Hello CF Yogis!
Please allow me to introduce myself to this amazing facet of our CF community that I am so fortunate to be a part of. My name is Kellie Jorgensen, I am 33 years old and thriving with Cystic Fibrosis and currently live in Washington State. I love the outdoors and am a country girl at heart and often times can be found hiking, fishing, camping,… really anything outdoors! I also am very fond of running and weight training.
A little background about me
I was diagnosed with CF at 6 weeks due to newborn screening in the year 1989 -the year the CF gene was discovered, one of many firsts in the CF pipeline! I grew up with numerous complications and was the patient that kept my doctor “on his toes.” I have dealt with lung disease, pancreatic deficiency, diabetes, arthritis, and liver disease predominantly.
My parents always believed in me, teaching me to live as much of a normal life as possible, helping me develop a can-do attitude and fortitude to always find a way if possible and live life to the fullest while I can. (For example, going camping with a portable nebulizer plugged into the cigarette lighter adapter in the car for power and proceeding to meet up with the group to fish after my treatments.)
I was fairly active in sports and activities as I was able amidst hospitalizations/IV treatments/chest physiotherapy. Lucky for me, my father introduced me to running as a means of treatment and airway clearance. I dove deeply into fitness and had a newfound passion for it, realizing just how instrumental it was to my health.
In 2010 I went for my Personal Trainer certification and specialized in Corrective Exercise. I found I truly enjoyed helping show others how to manage their ailments and struggles with injury and disability through fitness and live a better quality of life. Fast forward 12 years, I achieved my Masters in Exercise Science Human Performance as well as a myriad of other exercise science specialties and certifications — most recently including my 200 Hour Yoga Instructor certification.
My Yoga Journey
I always enjoyed Yoga and was exposed to it originally in 2009 when I took my first formal class. I did enjoy the class and it felt natural as I was a dancer and enjoyed gymnastics as well growing up so it felt familiar. I was confident in my body and abilities in flexibility and execution of poses and only viewed Yoga for the physical aspect it offered. What I didn’t quite understand at the time was the mental component of Yoga that became critical for me, especially in 2018.
In 2018 I had a period of struggle where no matter how much I ran, worked out, or complied with traditional treatment regimens, I was beginning to downward spiral in lung function going from 80% to 60% FEV1 in 6 months, with no indication of slowing down. My first CF modulator, Symdeko, was not effective for me and side effects meant it wasn’t an option. Mentally I was struggling with the worries of how I would deal with this debilitating disease with an already high demanding career, plus being single and living far away from family (I was living in Virginia, my parents in Colorado). I sought a therapist and she suggested going back to Yoga. At the time, my reaction was, “OK let’s just add one more thing to my plate sure… I DON’T HAVE TIME!”
I luckily found CF Yogi which offered online classes I could take at my leisure, live or recorded, in the comfort of my home which was amazing! I was further introduced to the 8 Limbs of Yoga and the Yamas and Niyamas — which I didn’t even know existed — as well as the meditation aspect of Yoga. This was instrumental for my mental health.
The Trikafta Roller Coaster
In late 2019, a miracle happened in the CF pipeline with the approval of Trikafta — a game changer for many in the CF community which now affords hope for longevity for many of us, and paves the way for further development and treatments for all impacted by CF. With this miracle, I have personally experienced a whole other emotional and mental roller coaster.
On the upsides are freedom, possibility, joy, and longevity… but also, “wait a minute, I am not going to die in my 20’s/30’s like I had planned on for so long? What do I do with all this time and these growing old adult issues?!?” While it is an amazing problem to have, it can also be a source of new found anxiety, compounded with potential mental health side effects of Trikafta itself. (There is evidence that the Elexacaftor component of Trikafta may cause depression, anxiety, and brain fog.) [Igbene, 2022]
Exercise Science shows a link between yoga, mental and physical wellness
I have grown to appreciate Yoga as practice to help keep anxiety and stress at bay, improving mental well-being — an instrumental component of wellness. Much of the scholarly work being done in the exercise science academic community right now is hyper-focused on mental wellness, as it is now recognized as a foundational component of physical well being. We now know that a lack of mental wellness is a root cause of deterioration in physical wellness. So much so, that it has been said that there are over 30+ narrative or meta-analytic reviews of research in this area specifically!
Physical exercise is a potential therapy for clinical depression or anxiety which upgrades quality of life through enhanced self-esteem, improved mood, reduced anxiety, resiliency to stress, and improved sleep [Fox, 2007]. For these reasons I believe physical activity is critical for all, in whatever capacity one is able to participate. For many, Yoga can be an accessible and attainable physical activity that can be modified for varying ability levels, current treatment regimens, or contraindications. Yoga in particular has been shown to be effective as complementary medicine in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression in several studies showing marked improvements in as few as 12 regular sessions [Shohani M, 2018].
With all that being said, it is more motivation and affirmation to us here at CF Yogi to help deliver our mission; delivering freely accessible Yoga to our CF community that enhances physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. I am honored to be welcomed to the team and to be helping to fulfill this mission while further connecting to the CF community and supporting each other through this journey!
Join Kellie for Gentle Yoga on Wednesdays in September at 4pm Pacific / 7pm Eastern! Complete a one-time registration for CF Yogi here to gain access to our member portal, class schedule, and video library. Already registered? Log in to the member portal here to sign up for Kellie’s classes!
Fox, K. R. (2007). The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public Health Nutrition, 411-418.
Igbene, S. (2022). Reducing Trikafta Dose May Ease Mental Side Effects, Study Reports. Cystic Fibrosis News Today.
Shohani M, B. G. (2018). The Effect of Yoga on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in Women. International Journal of Preventative Medicine.