When I began my yoga journey back in the late 90s, I was looking for something that could help me manage my stress, help me with my sciatic pain, and provide me with some beneficial exercise. For years, yoga did all of that for me. And then in 2011, my autoimmune journey began.
Keep in mind that I didn’t know I had autoimmune issues. It took over a year to get a diagnosis of Lyme Disease, and it took another 7 years before I was told I also have Fibromyalgia. And then the next year, finding out I have psoriatic arthritis…and a few months later, finding out I also have Non Radiographic Axial Spondyloarthritis. OMG…just writing all that is exhausting!
I grew up learning about how our immunity is what keeps us from getting various diseases, and it helps to protect our bodies. With autoimmune conditions/disorders/diseases, however, the immune system begins fighting against something it’s meant to protect.
In addition to the conditions I have, some of the other autoimmune conditions and diseases you may have heard of are:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Thyroid issues
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Irritable Bowel Disease
- Type 1 Diabetes
Unfortunately, when it comes to autoimmune disorders, there are no cures. Modern science has been trying for years to find a cure for these conditions, but as of now, doctors only have the ability to help manage the symptoms to ease the suffering.
If you’ve read my blog or listened to my podcast, then you may already understand that yoga is not just a workout. It is a lifestyle that helps bring our minds, bodies and spirits into balance with each other. When practicing yoga with the right modifications for individual needs, there is a significant positive impact for those suffering from autoimmune diseases.
Studies have found that moderate exercise can reduce inflammation in the body, which is one of the main symptoms of autoimmune diseases. The physical practice of yoga is a wonderful form of gentle exercise that you could choose to help in this area.
A regular yoga practice can also help with increasing the mobility and flexibility of joints, and can also help with improving muscle strength, endurance and balance…all things that are negatively impacted by many autoimmune conditions.
And don’t forget about the benefits yoga provides in managing stress and anxiety. Studies show that yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for initiating the relaxation response. Autoimmune conditions cause stress and anxiety, which cause our physical symptoms to worsen…it’s a vicious cycle that can severely impact our ability to enjoy life in any capacity. Using yoga, in combination with mindfulness practices and meditation, could be just the thing to help develop the sense of calmness, well-being and body awareness needed to combat any stress and anxiety you experience.
What I’ve discovered for myself is that yoga has been instrumental in helping me shift my focus away from all the things I’m suffering from to the things that are more meaningful. Yoga has helped me realize that I’m more than just my body, which has given me a different perspective when it comes to managing my autoimmune conditions. This deeper self-awareness has allowed me to better understand the triggers that set off an autoimmune flare. And while I can’t always control these triggers, I am able to use my yoga and mindfulness practices to help me manage my symptoms when they arise.
Management of autoimmune disorders requires more than just yoga, of course. Other lifestyle changes need to be included as well to help manage these conditions, such as sleep management, and proper nutrition.
Using yoga to help manage your autoimmune conditions requires a careful and well-guided approach, so make sure you connect with a yoga teacher who has experience dealing with these conditions, in addition to their understanding of traditional yoga.
Even though yoga cannot fully cure me, it has provided me with the tools to take care of myself. Yoga has helped me to rediscover joy and purpose in my life, and for that, I am grateful beyond measure.
Namaste and Have a Sparkling Day!Melanie