Sleepy Santosha: Chronic Illness Warrior & Yoga Teacher
Hi! I'm Rachel Marie White. I'm a yoga teacher and chronic illness warrior. I run an online yoga community called Sleepy Santosha for people living with chronic illnesses. My style of yoga is more gentle and inclusive than what you may be used to seeing represented online and in social media. My philosophy: yoga should be an accessible practice for everyBODY!
Can you tell us a little bit about your health journey?
In 2010, I began having symptoms of Addison's Disease, but unfortunately I wasn't diagnosed until 2015. It took five years and nearly ten physicians to figure out what was going on in my body! This long (and ongoing) journey has taught me so much about health and about myself. It brought me to yoga and holistic wellness. It inspired me to create Sleepy Santosha. I hope that my experience can help others not to feel so alone and scared.
What would you like people to know about chronic illness?
Chronic illness is so unpredictable. Learning to cope with and understand these fluctuations can be a huge challenge. To all my fellow warriors, I want you to know that it is okay for your state of being to vary from moment to moment. You don't need to modify aspects of yourself or your experience just to make it easier for other people to understand. Illness is complicated. Every day is different. Be present with yourself in this moment, and do your best to offer yourself the love and care you deserve.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with chronic pain?
Oftentimes, in an effort to avoid pain, we will hold our breath and tense our muscles. This is a natural reaction, but it does not serve us. In fact, it can just make matters worse. My advice is to stop resisting the pain and allow it to be present. I know that probably sounds a little scary, but trust me, this really works.
Soften your body, relax the muscles. Observe the presence of pain in your body. Tune back into your breath, breathing as if you could send your breath into the tight places. And then take notice of the internal dialogue you're having in your mind about the pain. Maybe you're afraid of feeling the pain. Maybe you're angry that you're in pain. See if you can soften that resistance, too.
Anytime I'm experiencing pain, this always gives me relief.
If you'd like to experience more in-depth instruction that guides you through this process, click here.
What would you say to someone who is skeptical of starting a yoga practice because of chronic illness limitations?
If you can breathe, you can practice yoga. For real! Your practice doesn't have to look like the handstanding yogis on Instagram in order to be "real yoga." Your yoga practice should look like YOU. Poses can be modified with props to suit your body's needs. You can practice yoga on the couch or in bed. You can practice for as little as five minutes and still reap the benefits. It's all about finding easy ways to feel good in your body in the present moment. I would love to show you how! If you're ready to get started, you can sign up here to start receiving free yoga practices.
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