How Carol Healed Herself of a 20 Year Affliction with Fibromyalgia

April 1995: Carol, a visitor to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, from  New York, came to see me and asked if I thought that yoga would help her. She said that she had been suffering from Fibromyalgia and Insomnia for twenty years. She said that she was in constant pain and was unable to do even simple activities.

“Yes, practicing hatha yoga will help you,” I told her, “but you need to come to class every day.”

“I can’t come every day,” she said. “That would be too much activity.”

“If you want to heal yourself, you need to be here five days a week. Surely you can do that.”

‘But you don’t understand!” Her eyes teared. “If I take the class today, it will be a week before I have enough energy to take another class.”

“No, you don’t understand,” I said firmly. “My guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, said that there is enough energy in each person to last several thousand years. The only way that you can not have energy is by giving up. We are not going to try to get you more energy. We are just going to remove the blocks to the energy that is already within you.”

Friday, April 7, 1995, 7:45am: Carol started hatha yoga classes five mornings a week. I knew that she was in a lot of pain and that everything was very difficult for her. I told her that even if she did just the breathing and relaxation, she would be making progress.

One day I found her sitting cross-legged on the floor crying. “What’s the matter? Did you hurt yourself?”

“No, nothing happened,” she said. “It hurts just to sit here?”

“Hang in there. Just show up every day and do what you want of the class. Give it time. You’ll see.” I never pushed Carol to do the postures. The only thing I pushed her to do was to attend classes. I knew that the yoga class environment alone would help her, and I was determined not to lose her. After twenty years going downhill in pain, this might be her last chance.

Little by little Carol was loosening up, relaxing better, and at times feeling less pain. And as she said, “Maybe I’m sleeping a little better and walking a little easier.”

I had encouraged Carol to walk to class and back. But when I suggested that she now attend two yoga classes a day, she lost it. “Now I know that you are nuts! How in the world am I going to do that? I’ve just barely been  able to make it to every morning class. What happens if I am too weak to walk back to my place?”

“You can take a cab. Here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a cab is only a dollar.”

Do the Yoga and You Won’t Be Tired

I explained to Carol that practicing Hatha Yoga correctly means feeling energized not fatigued. Unlike getting in shape to play football, Yoga is more like learning to type or play a musical instrument: The more frequently you practice, the sooner you develop the skill. The more frequently she practiced, the more energy she would have.

“But what if I am too tired to do the Yoga?” she said.

I answered, “Do the Yoga and you won’t be tired.”

Carol had been taking an afternoon art class and had used that as an excuse for not coming to the afternoon yoga class as well as the morning one. Now the art school had a two-week spring break.

April 18, 1995:  Carol finally gave in and attended the 5 pm class the second week of the spring break. And guess what? She had a big advancement in her progress.

The Only Limitations We Have Are The Ones We Put on Ourselves

While I am always looking for opportunities to introduce students to the mental and spiritual aspects of Yoga, I felt that this would be especially helpful to Carol because of the enormous challenge she faced in her twenty year losing battle with the physical pain and insomnia of Fibromyalgia.

I was very happy to find Carol receptive to the spiritual teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. I gave her some things by him to read and she began attending our meditation meetings and readings.

One day when Carol asked, “What if I just don’t have what it takes to conquer this Fibromyalgia illness?”

I said to her, “I want you to think about this, to really think about it. Turn it over in your mind. Try not to be critical or argue against it, but just keep hearing it and repeating it. Paramahansa Yogananda says that the only limitations we have are what we put on ourselves. The Spirit of God is within each one of us. So you, Carol, the only limitations that you have are the ones that you choose to have. You can just as well choose not to have any.”

I suggested that she read Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, and if she liked that she should consider signing up for the home study lessons from Paramahansa Yogananda’s organization, Self-Realization Fellowship.

May 15: Carol had her last class. I told her that she now had some indication of the direction she needed to go in. She had some momentum but the value of that would really be realized by her regular, daily and continued practice of yoga. Carol thanked me, bought one of my yoga tapes and left for her home in New York. I felt that she had gotten a sense of what needed to be done and would do it.

Some time passed and I thought of how wonderful it would be if Carol could conquer her problem.

Fall 1995: I received the following letter from Carol:

Dear Norman__

I think of SM [San Miguel] often & of my experiences there & connecting again, but with a commitment this time, to yoga which has become a part of my daily life. Have gained considerably in strength, endurance & flexibility. Able to do many things like gardening for much longer periods. Pain is no longer part of my day. What a difference! Sometimes I’m doing Yoga the same time as your class – have joined a class here. Keeps me going…

Am reading Auto of a Yogi [Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda]  and have started the teachings [Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons]. Fascinating life he led. Also reading the life of Alesandra David-Neel, a Frenchwoman, who, in the 20’s, was the first European woman to enter LLasa in Tibet. What a journey she was on! She entered Llasa as a beggar. Studied with many lamas.

I’ve not made any definite plans to return to SM [San Miguel] – no opportunities yet. But I know I’ll return in the winter, if not before.

Hope all is well with you & your family – I miss the group [Yogananda Meditation Group] on Sundays. I think of you all.         Fondly, Carol

Of course, this was wonderful news. “Pain is no longer part of my day.” Accomplished in just about six months. If  people only realized! “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” How much unnecessary suffering. But Carol did it. And for me, another affirmation of the power of Yoga and of the tremendous resources within each human being.

Paramahansa Yogananda tells us. But are we listening? Listen. Listen.

But this is not the end of the story.

January 29, 1996, Monday, 7:45 am. Carol Johnstone returned to San Miguel and to the yoga class for five weeks.

As Carol stated in her letter she was in much better health and fitness.

Carol was smiling and giggling to herself a lot. I was puzzled. Was I doing something stupid looking? “Carol what’s so funny?”

“Oh, I am just happy. I am not saying that I can do everything easily now, but I remember what it was like when I first came to your class last year and how hard and painful it was just to be here. It is so much easier now.”

“Good.” Carol just kept getting better and better in the class and out of the class.

“Carol, wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to write up your experiences so that they can be used to inspire and guide others. What do you say?”

“Of course, I will. Great idea.”

February 18, 1996:  Carol gave me the following account of her pain, suffering, and healing.

Carol Johnstone’s Recovery from Fibromyalgia

About 20 years ago, I started having difficulties – pain in the knee. burning in the balls of my feet, feet hurt while walking, very achy back and legs, tail bone hurt so much, I had to use a doughnut to sit on for years ( I took it everywhere with me.) I had x-rays of my knee and my tail bone – nothing showed up. After playing tennis, I got a severe case of tennis elbow.

Went to many doctors and later a chiropractor. No one was able to diagnose me or help me. I fatigued very easily and suffered from insomnia. My body hurt, from my neck down through my feet. I was always in pain.  I could not walk more than a couple of blocks without stopping and resting. I could no longer garden, wash windows, vacuum, etc. I was always in pain.

After about 10 years at the advice of a friend I finally went to a rheumatologist and was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, an arthritic disease affecting the muscles and connecting tissues.

Found out there is no cure. Symptoms are treated with drugs. Took muscular pain reliever and a sedative to sleep.

Heard about a wellness clinic that knew about Fibromyalgia. Went to it and learned about the disease. Treated with relaxation techniques. They were effective but very short-lived.

The years went by. I finally weaned myself from the drugs because of the side effects and hoped I would feel better (the drugs did take the edge off the symptoms). I ended up depressed and very tired.

Then I came to Mexico last year. I was beginning to feel a bit freer from pain. My muscular system was in poor shape as pain stopped me from exercising – I barely walked, never without pain. I decided that I must try to help myself before I got older as I was worried that my muscles would further deteriorate. Everything I did that was the least bit different would make that muscle hurt more.

I started taking Norman’s yoga class every day thinking that yoga would be the least stress on my muscular system. At the beginning I was very frustrated because my body just would not perform and I could not do any pose (even relaxation) without pain. I persevered. There were times when I was in tears and almost ran out of the room from frustration and pain. I kept up one hour per day for five weeks until I left San Miguel. I had bought Norman’s tape for beginners and continued yoga on my own when I returned home. It paid off.

After nearly a year, I am able to do the poses, not effortless, but pain free. But the quality of my life is amazing. My muscles are toned and my strength and agility have greatly improved – I am able to walk, sometimes a dozen miles a day without discomfort or pain. I can do normal housework, garden for a few hours at a time, even played tennis a bit, pain free. My friends tell me I look and act younger. I continue to attribute the practice of yoga to my good health and will continue on this path, enabling me to better prepare for meditation which I think is the key to the best of health, both physical and mental.

Signed:  Carol Johnstone   2.18.96

P. S. I could not hold any kind of job;  it was impossible. I feel it is important that yoga become part of a person’s daily life to gain the most benefit.

Near the end of her stay, Carol told me how much the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons had meant to her. “You know my confidence has soared. I really feel like I understand what you told me about Yogananda saying that the only limitations we have are those we put on ourselves. I feel like I can do anything I want now.”

“So what is it you want?”

“I want to keep getting healthier. I want to hike and travel all over. I want to study a lot more about yoga, about Yogananda’s teachings, about the spiritual part of yoga, the most important part of yoga, and I want to keep practicing hatha yoga. And meditation. I know meditation is the most important practice. Yogananda made that so clear.”

March 1, 1996, Friday: By the end of her last class on this trip, Carol was full of energy and happiness. She thanked me and then hugged me and said, “I have a gift for you. My husband came in a few days ago to go back home together.  The last two days my husband and I hiked the canyon from the bottom all the way to the top passed the dam and reservoir.”

What a gift! “Carol, you know, don’t you, that most people even with no medical problems can’t, or won’t, hike that canyon.”

She smiled. “I know. I have no limitations.”

But Wait! This is still not the end of the story. Oh, I know, if I were writing fiction, it had better be with this great ending line. But this is nonfiction meant to educate and inspire so we continue.

May 29, 1996: I received a permission letter from Carol stating, “I give my permission to Norman Popovsky to use Whatever information relating to my health and recovery, written and verbal, in any way he chooses.” Then the following note was attached:

Norman

Sorry I took so long on this _ life is busy for me these days. L__ R__ & I plan to meet in Germany on Saturday morning, both of us on stand-bys, her from LA, me from NYC. Hope we meet without a hitch. I’m weaving chenille scarves for travel money. I’m still doing yoga – never could have managed the loom without it.

Hope all is well with you & your family in SMA. I plan to return in January.

Fondly,

Carol

February 1997: Carol returned to San Miguel de Allende. Right before she returned to class, I ran into her and her husband in Juarez Park as they had just returned from a hike.

Her husband said to me, “You know according to the doctors by now Carol was supposed to be in a wheelchair drinking out of a straw.” Obviously, he was happy with her recovery. Then the smile left his face. “I can’t even keep up with her any more.” He wiped the sweat and dust from his forehead.  “Carol, tell Norman what you did with our daughter.”

Carol smiled. “I hiked seven miles with her at eleven thousand feet elevation.”

He added, “Completely blew our daughter away.”

Carol joined the class for the last three weeks of February stronger than ever and Pain Free.

I know that very few of you are in as bad of condition as Carol was. If she could heal herself, certainly you should be able to.

Don’t you think so?

Share

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Berquist March 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Norman,
Thanks for posting this inspiring story. After first reading this a few weeks ago, I started doing the routines on your tapes every day, and have noticed a big difference.
We hope to see you at Convocation this year.
Peter Berquist

Norm March 23, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Hi, Peter,
I am very happy to hear that this story inspired you to practice every day, and that you are experiencing the results.

I often tell my students that the practice of yoga is not so much like getting in shape for an athletic contest as it is like learning to play a musical instrument. The more frequently you practice, the quicker you develop the skill.

The other side of this is that unlike a regular workout, you shouldn’t feel tired from your hatha yoga practice. Just like Yogananda’s Energization Exercises, since they are going to give you energy, you should never feel that you are too tired to do them.

By the way, how did you get to this blog? Because it has taken me awhile to learn this blog format, I haven’t announced it yet, although there is a link from my YogaNorman.com website.

Peter, I would be very happy to hear any suggestions that you have on what you think that you or others would like to see on this site. I plan to give a lot of information on the healing and spiritual aspects of yoga.

Thank you very much for your comment. I look forward to seeing you and Ellen at the 2010 Self-Realization Fellowship World Convocation in Los Angeles in August.

Peter Berquist March 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

Norman,
I found this blog from the link on your website.

For me, it would be great to see more stories like this one.

Reading the details of how this women achieved success gave me the inspiration to practice the routines every day. I play the string bass for a living, and it is a very physical activity that leaves me with a lot of muscle tension. If I practice one of the yoga routines afterwards, the tension is released, and I feel a lot better. If I don’t practice the yoga routines, then I’m carrying around tension, my mood is affected, I feel tired, etc.

Norm March 24, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Peter,
Thank you again. Even this short comment about how yoga is helping you may be an inspiration to others.

I will have many more stories of people who have succeeded against all odds and in spite of medical opinions that it couldn’t be done.

Dan Neal July 4, 2010 at 11:48 am

Norman,

Thank you for your yoga classes at the camp (Self-Realization Fellowship Boys YouthProgram Camp). I appreciate it.

I just ordered your DVD for beginners, Easy Yoga for Home, Office & Studio.

This article is very inspiring. I love stories of transformation. I would love to see it in SRM (Self-Realization Magazine). But I do think you will have to let them edit it to be able to fit their editing needs. This might be tough for you but I think they can get the essence of the story even if they have to cut out or re-write some of it.

Thanks again for all you do.

Jai Guru,

Dan

Norm July 4, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Dan, Thank you for your comments and DVD purchase. In the next two weeks I plan to have four new CDs available.

Please let me know if I can help you in any way with your yoga practices.

Everyone really appreciates your service at the SRF Boys Youth Program Camp. Thank you very much…Norm

deborah dore September 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Norman,

What a divine gift this woman received! When we love others and are patient, compassionate and point them in the direction of the Masters with complete faith and confidence that their every need will be met, we are living according to the teachings. Her physical healing is very impressive!

Carol experienced a tremendous physical healing and the greatest gift you shared with her aside from your mastery of yoga, was guiding her to those who can take her to the Ultimate Healing – Realization of the Self.

Thank you for sharing this incredibly inspiring story!

Many you continue to play the role of awakening our brothers and sisters to the Kingdom of Heaven Within. hugs, d

Norm July 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Deborah,

You have stated how this works very well. Thank you.

Often I tell people who are looking for some spiritual guidance to put themselves under a realized being. If they don’t know for sure who the guru is, they can always trust a God Realized soul. A true guru will never hold onto a student as a lesser teacher might.

A true guru, like Paramahansa Yogananda, will always point a person in the right direction.

I appreciate your comment,
IDF & Namasté,
Norm

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: