Yoga and Celiac Disease

What many of my readers may not know about me is that I am a certified yoga teacher, as well as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer. I’ve been teaching classes in NYC for about nine years.

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I teach so frequently that it is always a treat when I have the opportunity to take a yoga class. As an individual with an autoimmune condition, I’ve recently come to realize how important a consistent yoga practice is for my health.

Of course the only treatment for Celiac Disease is to live a gluten free lifestyle. However, many people find that going gluten free is simply not enough. Many have to give up dairy/nuts/soy/corn/etc or find they do much better on a grain free diet. Many Celiacs also have related conditions that need more medical and lifestyle support.

Besides having Celiac Disease, I personally also suffer from hypothyroidism, have a very sensitive nervous system, and deal with a good amount of stress (perhaps it is partly from living in NYC, but let’s face it – living gluten free in a gluteny world can be enough to pull your hair out sometimes).

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I’ve found that practicing yoga is essential to support my body and mind – it improves my digestion; provides input to my nervous system; calms my anxiety; helps me focus; provides strength, stability and balance to my body; and gives me a break from the world (something that we all need).

The benefits seem to be endless. There are even specific poses to help with issues such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, anxiety, depression, migraines, poor digestion, and many other issues that we may deal with as individuals with Celiac Disease.

Do you do yoga? Think that perhaps you should give it a try? Here’s some advice from myself to get you started.

I’m new to yoga. Is there a specific type of yoga I should do?

I recommend finding a beginner class, perhaps within the Iyengar or Anusara style if you can. They are both heavily alignment-based and are generally taken at a slower pace than flow-based vinyasa classes, giving you the time to explore your body and learn about alignment and safety. Because you might hold a pose for an extended length of time, these classes can be incredibly challenging. However, you work at your own level, and most teachers will allow you to take breaks whenever you feel like you need to. For many reasons (I could write three pages on this –it’s mostly alignment, injury, and nutrient related) I do not recommend hot yoga/Bikram.

No matter what style you choose, ultimately look for a teacher who is hands on; someone who gives personal corrections and explains technique. I have learned that there is a big difference between an instructor and a teacher. Find a teacher.

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I’m not flexible, so I shouldn’t do yoga, right?

WRONG. You don’t do yoga because you are flexible. In class we work on improving flexibility. We also work on strength, balance, mindfulness, bodily awareness, and much more. In fact, as someone who is overly flexible, I’ve used yoga as a strength training tool.

My autoimmune conditions are kicking my butt, and I struggle with my energy level. Can I still benefit from yoga?

YES! You will generally always feel better after a class than when you began. On days when you are tired, try a beginner or “gentle” class. Look for a magical class called “restorative yoga” – basically you lie around in poses the entire class, fully supported by props, and relax deeply. It’s incredible and so relaxing. My sluggish thyroid has been kicking my butt lately, so you may see me there.

What mat should I buy?

That depends. A good quality yoga mat can cost you upwards of $60. If you’re just starting out and don’t know how committed you are, I recommend purchasing an inexpensive (ie $15) mat from a local department or sporting goods store (make sure it’s a yoga mat, not a cushy or padded exercise/fitness/pilates mat).

For experienced yogis or people who know they will stick with it, I recommend Jade Yoga Mats. They have the best grip out of all the yoga mats I have tried. They even offer a travel mat that is so lightweight you could fold it up and put it in your purse. The travel mat is pretty thin, so if you have sensitive knees I would recommend using a blanket or towel for added cushion.

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I do not recommend mats made from jute – they may be pretty, but I find them to be incredibly slippery.

I have a hard time with meditation. What can I do?

There’s a reason that this blog is named “Tasty Meditation.” I believe that there are different forms of meditation. You don’t have to sit with your eyes closed and chant “om”. Cooking, for example, is something that I find very meditative (mostly when I have a recipe to follow, not when I’m creating a new one). I work with my hands. I cook in silence so that I can focus my attention on one thing. I love knowing the predictability of A + B + C = cupcakes. If you have a similar task such as knitting or coloring – turn off your tv/phone/computer and meditate away!

 

Have a yoga related question? Leave a comment below!

 

Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga teacher, I am not your doctor and cannot be held responsible for any injuries or issues that may occur. Always consult your doctor if you have concerns about starting a new form of exercise. Exercise at your own risk. Also, I am not being paid to recommend Jade Yoga Mats. I am a customer who simply loves their products. 

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