Lupus and Exercise: Water Yoga with Christa Fairbrother - New Book Now Available!
I am thrilled to introduce my next guest blogger, Christa Fairbrother, author, internationally recognized water yoga instructor and trainer, and fellow chronic illness warrior. Her new book, Water Yoga: A Teacher's Guide to Improving Movement, Health, and Wellbeing, is a wonderful, comprehensive guide to water yoga, which can be an ideal form of exercise for lupus patients. I myself have found land yoga to be a bit too taxing for my arthritic joints at times (let's not argue here!), but water yoga is an entirely different animal. Fluid motion and gentle water resistance make for a perfect environment for movement amid aching joints. You can read more about water yoga and lupus here on her website, and be sure to read below ⬇️ about her journey with chronic illness, and how she balances sun exposure with water yoga. Her new book is available on her website and on Amazon.
Water Yoga for Lupus
by Christa Fairbrother, MA
I’m a born sun bunny. I grew up in a beach town in California. My father owned a sailboat and loved to fish. As I got older, I added skiing and horseback riding to my outdoor sun adventures. All those fun outdoor activities would give me strange body reactions like swelling up from the cold and a ton of soft tissue injuries. For my first career, I drew on my love of horses and became a farrier. That career is hard on your back, so I took up yoga as a hobby to take care of myself. The symptoms of a health problem got worse, and I transitioned to a less physical career. Still, I’d developed a firmly established yoga habit and continued that. Fast forward to the birth of my second child in my late thirties, and my health problems came to a head. I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, which made sense with all the strange symptoms I’d experienced over time.
While the diagnosis was scary, it was almost a relief to have a label for all the strange things that had popped up over the years. I thought I could manage the disease well enough to take a yoga teacher training. At this point, I’d been doing yoga for twenty years and felt it had helped me manage the symptoms of my undiagnosed disease. During yoga teacher training, my diagnosis was changed to Mixed Connective Tissue Disease after more testing. It turned out I was dealing with even more than lupus. Receiving that diagnosis, yet realizing all the injuries and troubles hadn’t held me back, made me believe I’d found the best self-management tool for arthritic conditions. I committed to learning to teach yoga to others living with arthritis. Through the journey of becoming a teacher, I found and fell in love with water yoga.
Water yoga is amazing for people who live with arthritic conditions. Unlike land yoga, you don’t have to get on and off the floor, and you don’t have to bear weight on arthritic hands or wrists. The buoyancy of the water offloads sore joints, the water’s warmth relaxes sore muscles, the movement is great for keeping your heart healthy, and vitally, water yoga reduces pain. Except, if you live somewhere sunny, you have to balance the amazing benefits against the challenges of sun exposure.
To do what I love and get the benefits of water yoga for myself, I have to minimize my UV exposure. If you’re intrigued and are thinking about doing water yoga but are worried about the sun, here are my tricks for keeping sun exposure to a minimum:
What time of day are you in the pool? I do as much as I can in the morning. That keeps the UV exposure lower plus helps me manage my fatigue. I tend to get more tired in the afternoon. If I get my teaching or workout done first thing, I know it gets done. Some people prefer the evening because it’s after work and the sun is low in the sky.
Can the pool architecture help? Some pools are blocked by buildings or trees at certain times of the day. My husband installed a sun shade over our home pool to help block the sun.
How can you protect your skin? Always wear sunscreen, a sun shirt, and sun pants.
Did you forget your head? Always wear sunglasses and a hat. I also like sun shirts with hoods because they cover my ears and give my face a little more shade.
What are the parts you forgot? I always forget to sunscreen the backs of my hands. I’ve started buying long sun shirts with thumb holes, so I don’t have to remember sunscreen. Also, if I wear pool shoes, my feet are covered, and I only need to sunscreen my ankles.
What can your health care provider offer? I take three medications to help me manage my lupus, one for cold sores, which are also caused by UV exposure, and supplements. Make sure your health care team knows how much sun you get so they can help you manage the effects.
I know firsthand how living with lupus sucks. I want to support others in their journey through lupus. The only aqua yoga sequence I give away for free is catered to how to practice water yoga with lupus. You can download a copy for yourself on my website HERE.
If you’re really excited about this idea, my new book, Water Yoga, is just out and is a clear and concise guide for anyone to take the plunge into yoga in the pool. If you’d like more information about the book, you can find it on my website HERE.
Yoga won’t cure your lupus, but doing it in the water makes everything better.