Anne Falkowski, 50, a yoga trainer from Connecticut, USA has something interesting to share with all of us. She was diagnosed with psoriasis at the age of 23, just after a few months of her marriage. It started with elbows and gradually the lesions started to appear on both her arms as well. Just like all of us, she has gone through those occasional public stares and discriminatory behaviors.
She recalls- how one of her close friends felt extremely uncomfortable at the sight of Anne’s red, flaky psoriasis patches.
She termed my psoriasis as a problem of personal hygiene. I felt humiliated because she meant that I live dirty. I tried my best to convince her that it is related to my immune system and the inner body metabolism. It has nothing to do with my skin hygiene. Moreover, I do take a bath everyday and apply the lotion. But, all in vain.
On another occasion, when she was practicing yoga in a yoga studio with other participants, the female yoga instructor was adjusting every participant’s body during the pose. But, she carefully avoided touching Anne more than once during the whole training session. Probably because she was afraid of the psoriasis patches if it is a communicable disease.
Being a participant, I was so desperate to get her attention just like others, but, my psoriasis covered hands and elbows were restricting her from touching my body. I wouldn’t blame her for anything because there is an acute lack of awareness in general public about the non-contagious nature of psoriasis. Probably, I would have done the same thing in her place.
So, how yoga has helped her?
According to Anne, yoga is an amazing mind-body phenomenon that empowers you to accept yourself as a whole, including psoriasis. It develops the feeling of self love, self acceptance and self esteem.
Has her psoriasis disappeared completely?
I would be lying if I say that I don’t wish for a clear skinned body. I do hate exposing my hands and elbows in the winter when the psoriasis redness gets intensified. The red-white contrast, red patches against my white arms, becomes highly noticeable during the winter. But, Yoga has given me the strength that I need physically and emotionally to carry on with life and do the things that I wish to.
Read more: Deep Breathing Yoga for Psoriasis
Getting inclined towards Yoga
She developed a body image disorder in the high school- became highly obsessed with her body image.
I would worry too much about my looks-
How everyone else is thinking about my looks?
Am I looking attractive enough?
Am I eating right?
Am I doing enough exercise?
Excess of anything is bad. This over consciousness about the physical appearance filled her with negative self image. She would hardly think anything good about self. In short, she was quite normal on the outside and a complete mess inside.
Well, she moved on- completed the college education, got married (psoriasis developed soon after the marriage) and became a mother as well. Everything on the outside was fine, but, in the deep core of her heart, it was stress and anxiety all over. Psoriasis and negative self-image were not letting her enjoy everything that she was blessed with.
At 30, she attended a few yoga classes with some hope to get rid of this inner mess. Gradually, she developed a keen interest in Yoga. The more she went deeper into it, the more she got attracted towards it. Now, she couldn’t stop herself from attending yoga classes regularly even if it meant exposing her psoriasis to others and facing unpleasant public reaction or discrimination.
During psoriasis flare up, it is very little that a person can do than just keeping calm and going through it. There were two options in front of me- either to go ahead with the yoga classes without bothering for people around or just skip my trainings. I chose the first one- I decided to learn yoga with or without the assistance of yoga trainer. It was the moment when I won the inner battle against the sense of handicap or disability. Now, it was just a matter of time to get comfortable with the outer world. Our attitude matters a lot. There are people all around us with similar or even more challenging lifelong health conditions. The only possible difference is- my condition is visible on the skin while their problems may be lying inside the body. I knew a female yogi who got her breasts removed and experienced severe hair fall due to breast cancer. At least psoriasis is not deadly or that painful, it is more of a self-image and ego issue.
Yoga and Psoriasis- The Healing Touch
You should find something in your life that gives great joy, satisfaction and develops the feeling of total acceptance- self acceptance. For me, it is yoga. I am a yoga freak, completely obsessed with yoga, rightly so!
In all those years of my journey from a yoga student to a yoga trainer and now, the owner of a yoga studio- I have realized that people don’t judge us as hard as we judge ourselves. I am involved in yoga training for more than last 15 years and no one has ever shown any concern about my psoriasis. There are days, particularly in the winter, when I feel extremely uncomfortable to expose my psoriasis. But, all these years of yoga don’t let me down. I would take a few deep breaths and carry on with my yoga class. At the end of the class, I would realize that no one bothered for my psoriasis.
Yoga goes beyond mental peace
Benefits of yoga for psoriasis doesn’t limit to the improved psychological well being only. It has a visible impact on my psoriasis lesions as well. Except winter, her skin remains almost clear now.
A healthy, restricted diet helps in psoriasis. Avoiding wheat gluten, dairy, nightshades and refined processed foods need a lot of discipline. Those who have benefited from elimination diet must be knowing that how difficult it is to follow a diet protocol for a long time. Regular yoga practice helps immensely in that. It gives her the strength and discipline to stick to my diet rules for good.
According to Anne, she sweats a lot during yoga which is good for her psoriasis because sweating is a natural way of body detoxification. Her body gets rid of dead skin cells, dirt and internal toxins through sweating. Not only the different yoga postures, she enjoys doing pranayam as well. Pranayam refers to controlled breathing exercise. The human brain and breathing are inter-connected. Regular practice of pranayam helps to make the breathing steady and controlled- which eventually helps to keep the mind calm and relaxed.
Pranayam i.e. inhaling and exhaling deep, controlled breathing from the nostrils can make us more composed and disciplined, physically as well as emotionally- Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, an ancient yoga manual.
Her message to fellow people dealing with psoriasis
According to Anne, we, the psoriatic people, have been so hard to ourselves for so long. This is injustice to the self because psoriasis is not our fault as such. No one wants to keep his/ her skin ugly. All of us try various things- dietary changes, steroidal creams, light therapy, dead sea salt bath, acupuncture, naturopathy, sunlight, dietary supplements- but, psoriasis never disappear forever. Occasional flare ups are so common in psoriasis. So, what we really need in the sense of self-love and self-acceptance. If someone shows concern about our skin, we should be kind enough to share the non-contagious nature of psoriasis. If they still bother- it’s their problem, not our’s. We don’t need to be apologetic in that case. We need to get out of this mindset. The key is- unconditional self love and self acceptance. Yoga can help with that for sure.
The Takeaway Message
Anne’s psoriasis healing strategy includes regular yoga, elimination diet and use of natural/ herbal topical solutions- shampoos, creams, oils- that are free from alcohol or artificial fragrances.
In last 20 odd years, Anne has transformed herself from a self obsessed, low self confidence lady to a blessed yogi, full of self love and compassion. Her passion for yoga has motivated her to pursue a career in yoga education. Now, she is a certified yoga instructor and owns her own yoga studio. We wish her all the best in all her future endeavors.
Being kind to others is easy- it comes naturally from within. But, this is all false if you are not kind to yourself in the first place. Love yourself unconditionally; accept yourself wholeheartedly; be kind to yourself. Psoriasis is just a part of you. As a person, you have much better things to offer than just psoriasis. Just overcome this victim mindset and live your life the way you wants to.