What is that, you ask?
The rough translation: a group of badasses thriving despite thyroid conditions.
I meet a new member of this posse everyday, which is unsurprising given that 20 million people suffer from some sort of thyroid condition. But it’s still a thrill every time I see someone doing something amazing in the wellness world, only to discover that it was their own Hashimoto’s diagnosis that catalyzed a whole new way of seeing their body, followed by a whole new way of working out in the world.
Like I said: badasses.
Each of these people have stories that fascinate me. And I know they have the potential to fascinate, inspire and teach you too.
I finally shared my own Hashimoto’s story last week in hopes that my round-about way up and down health mountain would help you see that there is no one path or “life recipe” for everyone. If you haven’t read it, pop back a week here. It explains why I wrote The Wellness Project book in the first place, and why it’s my mission now to share other tales via this HashiPosse series.
The first HashiHoney (gosh, so many things to trademark…) up to the plate is my friend Fern Oliva.
She is a former finance chick and biomedical engineer, turned ThyroidYoga evangelist and essential oil alchemist. Fern and I met a few years ago when we were at similar places in our thyroid story; we had found the roadmap (for me, The Wellness Project; for her this yoga practice) but were still slowly making our way back up health mountain.
It’s been truly incredible to see how far Fern has come in gaining back her light, and an even bigger inspiration in the last year, to see her use her voice to inspire so many others. I’ll let her tell you all about it in a second. And if you’re interested in learning more about ThyroidYoga, there’s an upcoming training that yours truly will be participating in.
Read on for the interview.
When were you diagnosed with Hashimoto’s? Paint me a picture of what your daily life looked like at the time.
For nearly a decade, I battled against my body and the horrible discomfort of chronic congestion, puffiness, brain fog, constipation, food allergies, and severe stomach irritability. After I graduated from college, I thought I was living the American Dream when I landed a swanky desk job at a prestigious investment bank in New York City. However, the 14-hour days felt like anything but that. I often experienced vertigo when staring at my computer and starting getting daily migraines that I took excedrin for regularly. I’d also pop a Zyrtec with my Synthroid before my cereal and soy milk each morning to clear my stuffy nose. I still felt awful. Little did I know at the time, I was doing it all wrong.
I knew the corporate banking world wasn’t my path, but I didn’t know that there was any alternative. I was making money but spending it all on my health because I was so sick. I felt miserable in my body, but worst than that; powerless, because I didn’t know how to heal.
Did the diagnosis come quickly or did you bounce between several medical practitioners?
Like many with autoimmune and chronic conditions, I spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars traveling from doctor to doctor. I felt like a lost patient, completely disconnected from her body and wanting so badly to just be given a magical solution to it all. I was told I had hypothyroidism, and then given every type of thyroid medication in the book to mask the symptoms I was experiencing – rather than getting down and dirty with why I was feeling so awfully rotten in the first place.
At one point I was on 125 mcg of synthroid and 5 mcg of cytomel and still felt like a zombie. The worst part – I was told that I would always have these symptoms and would just have to “deal with them.” One doctor even wanted me to get on Lipitor for my ultra high cholesterol (260, the level of an overweight diabetic man!) without even looking at what I was eating.
Finally, I thought to myself; “I studied biomechanics and neuroscience, with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Why can’t I figure this out?” Turns out, I could. But in an unexpected place.
Your gateway to a different way of living was through yoga. Tell me how this practice wormed its way into your life.
Yoga found me on a lunch break in between stressful meetings and staring at databases in Excel. I began noticing the correlations of how I ate and treated myself, how I was spending my day, and how this related to how I felt on my yoga mat. It fascinated me – and got me really excited about what this all meant.
I realized that yoga allowed me to connect with myself in a way that I hadn’t been able to elsewhere.
Through this newfound connection to my body, for the first time in my life I was able to really start tuning into what served me, and quite simply, what didn’t – and what an utterly life-changing experience that was!
Why is yoga such an effective way to start healing your hormones?
It ignites the healer within.
As my own personal yoga practice deepened, I realized the way I was treating myself and showing up in my life, had a direct correlation to the persistence of my Hashimoto’s hypothyroid symptoms – and I started to become introspective.
This was the healer being sparked within myself; simply noticing what made me feel good, and what didn’t – and then making my life the pursuit of those things that made me feel good.
Unfortunately, this is why so many people stay in pain; as it isn’t always an easy, breezy walk through the park – healing can be tough, messy and ‘two steps forward one step back’. Deepening your connection to your own body however, is a profound and monumental place to start, and from this place you’ll know what right actions to take in your healing – which can be as simple as what you’ll next put in your mouth, but can also mean leaving the well-paying job, or the long-term relationship.
All of this is before we’ve even gotten on to any of the science of how yoga directly changes your brain chemistry, cleans the blood and can re-set the entire glandular system!
If someone was to integrate just one new pose into their daily routine what would it be?
It would have to be restorative bridge pose – because quite frankly, I don’t think we take enough rest.
After a long day, we may feel like we’ve been carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders, and it’s no wonder our neck is sore and our voice feels tired. This powerful pose is a staple of my Thyroid Yoga™ method as it helps to unpack the body from that stress and will set you up for a peaceful, restful sleep.
Deep relaxation is a must for physical and mental health. This restorative yoga pose releases tension accompanied by nervousness or anxiety. It stimulates the balance of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
You’ll float effortlessly off to sleep after a few minutes in supported bridge pose with blocks under your lower back.
Supported bridge pose will not only rest your heart, cool and soothe your busy brain, give you a gentle abdominal stretch and expand your chest, it’s also a great way to counter the effects of a day spent in a chair, sitting in traffic, or just getting your adrenals happy, so your thyroid can be happy, too.
I recommend that you spend at least 3 minutes in a supported bridge pose each day. If you struggle to find time for yoga, I suspect you aren’t suffering from too much rest, at least not the deep organic rest of a supported pose. So if you only have a short time to practice, this will be one of the most beneficial poses for you to do each day.
Any go-to balancing recipes? Or favorite things to make in the kitchen?
I couldn’t include anything other than my signature smoothie here! It’s a matcha protein shake that I make daily pre-workout. It’s my ‘power-ade’ of sorts!
What do you wish you’d known that you know now, or what would you hope to tell someone who’s just been diagnosed with Hashi’s?
Everything is going to be more than okay. You’re not broken. And no, you don’t necessarily have to be on medication for the rest of your life.
As a thyroid renaissance woman, you’ve also started your own line of hand blended essential oils. Can you talk a little bit about your three favorite oils for thyroid health and why they’re so nourishing?
When I started to become attuned to the incredible healing potential of nature’s medicine cabinet, I became intrigued by essential oils. I started experimenting with them, and let me tell you – I was astounded by how effectively they brought me back into balance and cleared up the symptoms I had been struggling with for so long.
Every morning, I began applying essential oils to my thyroid (base of neck) and adrenals (lower back) as well as the thyroid and adrenal reflexology points on my feet. In the evenings, I began applying the oils to the bottoms of my feet, massaging my feet with essential oils and coconut oil on the thyroid and parathyroid points. The changes in how I was feeling was colossal!
My favorite essential oils for thyroid support are:
- Geranium, which supports adrenals and lifts spirits.
- Lemongrass, to calm the nervous system and also supports thyroid health.
- Peppermint to instantly cool inflammation.
- Frankincense, which balances hormones and also eases inflammation.
You can get a special thyroid blend I make in a rollerball for daily thyroid support here.
A general rule for using essential oils for your thyroid is that for an underactive thyroid, use oils with stimulating properties. For an overactive thyroid, use oils with sedating and calming properties.
Inspired by my own practice, I then began to create my own blends, and the simple self-care ritual of rolling a seductive fragrance on my throat and heart chakra every day while repeating affirmations has radically changed my life.
What’s currently in your bathroom cabinet / makeup bag that you’re loving?
I may be biased, but I am in love with Solar Sun Enhance, a skin protectant from my own organic beauty apothecary, Ajai Alchemy. It’s made from all organic essential oils in a base of carrot seed oil and coconut oil to hydrate thirsty complexions and protect the skin from environmental sun damage. It’s also an aphrodisiac!
Finally, my One Big Question I ask everyone: if you could tell someone one thing to change about their lifestyle tomorrow, what would it be?
Make sure you do one thing for yourself each day that lights you up inside. Whether it be as simple as lighting a candle, and taking a quiet moment to yourself, or filling a hot bath with loads of epsom salts and essential oils. Make a habit of doing something just for you, each and every day.
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s when I was only 17 and have been on medication for it for the last 15 years. After a season of depression and anxiety, a few weeks ago I started taking better care of myself. I’v been gluten free for almost a month now and am finally able to acknowledge the connection between food and health- and I just wanted to say THANK YOU for all the great resources you’re providing with your blog and website. It’s already helped me feel more in control of my body. I pre ordered your book and can’t wait to read it! Thanks,
Phoebe Lapine says
Gillian, this seriously made my day. I’m so happy you’re makes strides, slowly but surely. It’s a process and will take time. But I promise if you’re willing to take the scenic route up health mountain, month by month, you’ll be astonished by how far you’ve come. I find that the best cure for depression and anxiety is action. It’s the antidote to a feeling helplessness. You’re doing it and you should be proud. xooxx