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Yogamama: Yoga Is Not a Cure All
Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Yogamama makes a few lifestyle concessions.
By Karri Jinkins
As a “yogi” and a longtime vegetarian, I have always prided myself on my health. I practice ashtanga daily, have a low resting heart rate, have avoided Type 1 diabetes, which both my father and sister developed at a young age, and don’t even drink coffee. So when I was diagnosed in 2007 with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid, I was devastated. In spite of all my precautions, there I was at 37 with an awful condition that would make me fat, lethargic, and sick unless I took medication every day. Forever. I had arrived at the exact spot I had spent my life avoiding.
The fact was, I hadn’t felt perfectly healthy for a few years. It was nothing dramatic or specific, but more of a gradual feeling of exhaustion and achy joints that I chalked up to working too much, staying out too late, and getting up too early. Once I learned about my Hashimoto’s, I was determined to reverse the disease through my yoga practice and diet — a vow that, sadly, didn’t work. Through an acupuncturist friend, I met with a doctor in Stamford, Connecticut who practiced natural and alternative medicine. He discovered that I also had low iron and a couple other complications, prescribed a natural thyroid medication, put me on some supplements, and suggested a special gluten-free diet that included fish.
I began feeling like an absolute failure. How could I be a “yogi” and yoga teacher if I was not a perfectly healthy vegetarian? How could I take medicine made from desiccated pig thyroid? The diagnosis and treatment ran contrary to my ahimsa lifestyle, which is built on showing kindness to all living things. But eventually I came to terms with my new reality. A dear friend suggested that every morning I bless the medication and food I was about to ingest, because without them, I would not have my health. I embraced this approach, and after just a week on the regime I was feeling much better. Best of all, I was stronger and had fewer aches and pains, so my yoga and meditation practice began improving.
Today I am my old self: Hale and hearty, I run after my three-year-old all day, work and play, and generally feel happy. I did read recently about a possible alternative therapy for autoimmune diseases that involves a 30-day Panchakarma, or mind-body healing experience, in Kerala, India. So I still have hope that one day I will be able to come off the medication and return to being a vegetarian. Perhaps I’ll even be a vegan next time around!