Three years ago Aura Tether Frey, a yogi in Mississippi, felt some painful swelling in her joints and muscles. Thinking it was rheumatoid arthritis, which runs in her family, she asked her doctor to test her blood. When the results came back, she was shocked to learn it was lupus. Lupus is a disorder where the immune system gets confused and turns on the body. Normally, the immune system is designed to attack foreign substances in the body. With lupus, the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues. This can damage many parts of the body including joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs and even the brain. Lupus can cause several painful symptoms including painful or swollen joints, fever, rashes, loss of hair, chest pain, extreme fatigue, and in some cases can lead to death.
Aura in inverted plank pose
Aura had practiced yoga off and on for over 10 years, but she had kept falling out of practice for one reason or another. Around the time she was diagnosed with lupus, she felt an inner call to devote herself more fully to her practice. “In retrospect,” she shares, “I feel that my higher self knew yoga is what I needed and that’s what was calling to me.”
Since reigniting her yoga practice three years ago, she rarely misses a day of practice. “In the past three years, I haven’t had hardly a flare up at all and when I have (rarely) it’s so minor that it’s totally acceptable! Even my bloodwork is almost normal! Only the fatigue slows me down, but not often. That’s the best thing yoga has done for me. Lupus can destroy so much, but I think yoga gives me an edge to defying it.”
In rural Mississippi where she lives, there are no yoga classes or yoga studios. Aura maintains her practice at home and has taught herself yoga by watching yoga videos, reading books, and through research on the Internet. “People scoff at yoga DVDs, but they can be a great aid in starting or continuing a practice.” Through her home practice, she not only has managed the potentially devastating symptoms brought on by Lupus, but she has also gained physical strength and mental clarity and focus.
She finds it challenging to convince other people in her area to understand the importance and benefits of yoga. “It’s not just for tree huggers and hippies,” she jokes. She shares her practice with her kids and has found they have a natural desire to do what mom is doing. “Kids are natural yogis anyways, right? Just look at the way babies move.”
Just as yoga called her to a regular practice three years ago, Aura now feels the calling to teach yoga professionally some day. “The journey brings more growth than one could expect.” Aura’s daily practice of yoga has given her much more than she herself ever expected. “Just be open and patient — the blessings will come.”
Aura is pictured in these photos and in the main photo (upper right) in Standing Bow Pose.