It started long ago. I was 4-5 years old when it began making its mark on my life and on me. A little brown spot on my right shin, that grew and spread throughout my childhood and teenage years. I remember limping on that leg, not knowing why. There was no explanation to the sudden tenderness in my right leg. The doctors were stumped as well. So we just forgot about it and I limped every so often throughout my life. The most bothersome part for me growing up was the fact that this brown spot was ugly. I wanted to wear bobby socks and feel confident, but I was always trying to hide that mark on me. My siblings and I used to make fun of it, calling it leprosy and other things. Deep down, though, I was really embarrassed of it. Funny what bothers us as children.
I was an athlete. Truth be told, I really wanted to be a ballerina, but I was tall, chunky and my parents wouldn’t pay for such an expensive sport, so I went into “free” sports through school. I fell in love with sports! I was an avid volleyball and basketball player and ran track. In the summer months, I swam almost every day, as most do in the great State of Texas and its sweltering heat! I lived for sports!
It wasn’t until years later that I discovered I was pushing myself beyond my personal limits. Running harder and faster. Jumping higher. Blocking more shots and spikes. Spiking to the 10 foot line. Stealing, rebounding, running the hurdles and long jump. Sports was my refuge.
What I didn’t realize until decades later is that I was suffering all along with a potentially debilitating autoimmune disorder. See, these things take time to surface. A little symptom here and another over there. Over the decades they added up. Over time, my body became weaker. A fragility and sensitivity overtook me and my life. The big onset happened during my pregnancies, at the tender ages of 21 and 25. Boy, was I sick. Life was so hard for me back then because I was having terrible gastrointestinal problems, pain, fatigue, many illnesses from sinus infections to pneumonia. You name it, I had it. It took until I was 30 years old before doctors began to understand that I was suffering with an autoimmune disorder. It took another 10 years to name it.
Feeling like a psychosomatic crazy person doesn’t cover what it’s like to be so violently ill, bedridden and infected and not knowing what the heck was going on. To my dismay, I did get a diagnosis. I almost fell off the doctor’s table when the words, “I thought it was this all along but had to wait until I was sure to tell you. You have Scleroderma.” Dr. Johnson was awesome when I started to cry. See, I did my homework. I knew the plight of patients with this nasty disease. I knew my future wasn’t looking pretty at the time, and I was devastated at the news.
When I was 32 years old, I was informed that if the doctors could not figure out what was going on and I continued to decline, I wouldn’t see my children grow up. For that matter, I was told I most likely would be dead by 40.
During and after pregnancy of my beloved, Steven Michael in 1995, I plummeted. That began a journey to healing that I am still on today. That journey began in 1997, when I took my first yoga class in Hermosa Beach, California. Yogafit, as it is widely known was, an awakening for me. That began my search into alternative healing therapies that I still utilize in my journey to health right in this very moment.
Yoga became my foundation. Yoga guided me to alternative homeopathic practitioners, holistic healers, shamans, ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Chiropractic and others. No matter the pain, the fatigue, the organ involvement that led to too many side effects to mention here, I forged on. Yoga would stretch out my attacked soft tissues that are turning to stone from the inside out. Yoga would relieve the massive bouts of migraines and ensuing depression caused by sickness. Yoga. Yoga.. Yoga. Yoga became my religion.
Emotional stress can trigger an autoimmune attack called, “flare-ups”. Well, when it comes to stress, for a number of years, I took the cake! Yoga became my therapist. Yoga became my best friend. Someone I had to see and speak to. Someone that supported me during the darkest days of my life.
So many changes took place across the years, but there was a constant melody that sang to me throughout this ride of a life of mine. Yoga. She sings to my heart, softens my mind, and expands my physicality to that of release. I always believed that yoga would be there for me and surely she has been!
Today, when I am not practicing yoga, I’m thinking about it! There are still those days that I am unable to move my body like I want it to. I’ve learned over the years there is a fine line to “giving in” to the body and listening to it when rest is needed. I still have that mindset of a competitive athlete that wants to perform better and better. An old pattern that is not necessary for my life now. Yoga is teaching me to connect even deeper to this temple that carries my soul on her Earthly mission.
Science and medicine is beginning to research and study the effect of a yoga practice to complement therapies for diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, arthritic diseases and the like. More and more doctors and hospitals now offer yoga as a therapy to feel better in life. I believe this with my whole heart and being! Yoga has kept me moving when I didn’t want to or feel like it!
To date, there are more than 10 million Americans suffering with over 80 varieties of autoimmune dysfunction, including Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Graves Disease, Hashimoto’s, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis and Scleroderma (Systemic Sclerosis), which is what I have.
Currently, 75% of those afflicted are women, and now is the third leading cause of chronic illness for women in America. There is an epidemic of autoimmunity dysfunction around us. Just think about it. How many people do you know in your own circle that are afflicted with an autoimmune disorder? Besides myself, I know many. Many come to me for advice through my coaching business. There is a real need to understand how to heal when one of these diseases pokes its ugly head into the life of another. This is one of my personal quests in life!
Yoga is not necessarily a “shot in the arm” or “magic pill cure”, but it has shown positive benefits, both physically, emotionally and mentally, which have made incredible impacts on those that have incorporated yoga as part of a health regimen.
Let’s break this down so one can see how effective yoga is in healing the body, emotions and mind:
Physical Body: Studies have shown that moderate exercise can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces the body’s stress reaction, thus amplifying the feeling of peace and calm. Stress, whether emotional, mental or physical can prompt an autoimmune flare-up/attack, that can last for a very long time. Managing the “peaceful, calm” feelings and fostering this sense of well-being is essential at keeping stress levels at bay. Further, the effect of moderate exercise can also stave off inflammation, which is a powerful, dangerous proponent of autoimmune disorders. The autoimmune system triggers the production and release of white blood cells to target “invaders”, attacking normal tissue and causing an inflammatory effect. This causes extensive damage to organs and systems in the body creating a dysfunction of that particular tissue, depending on the particular condition. Moderate exercise, such as yoga, combats that response.
Moderate exercise also boosts natural endorphins in the brain that acts as natural “painkillers” to the body, thus alleviating the painful episodes that accompany autoimmune disorders. Moderate exercise as a complementary therapy for autoimmune disorders helps the muscles maintain mitochondrial function, which maintains fuel cell metabolism. This is essential in keeping weight at a normalized region. Extra weight causes other side effects and problems that make it even more difficult for the body to return to homeostasis.
I know that yoga has helped me, even when forced to ingest strong steroids because of inflammation, I would instantly gain weight. It is very frustrating to gain weight because of a medication, but alas, it has happened to me on many occasions. However, that weight gain, largely because of my regular yoga practice, was minimal compared to the norm. I have been able to maintain a decent weight, keeping my blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose levels and other markers within range.
We also know that a body kept in motion stays in motion. When sick, fatigued and in pain, it is difficult to have the desire to exercise. I know this from a personal perspective and my journey to wellness. There are days that I simply do not have enough mental toughness to go lift weights, get on the treadmill and run, or do anything that is a challenge. Also, unfortunately, my experience has been that I always feel more exhausted after exercising. I get my “high” during the workout, not after. Afterward, I’m usually depleted.
That being said, I feel best in my body after a yoga class. I feel expansive, lighter and standing just a little taller! Physically, yoga has promoted a feeling of “well-being” much more than any other form of exercise I’ve done in my life. I now can look back and remember how hard I pushed myself as an athlete and shake my head. It all makes sense as to why I often was sick with flu-symptoms after hard workouts or so tired you could peel me off the ground. I know better now, on most days that is! Haha!
I am excited to offer this incredible transformation journey to you! We will embark on transforming through yoga, meditation, neuroscience, emotional healing and deep, spiritual connection.