Most of my friends and yoga clients know that I have a couple of autoimmune issues. In 2014 I was diagnosed with both Celiac and Sjogren’s. Getting diagnosed was not a smooth or linear process and I’ve learned that living with these two issues can be challenging. I believe the body has incredible healing powers and I was determined to “heal thyself” and was confident my body could and would return to baseline. I committed to a clean diet and started eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I learned new ways of managing stress. I began meditating. I read everything I could on both conditions. I learned to live without gluten, which on many levels is easier said than done. Since 1996 I have practiced yoga and I have taught since 2010. When I was finally diagnosed, I couldn’t even make it through a yoga class, much less teach one. As a long time yoga practitioner and a yoga teacher, it was depressing, not to mention embarrassing. My fatigue was off the charts and overall, I was discouraged and really just felt like hell.
I found a yin yoga class and started going 2-3 times a week. The class was gentle, and the teacher was (and still is) friendly— she is one of those people that you can “hear” smiling. Slowly, through my yoga practice, through healthy foods, and through lots of sleep, my body began to heal– I was stronger and my fatigue was fading. I had the support of my husband and most of my family members, which I’ve learned is not typical. I slowly started to have more good days than bad ones. I didn’t hit the fatigue wall (if you have Sjogren’s or any type of chronic condition you know about the fatigue wall) every single day. Almost a year later I started teaching a couple of classes a week. My classes were small by design and my focus was on honoring the body — wherever the body is– that is one of the beautiful things about yoga, it always meets us right where we are.
What didn’t happen was that my body never “healed” itself. Despite my best efforts, I still have Celiac and I still have Sjogren’s.
Recently, I ended up sick– really sick, with something that resembled the flu. I didn’t test positive for the flu but even my doc said it looked like the flu–the bad, put your a$$ in the hospital kinda flu. Whatever it was, it threw me into a significant autoimmune flare and my constant companion, Sjogren’s, showed up with a vengeance. My esophagus and my lungs were incredibly dry. I had to coat my esophagus with honey before I could swallow anything. It felt like someone was standing on my chest and also like someone was standing between my ribcage and my lung. I developed pleurisy. Yup, pleurisy– that 18th-century thing. I had never even heard of it. Thanks to an open-minded doctor and a little bit of deductive reasoning, he said he felt like the Sjogren’s was the underlying condition– and sent me home to start back on my supplement and holistic regimen. I had to cancel all of my yoga classes because there was no way I could breathe, talk, and move all at the same time– much less for an hour at a time.
I’m grateful for my committed group of yogi’s– they love me and stick with me through the bumps and bruises. No one sends me hate email that I’m running a yoga business yet I cancel classes or that I forgot to put them on the email cancellation list. (Yes, it happened and yes, I’m still mortified.) Instead, almost every day, I receive love and encouragement– calls, texts, emails, even a breath-taking bouquet of fresh flowers. I feel the yoga love and despite the fact that my body doesn’t work like I want it to–my gratitude is off the charts. Instead of beating myself up, I have opened myself up. I’m living with less shame and perfectionism and my focus has shifted to living with more acceptance that life isn’t a linear process and gratitude always trumps negativity.
Today, I accept the fact that I have Celiac and I have Sjogren’s and probably always will. I run into people every day who think “the gluten issue is a fad” and “a little bit won’t hurt” and who believe autoimmune issues are all in someone’s head. I don’t have the energy to even waste on that type of thinking.
I look forward to teaching all of my classes again soon and knowing that our little yoga community, bruises, bumps, limitations, and all, we can and will celebrate what IS working and not what isn’t. Today, I appreciate and celebrate the beautiful gift of life. My heart is full of gratitute and I can’t wait to get back to sharing practice with my yoga friends.