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Conversation With Fern Olivia, Founder of Thyroid Yoga®

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Fern Olivia talks about the power of integrative medicine, yoga, and intuitive self-healing.

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Marina: [00:00:00] I'm Marina Tarasova and welcome to My Happy Thyroid, your source for all things thyroid health and wellness. My Happy Thyroid is presented by Paloma Health, the first online medical practice focused on living well with hypothyroidism. Today, we have a very special guest joining us. Fern Olivia Langham is the founder of Thyroid Yoga, and a fascinating person with a multifactorial background, who has had her own journey with a  thyroid condition and has actually built an empire to help empower others, to feel better for those dealing with a thyroid condition. So thank you so much for joining us today for, and how are you?

Fern: [00:00:49] Thank you so much for having me here. Wow. That was a beautiful intro and I feel so grateful. So grateful because it really, it feels like a dream come true to help people all around the world with thyroid conditions and auto-immune symptoms.

So I'm really excited. To call it an empire is the biggest compliment. I really think of it as a movement. It's a movement for holistic healing and sustained well-being. And thank you. Thank you for having me here to share and inspire. My pleasure, my absolute pleasure.

Marina: [00:01:22] So let's start with, your journey.

And I know that what I find super fascinating is that you were trained in biochemical engineering. Then you turned to be a finance professional. I'd love to hear about what that was like and what the journey was from, working those really long days in New York City, and days and nights, and, kind of your health journey from there to where you are today?

Fern: [00:01:49] Back in 2008, I graduated from Syracuse University in New York and my major was biomedical engineering. So I graduated with honors in biomedical engineering. Though, unlike the other students in my class, I just did not want to go into the medical field because I just really, I was, there was something that didn't sit well with me that, it seemed like medicine was just this bandaid

that I was seeing. Even with engineering, it just seemed so linear and it wasn't into the deep heart of healing. So I went into finance, which didn't make much sense either, but, I was searching, I didn't really know what was going on in my own body. And I needed money to be able to support myself and a life

to be able to live up to the standards I wanted and what happened was in doing that and living in New York city, fast paced life, I got adrenal burnout. I was so stressed and so just running all over the place that I fainted in the subway one day and my body said to me, literally, this is not okay.

You can't live like this. I was running on empty. My batteries were completely shutting down and. It was just like an iPhone that, you never get a full charge. It's always on empty, it's always dying. And sometimes it's at like 3% and charge it for a little bit and then it dies again. That's how my life was.

I would go on a retreat or I would have a cleanse and I would feel better for a month or something. But then again, I'd crash and it wasn't this lifestyle where I felt consistently good. And I decided I needed to become my own researcher. So instead of going to these, I went to top endocrinologist in New York city and they were just giving me more and more medication.

And instead of taking that diagnosis and saying, okay, that's, I'm going to, I'm going, I have Hashimoto's. I was scared. First of all, when I got that name, I was like, it's so scary. It just sounds like this weird thing. And at the time it was back in 2000. Around 2008, 2009 when I was diagnosed. And at that time there wasn't, even though when you look back and if you read old books,

Dr. Morris, Dr. Eric, there's a lot of now. You look at really old texts. There's a lot of information on this, but it wasn't readily available at the time I was going through all this and I felt hopeless. I felt lost. And I said, you know what? I studied engineering. I studied biomedical engineering and I studied, I pretty much went pre-med.

Why can't I do my own research. And so that's when I created Thyroid Yoga because I fell in love with the practice of yoga and how it was helping me tune into my body rather than, than tune out because other activities I was just running or bootcamp or spinning, and I was tuning out about it and listening into my intuition.

And so Thyroid Yoga became this quest to understand my own body and then to help others to do this within themselves and empower people. So that's what I've been working on over the past, I don't know, it's been since about 2011 when I completed my first yoga teacher training. And since then I've completed another teacher training.

I've done my Reiki master certification, intuitive healing certification. I studied, ayruveda, I've studied integrative nutrition. I've I really just, I'm my own Guinea pig and I couldn't imagine living any other way. I love to learn and I love to serve. And that's where the journey has been taking me right now.

Marina: [00:05:31] I love that. Thank you so much for sharing. I'm super curious as to the spark that brought the connection from yoga to healing, thyroid disease. Was it something that you mentioned in old text and book you found? What was sort of the spark that led you to believe that there was a whole discipline around thyroid yoga that could help the thyroid ?

Fern: [00:05:52] It was basically seeing it in my own body. I was practicing yoga in New York City, and I was beginning to realize that many people in New York City have a disconnect between how they feel and the connection energetically in their body from their alignment to their path and their purpose.

And it was through yoga that got me to a place of that awareness that I hadn't discovered before. So yoga was a catalyst through the physical practice. I was starting to understand my own body and that's really how it all began.

Marina: [00:06:31] Super cool. Thank you. I also understand, so you mentioned you were trained by the Institute of integrative nutrition. You studied ayurveda and Reiki, and you're put all of those disciplines together. First of all, in addition to what you learned from those disciplines, what other research helped you to develop this branch of healing?

Fern: [00:06:53] It was basically yoga, Kundalini. Yoga specifically has been the biggest catalyst. And then also I would say another, another big component has been Reiki, energy healing, and, as well as my studies in intuitive work, psychic healing breath practices around that too.

Marina: [00:07:17] So great. Were there any naysayers or skeptics along the way as you were going until about them and how you dealt with them?

Fern: [00:07:26] I wouldn't say too many skeptics because it works. The people that actually will do the work that found me were ready for that, they were set up with going to doctors and taking the conventional treatments that were just band-aids. But I did see people along the way that just weren't ready for this type of work.

They didn't want to go in deeper into the soul. Journey of alignment to the path and, they would say, my T3, my T4 and my TSH, and really just like all about the numbers. And it's not just about the numbers, it's the numbers are important.

Marina: [00:07:59] Yes. And it's good to have a baseline with tests.

Fern: [00:08:01] Of course, I think that's so important, but when my clients were all about the analytics and not about the actual energetics and the holistic lifestyle practices. You can only go so far with medication and numbers. It's only one part of the whole piece of the pie. So I really just didn't have any one critic criticizing what I do because it does work.

It's just when people aren't ready, sometimes they question and it's just no, you need to try it, just give it a try and then you'll see the numbers go down. You'll see the TSH normalized and then you'll feel better. See how you feel. And that's a new concept for many people.

They don't even know how to tap into how they feel, because a lot of times Western medicine for so many years, doesn't even question. It's oh, you feel bad here, take Excedrin. And oh, you feel gassy, take Pepto. I remember having Pepto every day for my digestive stuff. And GasX. I literally would be at CVS everyday getting something, whether it was Excedrin or Pepto or GasX, or Advil .

And we're not taught in the United States, at least we're not taught to sit with the pain and to question why it's there. And in other cultures and in tribal medicine, we actually sit with the pain and we ask it questions, what are you trying to tell me,  rather than just mute it?

Marina: [00:09:30] Yeah, definitely. I definitely know those trips to the drug store here, and many people, we're running those. Now what does it take, tell me what it takes to have folks, once they're committed or curious to following this discipline.

Is it something they do daily for X amount of hours? Is it something, how regular does one have to be with? I read yoga and these other things, would you say to how help them feel somewhat, start feeling and seeing the differences in their symptoms and maybe hopefully down the road, even their numbers as well.

Fern: [00:10:08] That's a fun question because I say, how long do you want to feel better? Do you want to feel better for the rest of your life or do you want to just feel better for a week? So it's more work. Yes, for sure. I wake up in the morning and I go right to my yoga mat and I start my practice and I have specific poses and sequences

based in Kundalini yoga that are proven to regulate the glandular system and promote balance in the thyroid. And there's more and more research on these specific poses and kriyas they're set sequences. There's proven now in research, more and more research showing that, yes, this does clean the blood chemistry and clean the glandular system and calibrate the thyroid and, and detoxify the liver.

I say, like I'm going to do these practices every day for the rest of my life. And there's so many different practices to that. Some are like five minutes. Some are an hour. Sometimes I practice for two and a half hours. And I noticed that the days that I wake up and I'm consistent and I do this, the better I feel.

And so instead of that feeling of feeling crippled and and hurt and broken. I choose to show up and feel good and make choices that are beneficial for my body. And the fun thing is these practices are free, everyone can do them. You just need to learn. And that's what I created as a program. So people can be empowered and learn, and once they understand how to become their own healer, they can take that with them for the rest of their life.

And when a symptom comes up and there's a flare up. You know how to mitigate that and how to interpret what your body's telling you. So that's what I teach. It's hard to just do that on your own. That's why I've created something that is very empowering, and it gives you your power back that many Western or allopathic doctors took away that power of entitling patients to be able to not even be a patient.

Just understand their body. So I remember going to doctors when I was really sick and bringing research to them and saying, hey, look, gluten is attacking the thyroid gland because the protein molecule mimics that of the structure of the thyroid gland. And when you have an autoimmune condition or hypothyroidism, you should not be eating gluten.

And they were like, wow, I've never heard of that. What's that? I was just like, oh my goodness, why am I paying $800 for 20 minutes? This is absurd.

Marina: [00:12:40] Yeah. There really is definitely more to be done in bringing a little bit more of the Western training and the Eastern sort of more holistic training together.

Yeah, a really big opportunity there. You know, Paloma is a thyroid medical practice, we're a holistic medical practice. So we believe, medication plus nutrition plus the things you're doing and the yoga side and looking at yourself holistically are so important to do in combination and for different people, all different mixes of things, may work best.

But being in this world for the past few years, it seems like thyroid disease and autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's are really approaching, like almost epidemic levels. They're silent epidemics around this country, affecting predominantly women and it's striking.

Even the literature says there's over 25 million people that have hypothyroidism, most of which is autoimmune mediated, at least in the US. Tell us more about what do you think contributes to this? And let's talk a little bit more about what people can do.

Fern: [00:13:44] Yeah. So the reason why I think, at least that I've seen in my practice, why first of all, women, more than men is that women tend to notice the symptoms. More than men. I do know that there are many men with thyroid conditions. However, women are the first to notice that they have weight gain. They're more vain in that sense that we're like, oh, we have this stubborn belly fat that will go away.

Or the congestion or the food allergies or women are more, they're more intuitive as a species, women are very intuitive and we're just, we're very careful about our bodies. And  also women tend to go through a lot of hormonal changes in life and a lot of life transitions that completely can change the hormone balance and the body trauma.

Puberty even. And so that's another, and then also we're being called right now energetically, the divine feminine is rising and we're being called to seek and speak our truth and to really be our creative, most expressed self. And so the thyroid energetically is our chakra of communication and self-expression. So if we're not in our truth and we're not in alignment and we're not speaking and in our power from a place of really deep, the deep confidence in our gifts and our thyroid is literally saying, hey, speak up.

I need you. I need you to understand what the blockage is so you can live a life of joy and freedom and happiness and give your gifts and speak your truth. Energetically as a whole planet, we're being called to this rising of the feminine. and so there's a big component that I believe in that I've seen with many women that have come to me with thyroid conditions,

is that they're not speaking their truth from an empowered place, or they feel not worthy because as a child in our generation, we were taught to be seen and not heard. So I just remember as a small child, not really feeling empowered about my life. It was more like this, there was a programming around it,

if this is what you need to do. And if you speak up or you speak too loudly, I remember always getting in trouble for speaking up in class, even when you know, what I had to say was very valuable. So I always felt like I wasn't really of being my fullest express myself. And that's that time is over it's time for us to shine.

It's time for us to rise together. And even I've noticed in yoga classes, when I teach many women are so afraid to even say, or sing or make noise, it's ugh, like that just a sigh can really release deep-seeded stress in the body. I'm going to say, okay, inhale and exhale side. I get, like people just don't open their mouth and it breaks my heart because otherwise it's held in the body.

And in a time where anxiety is such a, I can't tell you how many people come to me for anxiety. And one of the best ways we can do that is to sing and to scream and decide and let the body release. So that's another reason it's just stored up in the body and stored up in the organs, all this tension and all this scarcity and fear, and we're safe. We're really safe to express we're in a place now where women are very supported in expressing their truth. So we just need to believe it. And that's healing. That's really healing is the expression. I hope everyone listening can do it.

Marina: [00:17:18] I love it. As a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I'm very curious about some of your tips on healthy eating to share with our listeners around healing, their thyroid.

We talked about gluten as one thing, and I think that can be super helpful for many. What other tips do you have around eating healthfully on a daily basis that could help?

Fern: [00:17:41] Yeah. So one of the biggest things is avoiding gluten. If you have a thyroid condition, eating gluten is the number one thing that you should avoid.

Because as I mentioned earlier, gluten, the protein molecule is the same structure, a very similar structure of the thyroid gland and the thyroid gland thinks it's an invader and will attack it. So if you have inflammation in your thyroid already, it's just going to add to more inflammation, which you don't want.

So don't eat gluten. Gluten-free options are fine. However, there's a lot of cross-reactivity for someone who's sensitive. So I recommend if you really want to heal, then stay away from all grains, meaning all grains, meaning even rice, because rice can create inflammation, also. And so can, millet, so can others, just other types of grains, if you really want to heal for a short period of time, just go off all of it.

But the other thing that I've noticed is very inflammatory is dairy and getting off of milk, all cheese and eggs. And if you read The Medical Medium's book, he talks about how eggs are also very inflammatory. And especially for those with thyroid conditions and this doesn't all have to be permanent. And then you might be asking, oh my gosh, what can I eat?

You can eat fruits and vegetables and you can eat things like tahini with just high in vitamin E and you can eat nuts and seeds. Mostly if you eat sprouted, it's better for your digestive system. And then also I would say just eating a lot of super food. Seaweed and spirulina and chlorella, because those are high in iodine and really helpful for a sluggish thyroid.

I get questions a lot of how do you eat? How do you get your protein? There's so many myths out there that we need so much protein and we don't need as much as they're saying that we need. and you can get a lot of that through your plant-based diet. Personally, I don't eat any animal protein, however, for clients that resonate with that, it's totally, I feel it that's up to them, but regardless it should be clean.

It should be really good sourced. If you are eating animal protein, please make sure it's a sustainable source because I really believe in our precious ecosystem and what we absorb in our body from our food is the energetic frequency from which that food was grown or just an animal from that frequency of how that animal was treated.

So we don't want to absorb any more fear than we're already containing in our body. So making sure that we're having ethically sourced food and then also food that's local and that food that's local to the region that we're in, is really beneficial and really healing food that's in season. For example, in spring, it's really nice to have bitter greens, dandelion and asparagus and, and even foods.

A lot of times, there's a myth about cruciferous vegetables like kale and bok choy. And there's this whole fear around eating cruciferous vegetables with a thyroid condition. And that's completely a hoax. You don't need to worry, trust me on this one. It makes it gas in your body if it's not cooked. If you have a sensitivity to, that type of food, like cabbage without having it cook or broccoli or Brussels sprouts or kale, but those foods are all very high in phytonutrients that are cancer preventative.

And there's a study. There was a woman who ate pounds and pounds of bok choy, and I think it was the twenties and I think she had a pre-existing condition, and it created all this fear around the nodules and goiters.

The truth of it is, unless you're eating pounds and pounds and bok choy, you're not going to have an issue. And having a green juice with lots of kale is amazing. Celery juice is one of the best. Cucumber juice is one of the best and having a diet with a lot of greens is actually the best thing you can do to balance your thyroid, your hormones, and feel really good because the greens just have so much nutrients and then great protein.

Even in green vegetables, you get a lot of protein and a lot of fiber.

Marina: [00:21:49] Totally. Yeah. It's one of those, The cruciferous vegetable myth is one that we have to educate on a lot, because like you said, if you're not eating buckets,  it's okay. And some of our patients cut out all those vegetables for that fear.

So there's definitely a lot of work that, all of us can do to help decipher all of the noise out there, for patients in terms of healing. I'm super glad to hear, that you're helping so many people out there. Maybe just in closing, I just want to say you have built a very unique, dare I say idyllic ifestyle.

and you've really found your place. You live now in Costa Rica and you help train other yoga practitioners in the practice of thyroid yoga. You've become a go-to, practitioner in the thyroid space. Some people call you the thyroid whisperer, and you've helped the well being of many. I imagine you're on the beach lots, standup paddling.

You mentioned your healthy eating lifestyle, eating very local and plant-based, lots of exercise. Sounds like you're having fun with it. What tips would you have for those of us, for those patients of ours and listeners of ours that, are still in that daily grind?

And they may be working, in New York finance world or LA or whatever. They're, whatever the coast and city they're in and they're commuting and experiencing work stress. And that much each time, maybe their diet is not really  optimized yet. A and they may be struggling with the symptoms of thyroid symptoms of weight and brain fog and fatigue and all those things.

What are some of your final parting thoughts for those people?

Fern: [00:23:29] First of all, for all of you who are listening and you feel like, wow, I wish I lived that lifestyle and I wish that I could do some of these tips. You can, you really can. Believe me because I was sitting in my cubicle back in 2013, 2014, 2015, just feeling like

I've worked in finance for seven years. And I tell you, I spent every penny on my healing, everything I made was going to doctors and trying to, rewind and rewire this lifestyle that was so toxic. So I was spending all my money on my health and  it was just like this vicious cycle. So when I quit that I really gave myself permission to live a lifestyle that was, so aligned with health.

And so I ask you to ask yourself, I invite you to really analyze why aren't you able to do some of those things? And if it's financial, okay. I really compassionately get that, but see, what's blocking you from really setting yourself up for a healthy lifestyle, because you only have one life in this body.

In this lifetime, you have one life. So if you really take a deep look and say, why am I stuck in this situation? X, Y, Z. We start to unravel it. And it sometimes means leaving a partnership. It sometimes means leaving a job. It sometimes means getting a little uncomfortable. And I have to say based on my, I had a functional medical doctor I was working with when I was living in New York city.

And she really said to me, like this lifestyle is killing you.  If you really want to heal your thyroid, you've got to get out of this relationship and this job. And at the time I kinda just like, how would I do that? How the heck would I leave a six figure income and a seven year relationship?

I just didn't understand or see it possible. What, looking on the other side, if I hadn't changed that situation, I don't know how sick I would have been much sicker than I was. Even at that moment, I would have gotten so much worse. And so looking back on it now, I see the light and I see the choices that I've made that really were able to heal my body.

I understand if you're stuck, if you think you're stuck, because you're not really stuck, you have free will. If you feel stuck in some area of your life, really take a look at that and ask yourself, why? And do the things you can do, set yourself up for a yoga practice every morning and really surround yourself with people that are supportive of your lifestyle and people that really want to learn and want to be inspired with you because that energy of people that are not complaining about their life and not stuck in these situations.

Elevate and inspire each other and empower each other. There's simple things you can do, get more sunlight in your life, go to the infrared sauna and sweat and detox your body. If you are in a cold environment, that's not getting a lot of ability for you to just be outside all the time, get into the places where you can float in a salt spa.

Those float tanks. Sensory deprivation. So you can float and feel saltwater on your body, and then go to the farmer's market and talk to the farmers and learn about where the food is grown. And, of course use essential oils on your body. And I make those and it's so nice to be able to give yourself self massage and self-care, and especially if you can't get a massage every week to detox or those practitioners aren't available to you. You can start to take care of your own body and learn how to give yourself that love that you want from others.

You can learn how to give it to yourself and your body will start taking care of you in return.

Marina: [00:27:17] That is really inspiring. Thank you so much. I'm impressed with your strength, over your journey and your dedication and your bravery, I would say, and recognizing what you needed for yourself and now turning to helping others.

Fern: [00:27:33] If anyone on the call feels called, I lead thyroid yoga trainings, one-on-one healing, retreats, Reiki attunements and certifications and cleanses in Costa Rica. So if you feel called, if you're like, I need to, I need this right now. Please reach out to me. I can create something completely custom for you that works with your timing, your budget,

your initiatives and your intentions for healing. It's really my passion. And the reason I wake up in the morning is to give this work and I really invite you to give it to yourself. You're worth it.

Marina: [00:28:10] Absolutely. And what's the best place for folks to go?

Fern: [00:28:13] Easiest is my website, which is www.thyroid.yoga.

And you can also connect with me on Instagram, @fernolivia. And then also my email, which is, you can contact me either. Yeah. This one's easiest. It's fern at fern olivia dot com. And I answer every email that comes in and I do intuitive medicine, intuitive work as well and distance healing. So even if you're in a place that you feel like you can't get to Costa Rica or Portugal, or somewhere around the world . But you feel like in your heart, you need some guidance and advice.

I get consultations online and I'm really, I'm just really grateful for anyone who feels called to this work to do this healing because what you heal in your own body, it ripples out to others. And you'll be able to live a happier life on this planet. So thank you.

Marina: [00:29:07] Beautifully said. Thank you, Fern.

My Happy Thyroid is presented by Paloma Health, the first online medical practice focused on living well with hypothyroidism. You can go to palomahealth.com to learn more.

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