Exercise made rheumatoid arthritis symptoms more tolerable
Keri O’Meara feels younger today than she did when she was a teen or even as a kid. “I grew up with rheumatoid arthritis [RA], which was often times debilitating and prevented me from being an active child,” she says. She tried Pilates in her late 20s and loved it. She also found relief with yoga too.
Exercise is one of the treatments for RA. “These practices changed my body and my life. I am stronger, more mobile and active then I have ever been and I rarely feel the effects of this disease,” says O’Meara, who is now the owner of her own Pilates and yoga studio, MuseMovement in Toronto. “I am 37 years old and feeling younger everyday.”
Her #BHmoment? A 30-day fitness challenge. It not only changed her body – it changed her life.
The rheumatoid arthritis and exercise challenge worth accepting
“A few months after I started doing Pilates, I participated in a 30-day challenge at Core Studio,” she says. About midway through the challenge, the RA started to flare in her knees during a bridge series (on the back, knees bent, butt gets lifted repeatedly off the floor). “I was fighting back tears and feeling defeated.” But feeling like she might fail was harder to swallow than the pain. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and talked herself into finishing the class. The challenge, for her, was each class, not just the 30 days.
What this aha moment meant about rheumatoid arthritis and exercise
“I didn’t have to be the girl who couldn’t do things because she had arthritis,” says O’Meara. “By connecting my body and my brain, I could change my relationship to pain and ultimately to my disease. I think this was probably the subconscious moment that I decided to be a teacher and it has informed how I teach my clients, how I run my studio and now how I train teachers.”
Pilates and yoga define her, not RA
“A few months after that, I did my Pilates teacher training. I was so passionate about this practice and my results,” says O’Meara, who has been teaching full time for eight years now. She opened her studio in 2015 and offers a full teacher training program. “It’s so important to teach with compassion but also be able to gently push and help people find the inner strength which will help empower them.” (Are you a newbie yogi? These tips will help you feel more confident in yoga class.)
Would she change a thing?
“I have no regrets about my journey,” she says. The only time O’Meara gets RA flare-ups is when she takes a break from exercise, when she’s stressed, emotionally drained or doesn’t feel like her resilient-self.
She is bent on showing clients how they can have rheumatoid arthritis and exercise in their lives. The don’t have to avoid being active.
“I see people get really discouraged by their injuries and by what they perceive as an inability,” she adds. “But if we can connect mind and body we can literally change neural pathways and change how we move on the mat and off. This is why my motto is move your body, move your mind, move your heart.”