How can Yoga help an autoimmune condition?
Yoga connects the breath and movement, and it helps bring you out of the sympathetic response into the parasympathetic. The sympathetic response is where stress hormones like cortisol reign. By being in this state for extended periods of time, your body isn’t able to heal itself. Unfortunately, everything in our society programs to stay in this state. The stress of driving in traffic, constant deadlines, pressure and stress, and being bombarded with sounds constantly keeps our body in flight or fight mode. We rarely have the time to sit quietly, enjoy the moment or calm down.
By being in this state for extended periods of time, the stress hormones like Cortisol, which you’ve probably heard of, flood our systems. When this happens our major systems like digestion, and cellular function suffer. Yoga brings the counter to this response. Yoga provides quiet space, a time to connect with your breath, and bring yourself out of the sympathetic response. The parasympathetic response is where we find calm, our body heals itself, and can function at its optimal capacity.
If your body has an autoimmune condition, it is attacking itself. The more you can do to calm the body, live in the parasympathetic response, and provide high quantities of oxygen to the blood, the easier it is for your body to work.
If your autoimmune condition involves nerve damage, or damage to the myelin sheath surrounding the nerves, private yoga can help! For conditions like Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), where the body attacks the myelin sheath around the nerves, yoga can help connect the brain and the heart to those areas being affected. By lowering the body’s stress response, and really focusing on the affected area, we point the brain there saying, ‘Hey, pay more attention here!’. Consistent practice can help improve balance, strengthen the body from muscle degeneration, and give the practitioner a more embodied feeling. Yoga can help them to feel like their feet, for example, are more their own again.
At the end of the day, yoga helps you tap into your body, connect with it, understand it and help it heal itself. While I’m not a doctor and am not making any medical claims with this article, I truly believe yoga can help anyone with an autoimmune condition feel more at home in their body and improve their lives!