How yoga helped my autoimmunity


For those of us who have autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s, Lupus, Grave’s Disease, Psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, etc., we often feel weak, tired, bloated, and in pain.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that 23.5* million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease and it’s only rising (1).  And from my very own experience, Western medicine has gathered very little information as to what can cause, treat and prevent autoimmunity. After countless years of learning to become my own advocate, educating myself on alternative therapies, nutrition, and overall wellness; I learned that there are many factors can contribute to the decline in autoimmune health.

We must be mindful of our own sacred consumption for our minds, bodies, and spirits.

What do you mean by Sacred Consumption?

Factors such as nutrition, environment, products, and life can be contribute to the decline in autoimmune health. Though, also help it.

It’s worth considering what you take in from a day to day basis. Think about it, it can either nourish you, slow you down or set you back. I used to mindlessly take in inventory to all sorts of things that never once served my highest good. So, why did I do it in the first place? Conditioning, socialization and programming of modern day society, media/advertising, the need to want to feel accepted, to be apart of a tribe or community among many other factors. Though, it was through getting sick where I awakened a part of myself that has become much more conscious of what it is that I consume. Everything that I now consume is a sacred part of nourishing my divine being, my whole self. Thus, a lot of my journey has been set up in ways to discover what brings me the most vitality.

Which then jump started my own journey with yoga, which has surprisingly helped my autoimmune condition considerably.

Due to a lack of communication between brain and the immune system, an abnormal immune response is sent to parts of the body (e.g. tissues) and attacks itself (2). The brain releases an excess stress hormones like Cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. An excess or lack of antibodies gives rise to inflammation, lower immune function, low thyroid function, and you can just imagine how much of a toll that it takes on the body. Stress is one of the biggest factors to autoimmune diseases.

Yoga decreases stress. Yoga helps you to have a sense of calm and well-being. This sense of calm helps to decrease stress, helping lower the release of stress hormones that compromise the immune system (3). Yoga allows a lateral shift of awareness, and helps us understand the phenomena of letting go. Acceptance of who we are can open gateways that are invisible otherwise. Yoga essentially brings the awareness to the present moment. From breath to body postures, everything is directed towards embracing reality and acknowledging the current state of affairs. A person suffering from an autoimmune disease can face an erratic wave of symptoms, like sometimes very high symptoms and other times low, or no disease at all.

Autoimmune disease can be frustrating, uncomfortable, and even debilitating. Despite how you feel, it is important to move because movement is so helpful in regaining our mobility and energy. Natural remedies like yoga can be extremely beneficial for treating many of these diseases.

Yoga increases Immunity. Yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest state), which reduces the body’s stress response (flight or fight state) and helps to bring the nervous system into balance. This is shown to have a profound effect on the immune system. It also helps to condition the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system, releasing toxins from the body and drawing oxygenated blood back into various organs to ensure optimal functioning.

Yoga reduces inflammation. Regular yoga practice is shown to reduce levels of inflammatory markers in the body. Sometimes when the immune system sends out extra white blood cells without anything negative to attack, they inflame nearby healthy tissue (4).

Yoga brings inner peace. Yogic practices, such as meditation and calming yoga poses, help you find an inner connection, teaching you to be able to shift your focus away from pain or discomfort and into a pleasant state of being. It gives you tools to be able to focus your attention away from pain. Yoga also teaches you to listen to your body and to treat yourself with compassion and kindness, honoring what your body needs.

I see yoga as a means to keep well in the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is a place where I get clear and heal. Just stopping in the midst of a practice to breathe and focus gets to the real part of what is happening for me. Whatever that happens on the mat is applicable to what’s going on in my life. If I am struggling, I make a point to look at why. I bring awareness to that situation, breath and stretch - add some flexibility to the rigidity of my thought patterns. Bring in compassion, oxygen and mindfulness to that space. Yoga allows me to heal all parts of myself holistically. This has been my own secret with staying balanced.

How many of you have tried Yoga yourself? Thoughts about trying it too?