Autoimmune disease happens when the body’s natural defence system can’t tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells, causing the body’s immune system to launch an attack against healthy cells. This impaired immune response decreases the body’s ability to fight ‘invaders’, making us vulnerable to infection.
Autoimmune issues are closely intertwined with many of our biological body systems and therefore it is crucial to approach the treatment and management of these diseases from a multidimensional perspective. There is a complex interaction of elements underlying these diseases and they require a complex approach in order to manage their impact on mental and physical health.
Some of the most commonly occurring autoimmune diseases are Rheumatoid Arthritis, Coeliac disease, Lupus, Sjögren Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Type 1 Diabetes, however, there are many more and these diseases are increasing in prevalence at an alarming rate. Women are also at a higher risk of developing autoimmunity and it is thought that this may be due to the higher levels of hormones in childbearing years.
There is still not enough research to provide a definitive answer to what may trigger these autoimmune responses, however, we do know that genetic factors, gut health, chronic overstimulation and low-level stress, environmental impact and early childhood trauma/family dynamics can play a role in the development of these diseases.
Yoga Therapy can be an effective complementary treatment to help manage the symptoms of the disease and to support the improvement of autoimmune diseases, as well as to prevent the progression of the disease to an acute stage, where the quality of life is severely compromised and tissue damage becomes permanent.
There is a close interactive relationship between the nervous system, the digestive system and autoimmune disease and the role of psychological factors that make us ill, which often underlie these diseases. Yoga Therapy addresses these issues in a number of ways.
Yoga Therapy teaches clients:
• How to manage chronic, low-level stress by regulating the nervous system response and build resilience, thereby supporting a healthier immune system.
• To balance the HPT axis, which regulates our metabolism and affects the ability of the immune system to function properly.
• Through mind-body-breath practices clients will experience greater awareness of how their body feels, how their mind and emotions effect their physical health. With awareness comes the opportunity to take more positive action.
• Working individually, with a Yoga Therapist, offers clients a safe, therapeutic relationship and space to confront and process some of the psychological issues underlying the illness.
• Yoga Therapy empowers people to take control of their health by providing information so that people can make informed decisions, including what questions to ask of medical professionals and how to recognise symptoms early on and what can be done to relieve some of the symptoms.
• A Yoga Therapy practice encourages people to keep moving and remain physically active in ways that are individually tailored to the person and appropriate to the symptoms and nature of their autoimmune disease.
Using targeted movement, which takes into account any symptoms or contraindications, specific breathing practices and suitable relaxation techniques, the Yoga Therapist will support and guide their clients to adopt healthier lifestyle practices, manage or improve their symptoms and activate their body’s natural and innate ability to heal and live in a more resourced way.