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By Elaine O’Rourke

As I yoga teacher I was fortunate that I had developed mind-body practices to really help with the emotional roller-coaster ride of getting my ostomy. I was 35 years old when I got my ileostomy due to Crohn’s disease. I opted to make it permanent after a year and then I made a full recovery and have felt amazing for the last 13 years.

While I was deathly ill and recovering from surgeries, the focused breathing practices helped me the most. I had complications from the surgeries so it took some time to really get back into the physical practice of the yoga poses. I had to be very mindful of any poses that stretched my scar sites. But gradually my body healed and I am able to do everything.

Luckily yoga has so much more to offer and there is something for every body. There are deep healing practices such as restorative, yin, breathing, mindfulness, meditation, mantra. The philosophy provides insights into being more aware of our thoughts and then in turn how they may be affecting our emotions and physical states.

Personally, I have gained so much insight and a much broader perspective on how to look at life. No one wants to get ill or have an ostomy but it has taught me first-hand how to be resilient, how much inner strength I have and to value my life and live it to the fullest.

I truly believe in the importance of moving the body (provided you are well enough) getting outside, breathing the fresh air, absorbing the sunlight or sitting under a shady tree is so good for us this time of year. Personally, I try and get up early in the summer months and go down the beach to walk, swim, do yoga and surf (being out early is best for my Irish skin). I also teach yoga on the beach which is a great experience.

It can be intimating to go to a yoga class and to find the right one. There is a wide variety of classes and styles. How you resonate with the teacher has a lot to do with the experience too. If you are brand new to yoga then I suggest starting with gentle, restorative or beginner yoga. If you don’t like a class or teacher then try other ones. It’s like shopping, not everything fits right and it’s the same with yoga. Do tell the instructor that you have an ostomy and you can educate them on what it is! Always empty your bag beforehand and don’t hesitate to go to the bathroom throughout the class if you feel it fill up. You want to create a comfortable environment for yourself. It doesn’t matter what other people think. If you have a hernia then make sure to wear your hernia belt and move cautiously.

I’ll be teaching Rise and Shine Yoga for Every Body at UOAA’s National Conference in Philadelphia this August. It will be a fun way to wake up and be part of this experience. Whether you are brand new to yoga or a seasoned practitioner I hope you will join me. I am a lighthearted teacher and I definitely don’t take the practice or teaching too seriously. In fact, if you can have a bit of a laugh while doing yoga then that is a bonus in my opinion!

I hope you enjoy the short yoga video of some standing poses.

ElaineOrourke.com