Few can argue that yoga offers a vast array of health benefits, and is especially helpful for easing tension and helping one feel more centered on all levels –physically, mentally, and spiritually. After getting Lyme disease, I was in dire need of such benefits, but often found that even “beginners” yoga videos or classes were very much advanced for me. However, since I so badly wanted to feel calm and connected with my body again, I would push through only to end up injuring myself. So, for a long time, I gave up on yoga.
Then, during a particularly dark time when I was feeling entirely disconnected from myself on all levels, I decided to give yoga one last shot out of a sheer desperation to reconnect with myself again. So, I scrolled through countless yoga videos on YouTube until I came across one that looked doable for me, even in my bed ridden state. It was a “bed yoga” video by Candace Moore, Founder of Yoga by Candace. In under 15 minutes her video literally transformed me from a scattered mess to a calmer, saner version of myself, and I slept peacefully that night for the first time in months. After that, I began trying some of her other videos, and before I knew it I had graduated from bed yoga and was back on the mat again thanks to Candace. I remember thinking, “it’s as if she knows what it’s like to have a chronic illness and spend long durations in bed, since she offers beginners yoga videos that actually help instead of injure me.” I didn’t actually think she understood what it was like to have a serious illness though, considering she looked insanely healthy and had other advanced yoga videos where she demonstrated poses that require one to be incredibly fit, and thus basically 100% healthy.
However, after purchasing Candace’s book Namaslay, I learned I was very wrong. It turns out Candace not only knew what it was like to have a debilitating illness, but she knew what it was like to have Lyme disease, as she herself had such a severe case of Lyme disease that her brain and body were seriously affected. At one point, she was unable to even dress herself due to excruciating pain, and couldn’t even comprehend what people were saying because their words sounded garbled together due to the neurological impacts of the disease. Nonetheless, she fully recovered to a state where she feels even healthier than she did before Lyme disease, and now runs a successful business and is the founder of the wildly popular blog and website Yoga by Candace, is an international yoga instructor, and author who travels all over the world. Personally, I do not know many “healthy” people with that kind of stamina, much less ones who have had Lyme. To me, this makes her story of recovery especially inspiring, which is why I was so excited when she agreed to the following interview:
Thank you for agreeing to speak with me. You are beyond inspiring and I know readers will feel the same. To start with, can you briefly describe your Lyme journey for us?
Sure. In August of 2010, my health slowly began declining to the point that I was unable to walk. I visited about 9 doctors in as many months and finally got a diagnosis of Lyme disease. I started heavy duty antibiotics for about a year and a half, and finally got off of them when my body seemed like it was shutting down. From there, I spent about a few months suffering from digestive issues and other health issues (joint pain, acne, etc), likely caused from the antibiotics. Then, I discovered the GAPS diet, and spent two years on that to heal my gut from the antibiotics. I am now 100% better. I like to say I’m 110% better because I honestly feel healthier now than I felt before I got Lyme disease.
What do you consider to be the key components that led to your full recovery?
The biggest thing for me was gut healing. I think if my gut had been in a healthier state to begin with, my body wouldn’t have reacted the way it did when I contracted Lyme.
If you had to pick just ONE thing that was crucial to your healing, what would it be?
The GAPS diet
ProHealth is all about employing natural methods of healing into the healing process. What herbs, supplements, and natural methods helped, or continue to help, improve your health?
I used an infrared sauna a lot during my healing. The GAPS diet was crucial to healing and included learning how to ferment my own veggies, how to make my own yogurt and kefir, and how to make and cook with bone broths. Managing stress was also a big factor. Sleeping enough. Staying hydrated. I didn’t really do any supplements aside from a strong probiotic. While healing my gut, I dabbled in a few supplements including GABA, glucosamine, apoptogenic herbs, etc. Anyone looking for guidance should consult a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who has experience with Lyme, like Carley from Fairy Gut Mother (contact information can be found at the end of this article, under “resources”).
Now, on to yoga. Your yoga videos are amazing, and you can do some incredibly advanced poses that most with Lyme cannot even begin to dream of doing. Clearly, you are very strong and healthy. So, how do you prevent relapses and maintain such vibrant health? Is there anything special you do or any tips you’d like to share?
I think there are so many components to staying healthy and it’s different for everyone. For me, having a diet filled with real, wholesome foods loaded with lots of micronutrients from solid sources I can trust is vital. Getting quality sleep. Managing stress. Laughing often. Practicing mindfulness and gratitude. Getting some form of exercise every day. Hydrating. All these things really work together to create that vibrant sense of health that’s right for my body.
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When were you first drawn to yoga? Did you practice it while recovering from Lyme?
My mom dragged me to a yoga class when I was fifteen. I pretended to hate it because I was a bratty teenager, but secretly I loved it. I began practicing more seriously when I started my career as a school teacher, but eventually backed off completely when I was dealing with Lyme disease. With Lyme, I didn’t have the strength or concentration to do any yoga aside from yoga nidra, which is a deep, guided meditation that is great for pain management.
I know many, myself included, have attempted yoga with Lyme, only to push our bodies and injure ourselves and/or take a step back in the healing process. Any tips on avoiding that?
Ha, my tip is to not practice and just try to be cool with that. Or practice something like yoga nidra, where you literally do nothing but lay there and listen to the meditation. If your body is at a point where it can’t handle the physical stress of a flow class, you probably just need to honor that and, most importantly, let that be okay. Sometimes we get so focused on what we can’t do, that it winds up causing more stress and doing more harm than if we just say, “Ok. I can’t do that right now. But that’s ok. Instead, I’ll watch a funny movie, or listen to an entertaining podcast. Eventually, I’ll get back to my yoga practice once I’m healthier.”
I understand at one point, you were so severely affected by Lyme both physically and neurologically that you were unable to even walk or comprehend what people were saying to you. Now, you clearly possess extreme physical (and mental) strength and are doing poses like headstands, splits, and many other advanced poses, traveling the world, writing an awesome blog, and have authored an excellently well written book. When your body and brain were ravaged by Lyme, did you ever think you would come this far and be able to do all these things?
For the most part, no, I was so focused on my suffering and pain that I didn’t think I’d ever get better. I was really in this victim mentality. I had a really bad case of the “poor me’s.” The thing is, in hindsight, Lyme disease was the best thing to ever happen to me because it was the catalyst for living my best life.
In the depths of the depression that came with the Lyme disease, I wanted to give up, but there was a tiny voice inside of me that said, “No. Just dream. What would you do…no, what will you do when you are better? Write it down.” So, I got out my journal and I wrote down my dreams. Today, I live my dreams. It really is that simple if you can shift your perspective and get out of the victim mentality.
Many with Lyme are unfortunately plagued with such severe depression that they eventually succumb to suicide. In your book, Namaslay, you describe a particularly dark moment when you were taking a bath and considered ending your own life for a moment. When vividly recounting this moment, you state “depression runs deep in my family, and I have felt the pull of that anchor many times. …but this bleakness, this hopelessness, this black hole I am staring into is something new. ….‘is it impossible to drown yourself?’ I wonder. Then I think of the hair dryer in the cabinet. For a flash of a second I allow myself to consider whether I could plug it in. Turn it on. Put it in the water …I don’t want to die …but would rather not live than feel the pain”. I know so many with Lyme have been, or currently are, in a VERY similar position. Now that you are on the other side of this darkness, are there any words of wisdom you can offer those who are still at the bottom of that dark pit?
I lost an uncle to suicide and honestly the only thing really stopping me from that awful moment you describe from my book Namaslay was the pain I felt when I learned of my uncle’s suicide. I never wanted to be the cause of that type of pain for anyone else. It’s awful to say, but that’s the truth.
The moment that I allowed myself to just dream up what I’d do when I got better was truly nothing more than me taking the “poor me’s” and setting them aside. I closed my eyes and visualized the fear of the unknown, all the pain I was feeling, and that entire victim mentality. In my head, I pictured them as tangible things – like balls of yarn or a rubber band ball of energy (I know I sound crazy!), and I mentally put them into a trunk and locked the trunk. Then, I opened my eyes and felt free from those burdens. It was a fleeting feeling, but even in those few short moments, I felt hope, and I got out my notebook and started to dream. I would encourage anyone who is dealing with Lyme disease to give that a try. Let hope be the dominant factor, if you can. Set aside the “what if’s” and all the uncertainty. Also, try to surround yourself with a good support team, and don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek help from a mental health professional.
In Namaslay, you detail 10 “Namaslay” philosophies you developed that help pull you from a victim mentality and now empower you to live a full, authentic life. Can you please tell us what those are?
1. Believe in yourself
2. Get out of your own way
3. Continue to learn
4. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
5. Do the little things
6. Manifest gratitude
7. Be a hell yeah person
8. Tap into your greatness
9. Defy your limits
10. Take no shit
You can find Candace’s book, Namaslay, on Amazon. Also, be sure to check out the Yoga by Candace (YBC) website and blog, as well as the YBC Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (where there are plenty of awesome yoga videos, including ones you can do right from your own bed) accounts. Links to these resources are listed below.
· Order Namaslay: http://amzn.to/2pObZFB
· YBC website and blog: http://yogabycandace.com
· YBC Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/YOGABYCANDACE
· YBC Twitter: https://twitter.com/yogabycandace
· YBC Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YogaByCandace/
· YBC Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yogabycandace/
· To consult with Carley, AKA “The Fairy Gut Mother” (a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Experienced in Lyme): http://www.fairygutmother.com/
Shelley M. White is trained in herbalism and nutrition, and is the author of ‘Cannabis for Lyme Disease and Related Conditions: Scientific Basis and Anecdotal Evidence for Medicinal Use’. She has writes, or has written, articles for various publications, including Collective Evolution, The Mighty, SKUNK Magazine, Mind Body Green, Natural News, The Mind Unleashed, The Townsend Letter, Public Health Alert and the Examiner.