Hello, this is Lara. Is this Colleen?
Yep, it’s me.
What are you doing right now?
Not much, just getting ready to go to yoga.
How are you feeling?
Fine. How are you?
Colleen, you need to get yourself to the emergency department. Your liver enzymes levels are off the chart.
Can I check myself into hospital after yoga?
This is serious. Go now.
Okay, so I hadn’t been feeling great for quite a while. Months, I guess. Feeling particularly blaaa after a greasy meal. Energy levels low. But really, who doesn’t feel this way every so often? After a quick visit to my doctor and a plethora of blood tests, this was the phone conversation I was having with my doctor 2 weeks later.
It was another of couple of months before I was given a diagnosis … Autoimmune Hepatitis or AIH.
Of course, I went straight into research mode and found out that Autoimmune Disease is rising in the community. A few things can trigger it – a family history of autoimmune disease, a lifetime of toxins (in our food, clothing, cleaning products, beauty products etc) and a major event (such as surgery). For me, I ticked all 3 boxes. Autoimmune occurs when an over enthusiastic immune system attacks heathy organs and tissues. In my case, my immune system was attacking my liver. Graves Disease, arthritis, Celiac Disease, MS and diabetes … are all autoimmune diseases.
And so I became a reluctant patient in the healthcare system. This meant a week’s hospital stay with MRIs, a liver biopsy and ultrasounds, countless blood tests, endless questions about my ‘drinking and drug’ history (not as racey as you would think) and new medications (each with their own set of side-effects). Then the appointments begun with naturopathy, gastroenterology and the Liver Unit at Austin Hospital.
Bloody hell, being ill can be a full time job.
However, though out it all, the yellowing skin, the weight lose (and gain), various appointments and the meds, one thing has stayed constant .. my yoga practise.
I’ve been attending yoga classes at Ballarat Iyengar Yoga for a long time. About a decade. After a lifetime of bike-riding, swimming and basketball my body wasn’t going to become flexible without many hours ‘on the mat’. I knew I was in for the long haul if I wanted to see any results.
I was about as flexible as a twig.
But slowly over the years, things have changed. My body has changed. My mindset has changed. I’ve stopped looking at the people on mats around me and started to concentrate on my own practice. I loved setting myself small challenges such as getting up into a hand-stand and moving past the fear of falling out of a head-stand.
I’m very thankful for having begun my yoga practise a decade ago. Yoga holds me in good stead for this new lifetime journey with AIH. On the mat (either in class or at home), I have 10 years of practise to call upon. I know when to push myself and when to ‘go the props’.
Yoga has helped me accept my diagnosis of AIH and AIH has given me the imperative to practice yoga every day.