Since 2003, my husband and I have lived in Port Charlotte. We live with a small black cat, Sabrina, who is kind enough to share her home with us. We are also the proud grandparents of three teenage girls. In my former life as a rehabilitation counselor, I devoted my working years to impacting (hopefully in a positive way) the lives of people with disabilities. One of my career highlights was the opportunity to testify before Congress in support of a bill designed to improve the working conditions for people in sheltered workshops.

The year 2010 was one of those years we all experience-stress piles up and we need to reach outside ourselves to deal with it. My mother died unexpectedly. My aunt, whom we assisted, died four days later. We were in the process of moving to another home. I was newly diagnosed with fibromyalgia, struggling with both the pain and the diagnosis itself. So I came to yoga hoping it could help without drugs, and began gentle classes three to four times a week.

By late 2010 I developed deep knots in most of the large muscles on the left side of my body. This intensified the pain I was already experiencing and made many activities difficult. I discussed treatment with my doctor and rather than physical therapy, I opted to add private yoga sessions with Jennifer. I believe in the mind-body connection and felt that the peaceful environment of The Yoga Sanctuary was a better choice for me.

During this past year, with Jennifer’s help, I have worked my way through some really difficult pain and I am continuing to make progress. The progress has not always been a straight line, but each set-back has been shorter and less severe. My quality of life has significantly improved. For example, I use the word “soreness” now more often than “pain” when describing how my body feels.

For me the greatest benefit of practicing yoga has been learning to use my breath to manage pain, to relax, and to let go of stress. The regular stretching of gentle yoga helps reduce the knotting in my muscles. But most importantly, I continue to improve without drugs. My favorite yoga pose is child’s pose. I just love the way I can feel my muscles relaxing when I breathe into it.

I am learning to talk about this illness without allowing it to be what defines me. I have found The Yoga Sanctuary to be a safe place to begin to share my experience with others. When I’m not at The Yoga Sanctuary, I love to walk and be outside. I enjoy cooking and reading, and I love spending time with my husband.

And as my mother used to say: “Growing old is not for sissies!”