologist and physio. They actually highly recommended the practice of yoga:
• Hatha and Ashtanga yoga are recommended but not hot yoga.
• Asanas can help to slow down arthritis. Joints are usually very stiff with Lupus patients. But it is ok, in yoga there is always a variation in the pose that will be suitable for you.
• Fatigue is a constant symptom in Lupus patients, pranayama relaxes your mind and helps with improving your energy level.
• Yoga nidra is also recommended as a restorative practice during all lupus stages.

Halfway through the training, I realised what was the next step for me: Learn to accept and appreciate my body with its scars and limits, reconnect with it. This journey is a healing and accepting process. I had the chance to join a very fun and supportive group, the experience would have been totally different without them 🙂

Being able to do those fancy poses may come along the way, getting the certification would be a great reward, teaching might be an option later on, but as Master Sree says “Do Kriya, don’t do Karma”! 

Why “warrior” pose?

I always thought of yoga as something for “zen and peaceful” people so I didn’t really get the concept of “warrior pose” when I started practising. The Sanskrit name is VIRABADHRASANA : Vira means hero and badhra friend. “Warrior Poses” were not linked to yoga until the 20th century. There were not practiced in traditional yoga.

So what’s the story behind Virabhadrasana?
Shiva was married to Sati but Sati’s father, King Daksha, was not a big fan of Shiva and is strongly opposed to their union.
According to the legend, King Daksha organized a big party where all the members of the heavenly universe were invited except for Shiva and Sati. That was a way to show the couple how much he disliked the lovers’ union.
Sati tried to make her father understand how they loved each other but he insisted on demonstrating how Shiva wasn’t right for her. Sati was so upset by her father’s refusal to see the good in Shiva that she went into medidation to detached herself from the physical body her father created. She ended up burning her physical body to protest her father.
When Shiva learned about Sita’s immolation, he was so sad and angry that he cut off a dreadlock of his hair and threw it to the ground. From that dreadlock, Virabhadra came to life.
Virabhadra was actually Shiva’s revenge warrior. He went to the party and destroyed everything around him and beheaded King Daksha in rage.
Shiva realized later what his warrior had done. His anger slowly turned into sadness and regret. He managed to find King Daksha’s body but the head was so damaged that he replaced it with a goat’s head. King Daksha came back alive and recognized Shiva’s strength and remorse and bowed to him.

You can interpret the sequence of this story in the yoga poses :
Virabhadra 1 : rise, hands in the air > with your weapons in your hands you are ready to strike.
Virabhadra 2 : draw your weapons and strike to destroy everything
Virabhadra 3 : You reach out to behead king Daksha with remorse and compassion


A lot of muscles are engaged there and controlling your breath is key to maintain the posture. All three warrior poses are strong and challenging but are also quite satisfying. As they are standing poses, even as a beginner, you get the feeling that you can improve the posture. At least with Virabadhrasana 1 and 2, both your feet are grounded so you do not need to worry too much about your balance and you can focus on adjusting your alignment and feeling your muscles lengthening.

The warrior poses challenge your body but also your mind. You need to be focus on your breath and stay calm in the posture. The poses bring you strength, focus and confidence. The warrior poses symbolize our inner ability to overcome your ego. They can be a good way to your sadhana practice.

“It is not easy being a warrior, especially one who is constantly fighting against a reactive mind…Warrior poses are a reminder that ferocity exists not only to destroy but also to allow us sufficient strength to achieve integrity, compassions, and a loving state of mind.”

PRANA FOOD

We all know this sentence: We are what we eat!

Sticking to your yoga class is great but you also need a balanced diet.

Yoga is all about energy: Energy through your breathing, your asana, meditation and exploring your chakras, etc… you can also get a lot of energy from the food you eat. Prana is “energy”, “life force” in Sanskrit. In yoga, there is positive and negative Prana food.
Food has a lot of power: power to heal and boost (positive Prana food), power to destroy (negative Prana food).

Today a lot of diseases are linked to eating habits or bad diets: diabetes, heart diseases, cancer, etc.. Processed foods, fried foods, food rich in sodium or sugar can all cause inflammation, they are negative Prana food. In other words: The further the food is from its source, the less Prana it will contain. Food will affect your body but also your mind. Some studies found that diets high in processed foods are associated with higher risks of depression.
Negative Prana food can give you the impression of energy boost for a moment but in the long-term, they will withdraw the energy from your body. Here is a short list of some negative Prana food that you should avoid in your daily diet:
• Garlic
• Onion
• Chili
• Coffee

On the opposite, Positive Prana food is rich in nutrients (vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, water, etc…), probiotics and fibres. It helps your body to function properly (respiratory, nervous and digestive systems, bones and muscles) and boosts your immune system to fight infections. Prana positive food can also reduce risks of chronic diseases and enhance alertness.
Positive Prana food is fresh and preferably organically grown (not genetically modified). It should be kept as natural as possible: no preservative, no artificial flavours, preferably raw, steamed or lightly cooked. Animal products (meat, fish, eggs, etc..) can be beneficial as long as they don’t contain hormones or antibiotics used on animals bred in a healthy and natural environment.
Here is a short list of some positive Prana food that you should add to your daily diet:
• Fruits
• Vegetables
• Nuts
• Dried fruits
• Honey

There is also Zero or neutral Prana food. It will provide laziness in your body and tendency to sleep.
• Potatoes
• Tomatoes

How to switch to a “yoga” lifestyle diet?
– Plan your meals and snacks
– Include a balance of protein, carbs and fats
– Opt for organic and non-GMO foods
– Make your own meals (those colour-full Buddha-bowls are an easy and yummy choice if you have a busy life!)
– Add variety to your choice of fruits, veggies, nuts, dairy products and wholegrain so you don’t get bored
– Drink a lot. Prefer water and herbal tea to alcohol and caffeine (they can over-stimulate your body)

But of course everything is a matter of moderation. Bon Appetit!

The meaning of mala

I had the chance to participate, with my daughter, to a mala making workshop animated by my yoga teacher.

Mala means “garland” in Sanskrit. It is a spiritual and healing necklace used to count mantra recitations during meditation.

Mantras are yoga tools to calm your mind anytime, anywhere. The most “famous” mantras are “Om” or “Shanti” but it is important that it represents an affirmation in your own words, your own way. Pick 1 or 2 words or even more (ex : I can do it!) and chant it in a way that works for you : loudly, softly or in your head. To get the most benefits you should chant it repeatedly 108 times.

This is where your mala can help since it is made of 108 beads. Each time you chant your mantra you move to the next bead, so you don’t have to bother with the counting and keep your mind focused on your mantra and clear from thoughts.

Why 108 beads?

The number 108 has endless significance across various philosophical, scientific and religious beliefs. Here are my favorites :

  • There are 54 letters in Sanskrit alphabet 54 letters, each with a masculine and feminine form = 108 in total
  • Our body has 108 energy channels, or Nadis, leading to the Crown Chakra and self-realization.
  • The distance from the Sun to Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun and the distance from the Earth to Moon is 108 times the diameter of the moon.

What is a mala made of?

Mala beads can be made of many materials (seeds, gems, crystal, wood, etc…) We made ours with dried Rudraksha seeds.

Literally the word Rudraksha means : The tear of Shiva” as it is said that the Rudraksha plant grew when one of Shiva’s tears fell onto the ground. Since they are seeds, they carry energy from nature.

We also used semi-precious gems that all have their own “power” or “virtuous energy” such as : amethyst (insomnia, nightmares, worries, etc..), blue Agatha (calm, clear communication, balance), blue jasper (confidence, acceptance), rhodonite (calm, protection), etc..

The mala is composed of these 108 beads + 1 guru bead (slightly bigger than the other beads) + 1 tassel.

How do I use my mala?

Hold your mala in your right hand, between your middle and index fingers. Always start at the guru bead and use your thumb to count each smaller bead. Pull the beads towards you after each repetition of your mantra. Travel around your mala, until you reach the guru bead.

Pause there to express deep gratitude.

My daughter made hers with amethyst as she has trouble sleeping. She is only 8 and doesn’t practice meditation yet but she puts it under her pillow every night, assured that it will protect her from nightmares 🙂