I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
I heard about the Gupta program a few years ago. I was intrigued by the philosophy of it as it seemed to build on things that had already helped me like meditation, mindfulness, and a shift in thinking patterns. But it also looked like it would give more depth to what I had already learned and would have the perspective of a medical professional.
So when I got the opportunity to participate in the program this year I was very excited!
For those of you who haven’t heard of the program, it is a 12-week program that focuses on retraining the brain. It’s led by Ashok Gupta, who suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome for several years before dedicating himself to researching the illness and curing himself. He’s now built a career on helping others with chronic fatigue syndrome and related illness get well with the brain re-training technique.
The basics of the Gupta Programme
We begin by learning Gupta’s theory about chronic fatigue syndrome. He believes that chronic fatigue syndrome is a neurological condition that is caused by a combination of psychological stress which - leads negative thought patterns - combined with a virus. This combination drives our nervous system into overdrive. This can cause immune dysfunction and a whole host of other symptoms as your brain is trying to make your body fight off stressors that aren’t necessarily a threat.
To reverse this process, we need to retrain the brain and stop negative thought patterns so that the stress response and nervous system can get back to normal, giving our bodies and minds the space they need to heal.
The program includes a brain retraining technique, along with an in-depth meditation program (I LOVED this), and weekly webinars with Ashok to go over some of the techniques in depth and ask any questions.
It also included a workbook and DVD’s to guide you through the program. There is also a Facebook group and forum where you can go to for extra support. As you can tell, this was a lot of information to get through in a few months.
Ashok always encouraged us to practice practice practice, it’s not helpful just to learn the theory, which reminded me of one of my favourite yoga quotes: “Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory”. We were encouraged to do the brain retraining technique every day as well as practice a meditation every day during the program. This made it manageable to do, and I was able to watch the webinars and go through the workbook when I had more time, rather than getting stressed out about falling behind. Ashok encouraged us to just do our best, but do as much as we could during the program.
What was most helpful for me
Not surprisingly to anyone who knows me or reads this blog, I really loved the meditation portion of this program. I usually meditate at the beginning or end of my yoga practice, but when I started this program I realised that in the past year, I had stopped meditating outside of yoga. This is something I used to do every day, so I really enjoyed this chance to get back into it. I found it definitely helped me feel more energised on days when I felt lethargic or stressed out. The meditations were part of a ‘meaning of life’ program which also included videos packed with information about meditation, the research and philosophies behind it, and the true power our brain has over the physical world around us.
Stop thinking like a sick person.
I remember when saw a counselor back when I was really ill. I told her one thing I struggled with was making future plans. I knew I wanted to travel the world and have a meaningful job, but I didn’t want to plan those things if I was going to be too ill to do it. Was it wise to make an alternate life plan taking my illness into account?
“Well, when do you plan on traveling?” she asked.
“In about a year or two.”
“And do you know how you’ll feel in a year or two?”
“Then why shouldn’t you plan for what you want?”
That 30-second conversation had a huge impact on me. So of course, 3 months dedicated to that same mentality- of not worrying about the future any more than a healthy person would- was very helpful. I think it’s a great mindset for anyone living with a chronic illness to get into. That doesn’t mean we should ignore our symptoms and what our bodies need at the moment (a lot of rest and time dedicated to things like meditation), but we shouldn’t stop planning for the future we want, or stop trying to do the things we enjoy doing.
The STOP technique.
I never thought of myself as an anxious person until I got ill. Most of my friends and family would have described me as relaxed and calm (in fact, I think they still would!). Then I realized stress doesn’t show the same in every person. I didn’t get noticeably anxious, but the anxieties I was having were manifesting in my body in mind in different ways.
After studying yoga and meditation for several years and was recovered from my illness, I felt like I now had a handle on my anxiety. Which leads me to a wonderful quote by Cheryl Strayed:
“It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again”
And that was true for me too. I moved to a new (big, dirty, expensive) city with a new relationship and no job. I felt more anxious than I ever had in my life. And while I was continuing my practice of yoga in meditation, I felt like it was just stopping me from falling over the edge, rather than making a stable impact on my mood. One of the reasons I was excited to try this program now was to see if it could help with my anxiety. Of course, I’m now living in a much more pleasant place, a lot of those anxieties have faded. But I still found the brain retraining technique very helpful for anxiety.
Those same anxious thoughts I had when I was ill were now manifesting in me in a different way, and yoga and meditation were not always enough. Sometimes being alone with your thoughts lets them spiral out of control. The stop technique helped bring me back to the present, and remind myself that we don’t know what the future holds, that nothing is absolute and that there are many things I can do now to help myself. I even used the retraining technique during meditation!
Getting into nature.
Ashok encourages everyone to spend time in nature as part of the program. This is a big one for me and one of the other reasons I think I struggled in that big, smelly city. I now live in the Mediterranean and my health is much better here. My energy levels are good and my anxiety levels are low. I find that it’s hard to stay stressed out, anxious, or depressed when you step outside to walk along the beach or in the mountains. Doctors used to recommend nature for people of all different ailments, and it’s a shame that’s stopped. So while this is something I truly believe helps, it was great to have it backed up by a medical professional. It also inspired me to make a point of going into nature every day. So even if I was ‘too busy’ I still made the time to go outside somewhere beautiful. Each time I did it even if I felt too tired or too busy to go, I felt refreshed and energized when I returned.
I think this can be a great program for people with CFS. I like that it combines meditation with other therapies, and I think it’s a great complement to a regular yoga practice as well!
The program offers a money back guarantee if it’s not effective. It’s a big time commitment and financial investment, but nothing is more important than your health.
Have you participated in the Gupta programme? What did you think?