Anyone who has been through a devastating illness knows that it affects not only the physical body, but also the mind, heart, and spirit–often more deeply than the physical body. The despair that illness can bring is enormous, yet there is a deep respect and desire for the body and the mind to always be united. Sometimes we forget this, but yoga and meditation can help us to remember.
In the fall of 2004, I began to develop strange flu-like symptoms that would not go away. Earlier that summer, I had been prescribed three rounds of antibiotics for a constant sore throat I had been experiencing. Soon after taking them, I developed headaches, nausea, lethargy, body aches, fatigue, and uncharacteristic weakness, along with muddled thinking and blurred vision. My blood pressure was elevated and further tests indicated borderline diabetes. I was given blood pressure medication and the name of a nutritionist who might help me regain some of the weight I was rapidly losing. It became evident that the heavy, rich foods she suggested were wrong for me when I began experiencing intense, tremor-like attacks after eating. Soon, I was making visits to the emergency room, where the attacks were diagnosed as either hypoglycemic or complex partial seizures. The attacks kept escalating along with new symptoms such as uncontrollable shaking and unsteadiness while standing and walking. My yoga practice (yoga postures, breath work, and meditation) came to a standstill. Whereas yoga had helped me get in touch with my body’s signals, now there seemed to be a disruption in what my brain was trying to send to my body.
I received EKGs, CAT scans, MRIs, gastrointestinal tests, and more tests for allergies and parasites. From October 2004 until the end of 2006, I visited more than 20 conventional medical doctors, who used the latest technology available but could not diagnose my illness. I was hospitalized seven times, was referred to several “specialists,” and was prescribed 36 pharmaceutical medications. My concentration and attention span disappeared, and my mental fatigue worsened. A film settled over my eyes, making it impossible to read. Soon, I became bedridden. The doctors were exasperated and so was I. They said that, on paper, I was just fine.
After all of their tests and theories, none of the conventional practitioners could explain my illness. I was told to increase the meds and switch from pill forms to liquid dosages. I began to recognize complications with the chemical drugs and started to have violent nightmares along with hallucinations.
As I continued to lose more than 30 pounds , my hair started to fall out, and further tests confirmed that my adrenals were shutting down. I told the doctors that I could feel something travelling throughout my body and lodging in my joints. I kept insisting that my illness had to do with the foods I ate and that the medications were ineffective. I sensed they were acting like a slow and fatal poison in my body, and I was desperate to stop taking them.
“When the student is ready, the teachers will come” was the thought that motivated me to seek another way to get well. Through yoga and ayurveda, I had learned about the capacity of the individual for self-healing. Believing in the existence of something greater than myself, I surrendered to the universe and to the Divine, and asked for guidance. Through trust and understanding, I knew that my illness would be explainable and traceable. My survival instinct then became my strongest instinct, and my exploration into the healing process took over. I decided to stop taking the pharmaceutical medications.
I made an appointment with a licensed holistic health care practitioner, which turned out to be a four-hour consultation. A diagnostic test provided definitive proof that I had a severe yeast infection in my body. My original and specific complaint of a sore throat had developed into the long-standing and life-threatening disease Candida albicans , caused by the antibiotics I had been prescribed. I had not been advised to take probiotics along with antibiotics, and the additional pharmaceuticals had depressed the activity of both my brain and nervous system and were defeating my body’s natural ability to heal.
Since Candida is a fungal organism that is present in everyone’s intestinal tract, it is normally kept under control by the immune system and by beneficial intestinal bacteria. This balance is upset when these good bacteria are destroyed, typically by antibiotics. Once bad bacteria overtake good bacteria, Candida begins to proliferate and invade and colonize all body tissues, releasing toxins into the bloodstream and feeding on any foods that reach the intestinal tract. Soon after eating, undigested food molecules enter the bloodstream, which the body recognizes as foreign matter, and the immune system attacks the food. These attacks are what had caused the overcharging and toxic effects on my body. The Candida had also become systemic.
Systemic Candida can affect a person internally from the brain to the ears, eyes, nose, sinuses, mouth, intestinal tract, and colon; the upper respiratory, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems; the adrenal and thyroid glands; and muscles and joints. When the Candida cells become this pervasive, pronounced, and severe, all organs in the body begin to degenerate. More than 40 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from this disease, and candida is now considered to be a silent epidemic. Many health care practitioners tell us that candida and inflammation are the root causes of all diseases, and most people suffering from Candida overgrowth will end up treating only the symptoms with drugs instead of getting to the real cause of their problem. Since pharmaceuticals do not have the synergistic energy to help a person heal, they camouflage the symptoms of disease, and when taken, the body falls further out of balance.
Being raised with conventional medicine, I thought alternative medicine was just urban myth and legend. I had wrongly assumed that all doctors study the cause of every disease, so it was a shock to find out that conventional doctors are not trained to address the root cause of disease. However well meaning, compassionate, and professional these doctors are, they are taught very little about the vital role and importance of digestion and nutrition in their formal schooling. Instead of telling me that there was nothing wrong inside of me, the doctors should have acknowledged the fact that they were not finding what was wrong inside of me.
Holistic practitioners work with an understanding of just how magnificent our bodies really are. They study how the body heals itself. I was encouraged to learn about whole foods and how they work synergistically in the body. I came to understand that I could heal my body by changing the environment inside of me: by starving the yeast (by following a strict, yeast-free, candida control diet); killing it (by using antifungals); and reversing its growth (by ingesting high-potency probiotics). I also built up my immune system with organic, plant-based foods, herbs, and supplements. It took well over a year to heal and regain my lost weight and strength.
My journey to recovery took on larger significance as it provided a framework to take my yoga to a new level of personal inquiry, both on and off the mat. In meditation, I was able to align with the unrestricted abundance of spirit energy and stay open to divine possibilities. While searching for comfort and healing, yoga helped awaken an untapped reserve within me. As I treated my body as one whole system, it began to flourish. I was able to befriend my disease and find out what it was trying to tell me. I began to feel a deep sense of gratitude to my body’s innate wisdom and to the signals it kept sending out. As I slowly began to incorporate yoga practice back into my daily life, restorative asanas nurtured and energized me. Victorious breath invited my mind inward, and while in savasana (corpse pose), I meditated and visualized virabhadrasana (warrior pose), which took away my “worrier” thinking.
Coming to terms and dealing with an illness and the healing process is an individualized and complicated issue, but gaining a deeper understanding of any illness can help a person become selective about what is needed to be done. Illness is a nasty interlude into a person’s life, yet it can teach us so much. Yoga reminds us that we are what we eat, think, believe, and do. Our skin, hair, eyes, energy level, and attitude are all affected by what we ingest through our senses. As we go beyond the body-only concept, we discover that life is all about how we interact with our environment, inside and out, and with nature. The beauty of yoga and meditation is that they allow the body, mind, and spirit to become united, and once they are returned to their perfect harmony, the essence of true healing can be discovered.
Lynn Lombardo is a health awareness advisor and yoga instructor, certified by the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago . Her E-mail address is lynlombardo [at] ameritech [dot] net
This article has been reposted with permission. You will find the original post here.
For more information on Candida please refer to this article.