“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” -Buddha

Nothing like a little Downward Dog on the river to make you feel alive, eh? Find your solid grounding and take a moment to feel strong and rest at the same time. A mini journey of sorts, if you would.

Dealing with medication side effects can be much the same – a journey into finding your ground, and seeking the Zen point of Balance between feeling good due to medication and feeling not so good. It’s not as easy as it seems to determine whether symptoms you are experiencing are drug side effects, MS symptoms, regular old flu/cold symptoms, or symptoms as a result of stress or anything else. Add the complications of aging, and sometimes you don’t know if your body is MS’ing, PMS’ing, or Menopausing!

I like to call it the Rule of PMS³! (PMS to the Power of Three – yes, I really am a physics nerd at heart!) When you have no idea what’s happening – it’s probably one of those. Works for men too – but we’d have to rename it MS³, because men have andropause…)

When living with a chronic illness such as MS, medications are often a big part of your life. Medications for the illness. Medications for the pain. Medications for the intolerable side effects of the priority medication. Then there are the cross side effects when one drug affects how the other drug affects you. It can be a daunting and confusing road sometimes, figuring out how to best navigate medications and side effects. It starts to feel like you are playing a round of Abbot & Costello’s “Who’s on First…

The beauty of how yoga has helped me learn to manage my medications and their side effects and understand them better is through allowing me to develop and hone my self-awareness skills. Self-awareness is not only psychological – it is also physical. I find that I am now MUCH more aware of what is going on in my body, when and why, as a direct result of practicing mindfulness, non-attachment, and being fully present in each moment as much as I possibly can. I understand more why my body is moving in a certain way; what may be causing a certain pain in one area I now recognize as possibly due to a condition in a completely opposite area. I have learned that the toe bone really is connected to the shoulder bone, in a manner of speaking! The human body really is an amazing piece of work!

For example – last week while on a fall house purging spree, I ended up feeling a sharp pain in my right jaw area suddenly by the end of the day, when I was most fatigued. Because I had been moving things around a bit, I figured that I had somehow clenched my jaw and pulled a muscle somehow, irritating my TMJ in my jaw. But I knew something was not quite right with that theory because I have learned that when you have pain due to muscles or bone alignments, it is usually reflected in some way somewhere else in the body. This wasn’t. A few days later, the pain was spreading and the headaches were worse…but I could still turn my neck. At that point, I started fitting the puzzle pieces together – my right side of the head hurt…and it was an ear infection, not TMJ nor a pulled muscle. I saw my GP, and she confirmed my thoughts. I was put on an antibiotic -again.

Turns out, my seizure meds, which have a known side effect of suppressing the immune system, especially of the respiratory system, has weakened my immune system further. My immune system is already weak due to MS. The doc said I need to be carefull about exposure now, as my body is not able to handle the infections like before. I am starting to understand that, since in the past 8 weeks I have had a serious and sudden bout of bronchitis, and now a painful and sudden ear infection (which I have never had before in my life). But – heck…if it is a choice between full-on Grand Mals with no warning, or the odd sinus infection…well, for now the odds fall better in the infection camp. That may change down the road…but for now, my Medication Zen Point is the point between tolerable side effects and intolerable consequences if I don’t take the drug! I’ll take the ear infection over the grand mal seizure, please!

“It is necessary to combine knowledge born from study with sincere practice in our daily lives. These two must go together.” -Dalai Lama

My advice to anyone dealing with the Medications Side Effects russion roulette: develop your sense of self-awareness. It will never steer you wrong!