A lot has changed in the world, and in everyday life with CF, since we first designed CF Yogi’s core program of online yoga classes in 2018. For those keeping track, that was way back in the Before Times. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, before social distancing, before the rise of online exercise resources for everyone, before vaccines. Before other great online exercise programs for people with CF were freely available.

But perhaps most significantly . . .

Before the arrival of Trikafta, the game-changing, highly-effective treatment for CF which changed pretty much everything about what daily life with CF looks like (for 90% of us).

Back then, in teaching yoga classes online we were doing something so new and so novel that we didn’t even know if it would work. We had firsthand experience showing that yoga could make the difference in our own daily lives with CF, but didn’t know if it would be beneficial for others on a larger scale. The CF Foundation thought it was an idea worth pursuing, and awarded us an Impact Grant to get the idea off the ground.

CF Yogi’s polls of our program participants since then have showed that the vast majority of participants saw improvements in their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. These results were presented at the North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference (NACFC) in 2020 and published in the accompanying supplement to Pediatric Pulmonology — and you can see a poster of those impacts right here:

Click to enlarge (zoomable PDF will open in new window)

With these encouraging results in hand, the CF Foundation’s initial award was renewed for a second year, extended again during the early days of the pandemic, and then rolled into a Community Support grant which has funded two adult yoga classes per week through June of 2022. However, now that the CF Community has so many more options for online exercise four years later (hooray!), the CF Foundation grant is ending, and it’s time for us at CF Yogi to spread our wings and fly under our own power!

So, what comes next? For answers, we turned back to our mission statement, which has guided us since those early days when we first envisioned a virtual yoga studio by and for the CF community:

CF Yogi’s mission is to support wellness of body, mind, and spirit throughout the Cystic Fibrosis community.

Of those three words in our mission statement, “body, mind, and spirit,” body is the one that gets the bulk of the attention. But the mind-and-spirit part is just as important (if not more so)! There is a perception out there (even in the CF community) that yoga is “just” exercise when in fact, it’s so, so much more than that.

CF Yogi is about supporting the whole person with CF (and their loved ones) — always has been, and always will be.

The fact that our CF bodies are now healthier (in general), doesn’t mean that we no longer need yoga. To the contrary, many people have reported an increase in anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other side effects since starting Trikafta, which yoga can help to address.

For many of us, this period of stable physical health marks the first time in our lives that we are healthy enough to put intentional, concentrated effort into supporting our mental and emotional well being. Now that our bodies are out of “fight or flight,” and less intent on battling for survival, we have the capacity to turn our attention to addressing and recovering from a lifetime of mental and/or emotional trauma that our disease has caused. Plus, faced with the prospect of a longer life span, we have the opportunity to contemplate who we want to be in the next chapter of our lives.

It’s a unique opportunity, and a challenge, that few of us ever could have hoped to face.

Yoga was made for this. CF Yogi was made for this, in turn.

There are few people in the world who’ve ever experienced a comparable transformation in their health and their life like this… so our best resource for moving forward is right here within our CF community. Learning from each other, talking through what this new lifestyle means for us, exchanging our knowledge about what has worked for us and turning to sources of wisdom to guide us through.

Back when murmurings first started happening about a highly-effective “triple combo” therapy on the horizon, I started pondering what my own life would look like if it became reality. If my lungs suddenly were not an obstacle, what would I do? Who would I be? What could I offer to pay back the Universe in some small way for everything that was given to me?

What would people with CF need if their lives were drastically changed and they had to relearn their entire bodies, their entire selves? What would we all do with this collective opportunity to reshape our identities not around being “sick” people… but simply, people?

That was my optimistic hope behind founding CF Yogi in the first place… that maybe that miracle drug would come down the road and that it would give us an opportunity to lean in to who we could really become.

And now it’s actually here.

With my background as a person living with CF, and an RYT500 certified yoga teacher trained in yoga for people with trauma or health challenges, I understand yoga as more than mere exercise. I see yoga as a holistic structure for whole-person wellness.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

Yoga is a comprehensive, 8-limbed path for whole-person wellness. It goes far, far beyond the physical body, encompassing thoughts, emotions, philosophy, spirituality, ethics, living in community, and deep understanding of our own identity as human beings. It addresses literally EVERYTHING that the CF community is facing right now.

Check it out…. these are the 8 limbs of yoga as defined thousands of years ago in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

The 8 Limbs of Yoga, superimposed over the CF Yogi logo
  1. Yama: interpersonal ethics
  2. Niyama: personal ethics
  3. Asana: physical postures
  4. Pranayama: breath practices
  1. Pratyahara: internal awareness
  2. Dharana: concentration
  3. Dhyana: meditation
  4. Samadhi: bliss (& peace with all living beings)

As you can see, Asana (the physical postures) is only one of the eight limbs of yoga! So if all you’ve ever done is the physical yoga poses, you have just barely scratched the surface of what yoga really is. You might see poses a lot on Instagram and in pop culture, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Western culture has thoroughly embraced the physical practice of yoga, but the lessons that the other limbs have to teach us often get left behind (especially in a gym-style yoga class).

At CF Yogi, our classes are intentionally designed to include multiple limbs: Asana (physical postures), Pranayama (breathing practices), Pratyahara (internal awareness), and Dhyana (meditation). We also aim to include specific themes incorporating the Yamas & Niyamas (philosophical or ethical practice), as these practices are beneficial both on and off the mat. I believe that’s a big part of why our survey responses have consistently shown that the benefits of our program go so far beyond just physical health.

Supporting What the CF Community Needs Now

This past week, we did our annual survey of our participants to find out how our classes are impacting them, and how we can better support them in their wellness of body, mind, and spirit as their lives look now. We’ll soon be sharing a comprehensive report of those findings that validate our approach and the impact that yoga is making on our CF Yogi community. Here’s just one brief snapshot that tells the story:

Plus, 65% of our CF Yogi survey respondents want to learn more about the 8 limbs of yoga and explore mind-body-spirit wellness on a deeper level. Which makes sense, especially considering that among our 38 survey respondents:

  • 31% are experiencing anxiety, depression, or mood swings
  • 23% are experiencing insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • 14.3% are experiencing dizziness or vertigo
  • 11.4% are experiencing uncertainty about their career or future life path

In coming days, we’ll also be sharing specific testimonials from participants that show CF Yogi is not just the online equivalent of a gym, it truly has become the virtual “yoga studio” we envisioned — where the deeper aspects of yoga that are relevant to life with CF are incorporated into our class approach, and our students are living the benefits!

Given these responses, we have committed to keeping our program going by raising the funds to continue offering the same number of weekly classes for another year.

Introducing CF Yogi’s 2022 Fundraising Campaign: Supporting the Whole Person with CF

In CF Yogi’s next phase, we intend to keep offering our current twice-weekly yoga classes, but also create new opportunities for our community to learn about these other limbs of yoga and how to integrate them into their daily self-care of life with CF. We’ll be sharing about the 8 limbs through blog posts and social media to help boost awareness of yoga as a tool for whole-person wellness in the CF community. We’ll be bringing back some form of the CF Yogi Book Club and other group events to dig into the other tools that yoga offers for mental and emotional wellness. And for the first time, we’ll be doing a peer-to-peer fundraiser so that individuals can create their own fundraising pages, and tell their stories on CF Yogi’s behalf!

Our goal is to raise $12,000 to fund our program for the next 12 months! Every $1,000 raised funds one month of our bi-weekly live Zoom classes, social media support and blog content creation, and our backend technology. Any donor willing to donate $1,000 to fund a month of programming will receive public recognition as that month’s class sponsor (if desired), and they can sponsor as many months as they choose!

Our shareable campaign page is now live, where you are welcome to make a direct donation, sponsor us, or sign yourself up to be a CF Yogi Champion with a fundraiser of your own supporting our campaign as a whole. (Similar to what you may have done before if you’ve ever been on a Great Strides team!).

You can also use the links below to Donate Now, Become a Sponsor, or sign up to Be a CF Yogi Champion and create your own fundraiser. Thank you for your support, both now and into the wide open future!