CIELO English thought she was alone.
Diagnosed with arthritis at age 19, the now 39-year-old has long battled the disease.
"It took a couple of years actually before I was diagnosed," the North Vancouver resident says. "But for a long time I was in pain every day. I didn't sleep very well at all because I woke up in pain every day. My hand was pretty much in a claw, my joints would be locked in certain positions. At one point I couldn't even write, I couldn't pick up a pen."
At age 22 she was told that if she didn't make some major changes, she'd never be able to pick up her future kids. An avid athlete (she started training as a competitive fastball pitcher at age nine), she opted to take up yoga instead, and the practice has strongly impacted her health and well-being.
A yoga teacher, English instructs at YYoga, and is the founder of Live Well Yoga, a mobile wellness company offering a host of services, including yoga classes throughout the Lower Mainland, Thai massage, holistic nutrition services and traditional Chinese medicine. She also works with fellow arthritis and other autoimmune disease sufferers.
"Through my yoga I have full mobility and I have an advanced practice," she says. "I do have flare ups when it's really cold or whenever I'm really stressed or sick, but comparatively, it's 90 per cent gone."
Last year, English was shocked to discover that her peers in the yoga world have been banding together since 2005 for Power of Movement, a yoga challenge in support of arthritis and autoimmune disease research. Held at a variety of sites across North America, the event is intended to raise funds and awareness for the Arthritis Research Foundation, a means of supporting the estimated 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.
"To think that people are out there supporting you was huge for me on an emotional basis because I lived with this for so long," says English.
This year's event is set for Sunday, March 4. A Lower Mainland mass class is being held at Creekside Community Recreation Centre, 1 Athlete's Way in Vancouver at 11 a.m. The class is being led by Gloria Latham, founder of Semperviva Yoga and the director of yoga teacher training at Semperviva Yoga College. A second event is being held at Moksha Yoga Vancouver led by studio director Kim Scarrow and a third in Delta.
In addition to participating in the offered events, individuals and studios, regardless of where they are, are encouraged to complete a virtual challenge to likewise show support for the initiative.
For the last two years, English has served as an ambassador for Power of Movement.
"I think spreading the word is really important and I think understanding the way we work with yoga helps to deal with pain management and helps us to increase our quality of life on a daily basis," she says.
For more information on Power of Movement, visit www. powerofmovement.ca.
For more information on Live Well Yoga, visit www. livewellyoga.ca.