According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, there are more than 80 autoimmune diseases and more than 23.5 million Americans are affected by them. Unfortunately for me, I am one who stands among that crowd. I not only have one autoimmune disease, but two – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Crohn’s Disease. Nowadays most people have heard of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a condition that affects the thyroid and causes hypothyroidism. The lesser known and more agonizing of the two is Crohn’s Disease.

If you don’t know, an autoimmune disease is when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells of the body. With Crohn’s Disease, the gastrointestinal tract, anywhere from mouth to anus, is attacked and affected. It belongs to a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), not to be confused with IBS, irritable bowel syndrome. In my opinion to list the most common symptoms of IBD feels like it minimizes the pain and anguish that accompanies them, but they are:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Bloody and/or mucousy stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Urgent and frequent bowel movements (for me up it was up to a dozen times a day!)

As with many autoimmune diseases, no one really knows what causes Crohn’s Disease. Recent research suggests that there’s a hereditary component, that genetics are involved, and/or environmental factors contribute to the development of it. And while diet and stress may aggravate the disease, the consensus is they do not cause it.
For me, it was a perfect storm. I was diagnosed on Christmas Eve 2012. It had been one of the most challenging and stressful years of my life. I had completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training and started teaching one class a week. It was all new and a little overwhelming to me. That same year I was dealing with a heart wrenching familial situation. Lastly, I had slipped and fallen on our hardwood floors, subluxating my tailbone. Unbeknownst to me, the ibuprofen I was taking for pain added to my demise. All of this together was more than my body could bear. It broke down in a way that forced me to give it the attention it needed. The body will do that. I’ve learned this the hard way. The body will whisper to you. But if you don’t listen, speak or understand its language, or heed its requests, it may begin to shout at you or worse, shut down.

In reflecting over the past five years, I realized how much Yoga Tune Up® has helped me deal with this chronic and sometimes debilitating disease. It was by chance that I met Jill Miller and experienced Yoga Tune Up® for the very first time at a Yoga Journal conference. I was amazed by the hamstring release I received after massaging the sole of my feet on an original therapy ball. After that I was hooked. I wanted to learn more, but because of my Crohn’s, it would be a year and half before I could.

That’s when I attended the Therapy Ball Practitioner Teacher training, now known as The Roll Model® Method. Although all of the anatomical and movement terms seemed like greek to me, this was where I was given a more in-depth introduction to my body’s anatomy than my yoga teacher training provided. This was the beginning of learning to speak my body’s language. Here is where I started to sketch out my own EmbodyMap: to define the inner landscape of my body through keen self-perception. I poked, palpated, and defined the bones and muscles of my body in a way I never had before. I mapped and navigated my muscles with the help of the original and plus size balls. They became the microscope I needed to “see inside” for the very first time. I dove deep into my tissues, swimming into unknown territory. I was encouraged to really listen and tune in to my body, be mindful, and differentiate “good” pain from “bad.”

That weekend I was taught the importance of self-care. I was given time to really experience the down-regulation effect it offers. I was also taught what it meant and why it is good for me to tap into my parasympathetic system – the rest, digest, restore, recuperate and more system in my body. Yes! This is where healing takes place! I was invited and given the opportunity to get to know my body in a new and unique way. Without realizing it then, I was given a self-care toolbox to help me navigate the effects of having autoimmunity. To this day, one of my favorite de-stressing techniques is one that I learned then – rolling out the neck with the OGs on a block. True bliss!

Come back next week to read how attending other Yoga Tune Up® trainings and immersions has broadened my self-care toolkit and deepened the lines of my EmbodyMap, which help me to cope with the pain, fatigue, self-doubt, and more that comes with having a chronic disease.

Liked this article? Read Daily Dizziness: How Therapy Ball Rolling Energized my Body and Eased the Stress of Constant Undiagnosed Dizziness

Christina Medina

Christina Medina is a Certified Yoga Tune Up® Teacher, RYT 200, and Certified Health Coach. When Christina isn’t spending time with her husband of 29 years or one of her four adult daughters, you can find her studying anatomy, biomechanics, or nutrition, health coaching clients to help them feel better in their bodies, or cooking up something gluten and grain free in the kitchen.

21
Leave a Reply

 
20 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
7 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
20 Comment authors
Allison English

I find it so interesting how auto-immune conditions often seem to arise from deeply stressful periods in life and I continue to read research pointing towards the truly multi-factorial deep processes that precipitate these immune system changes. Thank you for sharing your experience. The EmbodyMap has indeed been an extremely helpful tool for me as well to find the difference between activation and rigidity – between a tissue being alive and well and a tissue being functional but frozen into a cycle of underlying reactivity and fear. Similar to your experience with the foot rolling series and your hamstring releasing,… Read more »

Elizabeth Pezzello

I love this! It is important to understand that some conditions may not only be affected by nutrition but also by our body movements and total wellbeing as a whole. In a busy world, it is easy to sometimes forget to take care of ourselves and I think Yoga Tune Up reminds us all to stop and reflect on what is important!

Wendy Rodríguez

Thank you for sharing Christina, I was interested in your article although I don’t have an autoimmune disease, but I currently suffer from colitis and I get very inflamed by eating certain foods and if I am in a situation of stress. But I had many years since I did not have nervous colitis, in fact yoga helped me to eliminate it almost completely. But curiously I just met The Roll Model Method, I tried it for two days and I felt a lot of relief in the shoulder and hip and from what you said, it’s like giving the… Read more »

Jenny

Thanks for this Christina. I struggled with chronic pain that affected my GI system for over 30 years before being diagnosed. I grew up with this, so it felt normal to have pain and all the anxiety and other fallout that went with it. I had surgery 2 years ago to take care of the pain, and it’s been amazing, but it’s not completely gone and neither are my digestive symptoms or anxiety. Studying my body through yoga has been a necessity in my life and now through YTU I’m learning even more. I look forward to reading your other… Read more »

Charlotte Bradley

So happy to hear that you have found some tools in Yoga Tune Up to deal with Crohn’s. I am new to it but look forward to learning more about the Roll Model method. Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

Jacqueline Matthews

Self-perception of our bodies weaknesses, strengths and understanding our own bodies is key to being able to translate some of what is happening in a yoga class or other movement modalities with our students. I don’t have an autoimmune disorder but suffer from osteoarthritis in my knees and have taken significant time to “understand”, identify and now help support these crazy knees. Love the thought of creating a body map to further understand it all….Nice article.

Kila Divina

“It broke down in a way that forced me to give it the attention it needed. The body will do that. I’ve learned this the hard way. The body will whisper to you. But if you don’t listen, speak or understand its language, or heed its requests, it may begin to shout at you or worse, shut down.” SO TRUE, I could not agree more. When something similar happened to me, I knew I had been disregarding my body’s screams for years, and was in need of a total reboot. The body is miraculous in this way. It will ask… Read more »

Rudie Jimenez

It is interesting to note the correlation between stressors in our lives and the surfacing of dis-ease in our bodies. All of these ‘no cause’ diseases lead me to believe we are the governing forces of our own health. So important to take time to process stress, and then to release it so that it does not get stored in our bodies as sickness.

Karin Steinbach

Very eager to take the RMM training. Thanks for sharing.

Tune Up Fitness

Hey Karen, here’s where you’ll find a full listing of all upcoming Roll Model Trainings

Pattie M

Christina, thank you for sharing your story. It is so encouraging and inspiring to learn of stories like yours, stories of hope and transformation. To know that people can transform their pain and suffering with the tools that we have, with practice, and with self care. Please continue to share your journey and your practice wherever it takes you. Many blessings to you and those lives you have touched!

Esme Lopez

Your article is inspiring and encouraging . I am doing the level 1 training at the moment and the first two days the language also sounded like greek to me.

Michele

Thank you for sharing your journey so far. Your own personal experiences are an inspiration for others who are living with chronic conditions.

Christina Klein

I find it really interesting that yoga tune up can assist in down grading autoimmune diseases. Physiologically tapping into the parasympathetic system to down grade the stress and fight or flight response in the body. I am curious what other specific techniques are used to help regulate auto immune disease.

cg ovalle

I am new to the world of yoga tune up. I have close family members with similar disease, reading your story gives me hope for a better understanding how this can be put to a better and healthy outcome to go another day to help with pain. Thank you for sharing your story.

Angelique

I was very drawn to this particular post because I myself have an autoimmune disease. I was touched by the way the author demonstrated frankness towards her own personal journey and the struggles that she has suffered through. It seems that in our society disease is a topic that has a lot of stigma attached. It is suggested that illness, whether mental or physical, be ignored or swept under the rug. Open discussions regarding illness are not typically encouraged which can result in feelings of isolation and shame for those suffering. I was also impressed with the way in which… Read more »

Kelly Cameron

Thank-you Christina for sharing your story and journey!
I have used YTU therapy balls from a strictly muscle and fascia maintenance perspective (for the most part) and often forget about the other benefits of this self care technique; the relaxation, reduction in anxiety and the building of self awareness and confidence to face whatever stresses one may have in their life.
Thank-you for reminding me that there is so much more at work!
=:0)

jamie

Although I don’t have an autoimmune disease I have known people and yoga students who do have some form of it. Your blog was very informative by letting me know that some of the Yoga Tune Up techniques were helpful to your sense of well being.

Erica

My heart breaks thinking others suffer like we do but i also feel a sense of bonding. Knowing we are not alone in the struggle to hear what our bodies are trying to communicate. Discovering how to use the therapy balls to answer the bodies requests is empowering. Even if it amounts to just taking time for yourself. Thank you so much for sharing our experience and strength. You are truly inspiration.

Orly

Hi Christina ,
Hearing what you have and had to go through with your Crohn’s, brings back all those experiences back .
I am so sorry that you’re still dealing with it. I had croh’n’s for about 15 years , really bad and found a way to heal my self. I have been in remission for about 15 years and I’m also s yoga teacher, primarily 101.
If you have any questions or want to discuss my journey, I’ll be more than happy to share .
Namaste
Orly

Orly

Dear Christina,
Describing the symptoms of Chron’s has taken me to my old days , 15 years ago .
I had Chrons for about 15 years and it was really bad . I have been in remission for about 15 yesrs , using Fenugreek and other tools.
I am a yoga teacher and primarily teach 101- wholesome program.
If you ever need to know how, feel free to contact me .
Thank you for sharing .
Orly