Zen Muskoka Yoga Studio
Happy Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month!
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was 19 and in my first year of university. Crohn’s Disease is a chronic, autoimmune condition that affects the digestive tract and causes the creation of painful ulcers which can result in weight loss, lack of nutrient absorption, chronic abdominal pain and diarrhoea. I spent a lot of time in the hospital that year and ending up having surgery to remove a large portion part of my small intestine. I got to experience the puffy steroid face, injecting myself with needles, kidney stones (apparently common in post-surgery patients), liquid diets, a PICC line, interesting hospital roommates and lots of other fun things. It wasn’t a great year but apparently the first year you are diagnosed is usually the worst, and I know that for me it has only gone up from there. Since that first year, I have learned a lot about managing my illness and have recently been feeling better than ever. So, to celebrate Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month, I am sharing my story of illness as well as my encouraging experience using yoga as a means for disease management.
Yoga has played an important, even integral, role in my disease management. My periods of illness are typically triggered by stress, anxiety and the subsequent lack of self-care. Anyone who has taken a yoga class with the wonderful teachers here at Zen will know that a yoga class is a gift for the whole body and spirit. Yoga is a powerful tool for stress and anxiety management because it teaches you the art of self-care (how to notice what is happening in your body and address it) as well as the art of relaxation (how to self-soothe and let go).
As a yoga practitioner with a digestive illness I have had to take the fast-track to self-acceptance and self-compassion in my practice. For example, there are many belly down postures that I cannot (and should not) practice if I am feeling unwell, and that’s okay! It’s okay if my practice is a little slower and gentler that other students in the class. We are our only judges in a yoga class, we would not judge another student in the class against our abilities so why should we judge ourselves against the abilities of others? It is important for every student to let their practice be guided by their bodies, their intuition and their body knowledge. It is also important as a teacher to create an atmosphere that encourages this kind of self-exploration and self-compassion. Our body knows what to do and knows what is good for us, all we have to do is listen and trust.
To learn more about specific pose suggestions for various states of digestive ‘unrest’, follow this link to an article that I wrote for Elephant Journal: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/11/how-to-use-yoga-to-manage-digestive-conditions/
Thanks for reading, see you in class!
The yogi's of Muskoka