Tammy Just, 50, bows her forehead to the purple mat, says “Namaste”—a tradition in yoga symbolizing respect to whom you are bowing—and walks out of her yoga class, nestled in her purple hoodie and toting her purple yoga mat, with ease and grace. She wasn’t walking anywhere with ease and grace a few years ago.
“Tomorrow is a new day and I don’t want to waste time.”
When Tammy’s body started to send her messages she listened. Her hands swelled. Her shoulders ached. Her joints filled with pain. She didn’t know what was wrong but she persisted in finding out.
After six months of exhaustion, immobility, misdiagnosis, and taking medications that didn’t seem to help, Tammy was finally directed to see a Rheumatologist who diagnosed her with lupus—an autoimmune disorder that affects more than 500,000 Canadians. With lupus, the immune system cannot tell the difference between intruders and the body’s own tissues, so it attacks parts of the body, causing inflammation and pain.
Even though she has struggled with illness, her journey towards healing has brought her to a positive place. “Tomorrow is a new day and I don’t want to waste time,” says Tammy. “I can’t change the past. The only thing I can change is now, everyday.”
She discovered the healing benefits of yoga along her path towards health. Little did she know that when she dropped in to her first yoga class at a local community centre a few years ago that it would be one of the most important decisions of her life. Her health would depend on it.
“Yoga, I believe, has helped me through this”
Living with lupus has changed her life, and not only in negative ways. Due to her diagnosis, she was led to yoga. Tammy says it has forced her to slow down. She makes time to appreciate life a little more and stops to listen to her body. “Before I’d trudge on and do anything and everything, even though my body was screaming at me to slow down,” she said. “Now, I don’t care how much work there is that needs to be done—I need to rest.” Tammy says that she lies down and puts her feet up everyday after work. If she doesn’t, she could get sick again.
Tammy’s mornings look different now compared to when she used to bounce frantically out of bed taking only a few minutes to “eat, wash, and go.” These mornings she starts her day with gentle movements: she twists from side to side, arches and rounds her spine, folds forward to touch her toes, and rotates her neck, wrists, and ankles.
She is grateful she dropped into a community yoga class, so many practices ago. “Yoga, I believe, has helped me through this,” says Tammy. It is important to keep her joints active to maintain flexibility and mobility. “When they’re being used they feel good. If I don’t move, I’m stiff.” Yoga has taught her to be gentle, to take time for herself, and to take care of her body and mind.
In the evenings, after yoga class, Tammy dims the lights, relaxes in her recliner, and curls up under her purple blanket. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself or regret anything that has happened in her life, “Regret from the past is a waste of the future.” For Tammy, that means she doesn’t worry about what happened. She wants to move forward in life.
When asked why her life is filled with so much purple, Tammy smiles and says it is her favourite colour. “Everything I look at that is purple, I love. It brings me peace.” Though Tammy is living with a potentially debilitating disorder, peace is a gift she has found on her journey towards health.
Tammy also enjoys using her yoga for good, and is able to so through her involvement with Power of Movement, Canada’s largest yoga fundraiser, which raises money for the Arthritis Research Foundation. Power of Movement takes place in 23 locations across Canada, with a Virtual Challenge for those living outside of an event location. Power of Movement brings much needed awareness to the 4.6 million Canadians living with these diseases, inspires others to get involved and pledge their support and others to share their story. Please join Tammy and thousands of other Canadians this year on Sunday, March 4th, at a Power of Movement event near you.
Lynette Suchar is an ambassador for Power of Movement, Canada’s largest yoga fundraiser, which raises money for the Arthritis Research Foundation. For more of Lynette’s writing and inspirational words, please visit here.
Edited by Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor.