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Teaching Yoga With An Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

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Jaclyn Howell, Contributor
Thyroid Nation

Yogi Jaclyn Howell, discusses her autoimmune thyroid Graves’ disease.

About 7 months ago I was conclusively diagnosed with graves disease after going through a thyroid scan and numerous blood tests. Graves Disease is an autoimmune disease that attacks your thyroid gland and causes hyperthyroidism.  That day part of me wanted to go hide under my desk and at the same time part of me was relieved that the symptoms I was having weren’t due to me just being crazy.  I was in a high stress situation for many months and didn’t feel supported, so there was one thing that I did know.  I needed to remove myself from that situation, which is what I did.  I immediately put in my 2 weeks’ notice, so I could start to heal my mind, body, and soul.

The day I was diagnosed with Graves, I wanted to go hide under my desk and at the same time part of me was relieved that the symptoms I was having weren’t due to me just being crazy.

How could a yogi get so sick or not be able to handle a situation with more grace, right?  A question I asked myself many times. Should I still be a yoga teacher? What a shame?  Just because we practice yoga it doesn’t make us immune to life’s trials and tribulations.  We are still human and things still go wrong. We can only hope that our yoga practice helps us deal with those problems with more grace.

Teaching-Yoga-With-An-Autoimmune-Thyroid-Disease

Dancer (Natarajasana) Jaclyn Howell

When I was diagnosed I was relieved that I wasn’t going through menopause (as the symptoms are similar). I was relieved I wasn’t just having anxiety due to the stress of the job. I was relieved that my heart feeling like it was about to pound of out of my chest could be reversed and that my heart might stop skipping again one day (a similar feeling I experience when listening to heavy bass music). I was relieved that I would once be able to have a clear mind again and couldn’t wait until I could make better decisions.  Maybe this would explain the infertility as well? The main symptoms of graves disease that I had been experiencing for at least a few months prior to the diagnosis were anxiety, fogginess, time lapse, not being able to make good decisions, hot flashes, insomnia, rapid heart rate, mood swings, depression, tiredness, nausea, headaches, weakness, severe weight loss (not the good kind either – loss of muscle and nutrients) and arrithymia/tacharydia.




So, I quit my job and went gluten free and did multiple trial runs with the whole 30 diet an anti-inflammatory diet that focuses mostly on whole organic vegetables and fruit with a little meat (Paleo). This is the best diet for me, since I have always struggled with high blood sugar (mode 3 maternal genetic thing). I started to feel better in about a month, but it was still a long road to recovery. The Endocrinologist Dr. gave me 3 shitty options; surgery (removal of the thyroid gland), radioactive iodine, or medication. Surgery is dangerous because there are nerves that run along the throat making the procedure risky with a possibility of nicking your vocal chords so you could have a raspy voice or voice box.  Radioactive iodine is supposedly localized to your thyroid gland and kidney’s, but you have to be in quarantine for at least 3 days after you ingest it.  What the Dr. doesn’t tell you is that your risk of lymphoma and leukemia increase significantly with exposure to the radioactive iodine. Also, with the first 2 options afterwards you still have to be on low thyroid medication for the rest of your life. The last option is medication, which can cause liver damage/failure but the hope is that you go into remission afterwards. I went with choice #3, medication in hopes of saving my thyroid. My goal was to heal my mind, body, and soul in addition to taking the medication and wean myself of the medication as soon as possible. Of course, I didn’t talk about this with my Endo Dr. I talked about this with my sister who is a Naturopathic Dr., Dr. Opptiz out of MN and my soon to be new local Holistic MD, Dr. Manso out of San Marcos. I don’t know where I would be without these 2 Dr.’s.

Four months after being on the medication, and being strictly gluten free, giving up alcohol, taking many supplements, going to many Dr. visits, and multiple heavy metal chelations we tried to wean me off of the medication. Within 2 weeks I was back in full thyroid storm (my pulse was over 120 and I was losing weight rapidly). I got back on the medication, but wanted to give up. I wanted to live a normal life again. This isn’t working – let’s remove this damn thyroid and move on. Luckily, I had many people suggest this may not make things any easier. We are still trying to calm the autoimmune disease, which removal of the thyroid gland doesn’t do it just masks the symptoms. Plus, it’s still not easy trying to get your thyroid balanced after the removal of it or radioactive iodine.

Here we are months later and I am down to the lowest dose possible of the medication.  I am feeling much better most days, but I never know what I am going to wake up with.

Will I feel tired today?

Will I be sick tomorrow?

Will I feel depressed today?

Will I feel like a normal person today?

Will my stomach hurt today?

Will I be a bitch today?

Will I be able to sleep good?

Will I be able to face the public today?

My greatest gift of yoga, is the reminder that it is ALL good.  No matter how I feel, whether it be good or bad if I stay present with it and open to it and make space for it and surrender to it, things will be okay.  I have been allowing myself time to slow down, rest and take naps, and cry when I need to cry, but most importantly ask for help and support when I need it.  It’s so easy to isolate yourself especially when things aren’t going well. So I just breathe, I meditate, I rest, I ask for help, and I know one day I will feel better again or maybe I won’t and that is fine, too.  I am open to it all and surrender to it.  Much love to all my guru’s, friends, family, and students that are still there to support me through this very rocky road.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing  and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi

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About the Author

Teaching-Yoga-With-An-Autoimmune-Thyroid-Disease Jaclyn Howell,  received her 200 HR RYT training from Gioconda Yoga in the Iyengar lineage/Vinyasa style and continues toward her 500 HR E-RYT training at YogaYoga with various National Teachers and YogaYoga faculty. She offers an integrative yoga practice that focuses on moving to the natural rhythm of your breath, and body at her studio, Natural Rhythm Yoga, in Austin, TX . With respect to the many different lineages, she feels it’s beneficial to combine different styles of yoga, custom tailored to fit the individuals needs. Encouraging students to move from within at their own pace, and to their own breath, cultivating healing energy. Her biggest influences have been Sharon Moon, Gioconda, Sam Rice, Christina Sell, Rachel Hector, Jenn Wooten, Karlie Lemmos, and Angie Knight. She has also studied Reiki 1 and 2 with Deva Raubenheimer and Sharon Moon. Jaclyn teaches both public and private classes and the classes tend to be more therapeutic with an injury prevention focus and a sense of energetic healing. Follow her on Facebook.

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 Questions or anything to ask Jaclyn about her thyroid battle and practicing yoga? We want your thoughts in the comments section–Please! 

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4 Comments

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  4. Barbara Cronin-Stagnari on

    where did you hear about the increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma from RAI? I had the procedure about a year ago am feeling well but never once was told this risk. where did you hear it? Is there proof of that?
    thanks

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