I came to Thaxted yoga reluctantly, feeling wobbly about stripping off in a room full of strangers. I bought a 2-week unlimited pass, thinking I would try one class and probably never come back; I thought yoga was just old people laying around.

My motivation for coming is a lifetime of pain. I have a scoliosis and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (a lack of collagen in my body’s connective tissue) which means my balance is affected, my muscles and joints are often working very hard to do things that ordinary folk find simple. Sitting or standing up straight is hard work and laying down can be really painful, resulting in sleep loss. I regularly suffered down-time through escalation of the constant pain, the flu-like symptoms JHS brings, and exhaustion. Twelve years ago, the consultant rheumatologist said I’d end up living in various kinds of supports and joint braces at the very least, and on medication that would significantly shorten my life. I decided to ignore him; I’ve have always been very active, riding horses and walking my dogs, but I’ve had a couple of significant falls from horses affecting my back and neck over the years. These have been compounded by working as a musician, as fiddle-players can suffer permanent neck and shoulder damage if it’s not addressed.

I have had every treatment going pretty much, trained as a healer and in various therapies myself, and was for many years prescribed high-powered pain killers and anti-inflammatories which affected my hearing and damaged my stomach, resulting in IBS. I then had medication to protect my gut from the NSAIDs, and further medicine for the IBS. In summer of 2017 I had reached a stage where the right side of my body was so weak through injury, my experience of my own body had become one of fear and struggle, I was developing compensatory injuries and I felt I was falling to pieces. Casey said, come to yoga, and by then I knew that the only way forward was to try and help my own body myself, but I had no idea what yoga was or what it could do.

The first class with Casey was a revelation and I loved it. Nobody aside from your teacher looks or takes any notice of what you’re doing, which is a bonus! I could barely even breathe and the simple process of learning to open my chest and take a deep breath brought such relief that I cried on and off through those first classes. The simple joy of deep breathing with my body’s movement is something I now treasure. Yoga has taught me so much about my physical structure, weaker and stronger points, and balance, that within a week my posture had begun to open and straighten. The pain relief I experienced was immense, as much from the physical stretching and balanced, all-over work as from the lift in mood it brings. I delight in feeling stronger, fitter and more balanced than I have in my life, and I relish the spiritual aspects of the classes. In life, you don’t do everything both sides, equally; you lift or pull with your strong side, over and over, you injure yourself, you compensate. In yoga, you do everything evenly, both sides, back and front; this, for me, is the key to the physical freedom from pain. It is calming because as yougrow stronger, the mental jangle of pain-fear-pain, reduces to either a very quiet hum, or sometimes, to nothing at all.

The studio at Thaxted is immensely important to my experience; since growing braver, I have tried every kind of yoga I can there, to find out what suits me best and, particularly being an outdoor girl, I love the location. A class elsewhere in a multi-use, municipal building feels nothing like the peace and open-ness of the beautiful, dedicated space we have at Thaxted.

I do three classes a week when I can, my pain levels have significantly reduced, my body awareness and breathing have undergone a revolution, I have masses more energy again, my quality of life improved hugely and my sense of strength and reduction in pain has brought more stillness and space to my experience of being alive. Yes, I still have pain and difficulty, but knowing that when I go to yoga tomorrow, I will feel so much better, beats any drug. The only side-effects from yoga (like muscles) are good ones. Now, I can’t imagine life without yoga and to anyone thinking of putting one toe on a yoga mat here I can only say: TRY it.

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