Pain from endometriosis meant Lisa Mullineaux, 37, had no choice but to put her life on hold. Then she found yoga.
I’ve had a love hate relationship with exercise. In my early twenties, I walked a lot, went climbing, and did the odd run. But over the next three years, I experienced debilitating abdominal pain. I would try to go for a run and be doubled over – sometimes on all fours. Gradually, even the thought of pulling on my trainers made me anxious. One day, I passed out in the toilets at work because I was in so much pain. That was the catalyst for me turning things around.
I’d assumed this was just ‘normal’ period pain, but when I was 23, I finally went to the doctors. They dismissed my symptoms as IBS for another two years, but eventually, I was diagnosed with endometriosis and ovarian cysts – a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places. Abdominal surgery showed that my womb had fused to my colon, and any kind of impact (e.g., running), would aggravate my symptoms.
So, I decided to try yoga. I’d done a couple of classes a few years before when I was looking for a gentler way to move, but I hadn’t exercised at all for such a long time and felt so unwell – physically and mentally – that I had to force myself to go to a class. I’m so thankful I did. It taught me to move at my own pace, in a way that felt good, rather than going hell-for-leather like I would when running. I went to this class every week, then added in online classes twice a week.
After six months of doing yoga 20-30 mins a day, five days a week, I noticed a massive difference in my pain. It became less frequent, and I felt well enough to work again – I’d previously left my job as a project administrator as the pain made it too difficult. The biggest improvement was my mental health. Other side effects of endometriosis are chronic fatigue and depression. Yoga re-established my self-confidence and gave me faith that there was a way out of how I was feeling. It was empowering.
On top of practising yoga, I started going to the gym twice a week, walking my dog every day, and cycling at the weekends, with the occasional Pilates or HIIT workout to mix things up. Yoga even gave me the confidence to try running again (I’d do slow jogs twice a week), which I never thought possible.
Because yoga helped me in such a profound way, I trained as a yoga teacher. I went to India to get my qualification and it’s my proudest achievement. Prior to that I was so socially anxious; going to the supermarket would end in a panic attack. Being able to stand up in front of a room full of strangers and to speak with confidence and hold that space for them feels incredible. Yoga helped me heal, in more ways than I could ever have imagined.