Strike a Pose!

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.

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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.

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Namasté!

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An Interview with Theresa Powers, BLC Intern Fall 2011

Theresa Powers, Lesley University

 

 

What kind of work do you do here at the BLC?

I’ve been doing everything here!

I’ve been working in the kitchen one or two days a week, helping to prepare and serve food to the members. I’ve also been working with the wonderful Lisa, our volunteer coordinator, doing tasks for her that she needs help with.

You are an intern from Lesley University, why do you think Lesley supports Service Learning? 

Lesley starts their internships earlier than most schools, so I am only in my sophomore year. It’s important to get students out into the field as soon as possible to gain experience that will help them to obtain jobs in the future. Service Learning is important because students are able to serve a community or population and learn so much about it at the same time. I am personally very involved in the community service program at Lesley, so I am very grateful that I was able to do an internship that also serves a population in need.

What are you studying at Lesley and how has your time here prepared you for post graduation? 

I am studying Holistic Psychology with a Sociology minor. In the Sociology aspect, my time at the BLC has exposed me to a population that I never would have imagined working with! It has broadened my interests and shown me that there are so many opportunities for after I graduate. In respect to Holistic Psychology, I have realized that the holistic therapies can work virtually anywhere and I will have so many opportunities in the future. Being here at the BLC has taught me to be open to everyone, as well as reiterated the fact that there is so much to learn about everyone you meet.

You have an interest in holistic therapies, based on your experience here how do you think they help the chronically ill?

Holistic therapy is so important to healthy living, especially here at the BLC. Holistic therapies look at everything as a whole, which includes mind, body, spirit and environment. All of these aspects are so important, because the chronically-ill not only need to take care of their body, but their environment plays a huge role as well. Specifically here, the BLC provides a community and a healthy, positive environment and is important for the support of all the members.

Our membership seems to really enjoy your company here- how do you feel as a volunteer about your interactions with our members? 

I love being at the BLC so much! I leave here every day feeling so happy and great, and that’s a feeling that I can’t get anywhere else. I am so glad that I get to brighten days just by smiling and having little conversations with the members. The members are starting to recognize me now, and that is another awesome feeling. I’m glad that I can be here to help J

Has your perception of who we help changed over the few months you’ve been here?

I was very skeptical at first, coming here and not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I didn’t really have any assumptions about the population; I really just had no clue what to expect. I have learned to be open and accepting of everyone, because every member has a story to be told.

Is there anything else you’d want people to know about the BLC?

The BLC is really a beautiful organization that helps the HIV+ community in more ways than I can ever explain. It is a wonderful place for people to come together and just be people and hang out with others who are just like them. I know that the BLC has changed so many lives, and I know that it can only excel from here on out. I am so grateful that I have been a part of the BLC for the past few months and that I have been welcomed with open arms. I will definitely be back to volunteer in the future, there’s absolutely no way that I can ever leave!

The BLC would like to offer our most grateful appreciation to Theresa who has volunteered her time with us all semester long and contributed in so many ways to our community.