Burlington, MA Yoga/Fitness Session | Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness

Two years ago I started practicing yoga. I began with online videos in my basement where I could hide and nobody could see me! I realized very quickly that yoga was something I really enjoyed and I actually kept at it. Last year, I joined a local fitness center and started taking yoga classes there. I was really nervous practicing with a room full of other people at first, but with the encouragement and guidance of a couple of amazing instructors, I got over that fear pretty quickly.

Anyone in the Burlington area who practices yoga knows that Monique is one of the best. She has such a calming voice and presence and you will always feel welcomed in her classes. You will leave feeling relaxed and at peace, but don’t be fooled…you will ALWAYS get a workout in her classes!

I recently did a photo session with Monique in my studio. As we were shooting and talking, I learned more about her life with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and how yoga has helped her with some of her symptoms. Since I did not know much about RA, I started reading about it after our session and then thought this would be a great way to bring awareness to the disease. So, in addition to sharing photos of the beautiful Monique, I am sharing some of her personal journey. I hope that this will help others who suffer from RA.

How old were you when you were diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

I was diagnosed with JRA and the correlating eye disease, Uveitis, when I was just 22 months old.

What symptoms did you have at that time? What symptoms do you experience now as an adult?

My parents knew something was up when I went from being a very active and happy baby, to all of a sudden refusing to walk. Throughout my life, I’ve experienced pain in my ankles, knees, hips, left wrist, right elbow and neck. As an adult, it’s been my knees that flare up the most.

What is the treatment for JRA?

Treatment for JRA can range from over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, to immunosuppressant injections. In addition to these conventional treatments, I have dedicated the past 10 years of my life researching and trying holistic treatments. Some things that have helped me include eating an anti-inflammatory diet, keeping stress levels low, staying active, acupuncture, physical therapy and consuming certain herbs and supplements.

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What made you start the practice of yoga to help with your symptoms?

I was in high school when I discovered yoga. As a varsity three season athlete, I was desperate to find relief from my Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I started doing on demand yoga workouts at home and fell in love with the physical practice. When I went off to college, I had a Denise Austin power yoga DVD that I would do in my dorm room. Practicing yoga helped me maintain a strong, flexible and balanced body while also alleviating pressure on my joints.

When did you decide to train to be a yoga instructor?

After my freshman year in college, I decided to take my first live yoga class, which not only took my practice to the next level, but happened to present itself at the perfect time. My cousin had just suddenly passed away and yoga played a huge part in my emotional healing. After that first live class, I felt the happiest I had felt in months and I knew right then that I wanted to become an instructor. Eventually, I became a children’s yoga instructor at the age of 19 and, after two gratifying years of teaching yoga to children, I was ready to take the next step. I decided to go for my 200-hour yoga teacher training and started teaching adult classes immediately upon completion.

How many classes a week do you instruct?

I currently teach anywhere from 10-15 classes per week. I’ve also taught classes to athletic teams ranging from High School to professional level.

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Do you have any advice for anyone that is newly diagnosed with JRA?

My advice to anyone newly diagnosed with RA, or any autoimmune disease is to prioritize self care, eat well, get your rest, and surround yourself with supportive people.

Any advice for anyone thinking of trying yoga?

You don’t need to be in perfect health, in tip top physical shape or be able to bend yourself into a pretzel to practice yoga. Your yoga practice is just that, a practice and a journey. It works for all different body types and you learn to embrace and celebrate your body for what it CAN do and not compare yourself to others.