Written by BLC guest blogger Rob Quinn
As a long-term survivor living and thriving with HIV/AIDS, I am continually seeking out new immune boosting health routines to help strengthen, relax and rejuvenate my body. One of the many services available free to Boston Living Center (BLC) members is a weekly one hour yoga class. Beginners, like me, are welcome. Yoga is an ideal exercise for those of us living with HIV. It is quickly gaining ground as an important complementary therapy in the treatment and management of HIV because of its adaptability and its physiological and psychological benefits. “Yoga is really all about opening up the flow of energy in the body. When the energy is moving freely, we are healing, repairing, and rejuvenating every single cell”. – Claire Diab, Yoga Therapist.
That being said, I signed up and took my first class on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 and have been with the BLC group ever since. I am on my way to becoming a yogi, even purchasing my own mat. Yoga asks us to come to the mat with a curious mind and an open heart. It teaches practical skills to eliminate stress and support immune function for enhanced health and greater quality of life. The integration of body, mind and spirit makes the practice a natural partner to combat HIV/AIDS by building muscle through movement and stress release via meditation.
Like HIV-positive people, yoga comes in many forms. As a beginner, I am practicing iyengar yoga which has an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of posture (asana) and breath control (pranayama). The development of strength, mobility and stability is gained through the asanas. Iyengar yoga is great for learning the subtleties of correct alignment. Props – meaning mats, blankets, bolsters, blocks and belts– help us beginners get into poses with correct alignment, even when they’re new to us, injured or simply stiff. Most yoga practices conclude with the savasana pose (my personal favorite), in which practitioners lie on their backs, arms and legs out, with closed eyes, and take deep pranayama breaths.
Through my continued yoga practice, I am optimistic, confident and determined that I will expand my tools to better “control the controllable.” I know and accept the fact that I cannot control my HIV status. However, I can control the co-factors or issues that can impact the health of my immune system and ultimately lead to optimal health outcomes. I don’t live with HIV, HIV lives with me! Yoga is also about self-empowerment, through a sense of standing on my own two feet and working on my own rather than having someone else do the work for me. Yoga provides a way to bring mindfulness into my daily life. It helps me to slow down and look at life week by week, day by day, hour by hour; using what I have, not always wanting more; learning to live in the moment.
Other things I am gaining from my yoga practice include strength, flexibility, concentration, increased self-awareness. Yoga asanas, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises can help focus the attention and reduce mental “chatter.” By becoming more aware of my own body, mind, and spirit, I can also experience profound spiritual growth. I believe it is the spiritual aspect of yoga that has enhanced my ability to accept that there is so much beyond my control. It helps me realize, somehow, to further trust in a higher being.
A yoga practice can bring positive changes to your day even after ONE class. Some benefits you’ll notice right away include: a calmer mind, body awareness, and an awakened connection with LIFE. Yoga practices will change your mind and EMPOWER you to meet your true potential. Bottom line, yoga feels good. Please consult with your health care provider before beginning a Yoga practice. BLC members, sign up for Yoga every week by visiting the front desk or call 617 236-1012 ext. 0, to reserve your place.