Carmen refers to her Yoga profession as a "calling," a calling which has taken her on an extended journey on many levels: experiential, physical and spiritual . Currently, she resides on Maui and has been teaching there since 2003.
Maui is a magical place for healing and recovery, in Carmen's case, from a painful divorce. In a single year, her life was completely transformed from dejection and disillusionment to happiness and companionship.
But in 2011 Carmen was diagnosed by a rheumatologist with Sjøgrens, an endemic autoimmune disease, which affects every cell in the body, particularly, the moisturizing glands, from the skin to the gums, muscles and joints, digestive tract, the salivary glands of mouth, --even the hair follicles--resulting in excruciating, unpredictable flare-ups that for Carmen resulted in the wasting away of muscle, listlessness and ultimately depression.
Sjøgrens is a not a well-known auto-immune disease. She first heard about it when world tennis champion Venus Williams' public announced she had the disease and dropped out of the circuit until recently making a come-back. In hindsight, Carmen suspects her mother also had the disease but was never diagnosed. Stress is the indisputable trigger.
Carmen experienced symptoms, I.e., extreme dryness of the eyes and vagina, lassitude, indigestion, constipation and diarrhea years before the diagnosis. Although she bravely continued with her active life, she had to cut back on her strenuous practice that accelerated weight loss to 112 lbs.
She then decided to revert to the classical form of yoga comprised of gentle stretching, breathing and meditation. She also turned to Restorative Yoga for relaxation and passive stretching.
Within three years, Carmen transformed the ravages of a debilitating disease into a positive experience, thus giving her hope for full remission and possibly full recovery. Eventually, through nutrition and exercise she has regained her muscle strength and weight. She manages her disease successfully by paying close attention to her diet and is able to recognize early-on signs and symptoms before they erupt, thus, bringing mindfulness to her daily life--all thanks to Yoga.
The upside to all this physical, emotional and mental suffering is the empathy and depth of experience she has gained. On a spiritual level, Carmen has gained even more determination to help others. She looks forward to her Level 2 Yoga for Arthritis certification so that she can pursue this practice as a full-time career.