If normal people don’t exercise very much and then go out and run a mile, the next day they will feel sore. When I go out and run a mile after not exercising, the next day I can barely walk to the bathroom, and the next day and the next day. Three days. I wouldn’t be able to move.
So, I started swimming which is low impact and looked into yoga. I love swimming and was living at an apartment complex that had a pool so I started swimming laps a little at a time. I added more minutes to the pool every week. That is the first thing I recommend for people with fibro—START SLOW. Start ten minutes and make five of those warming up. Not stretching but warming up. Slow soft movements for about five minutes. If you don’t hurt tomorrow add five more minutes. The trick is to be able to exercise tomorrow. Don’t over due anything. I think that is the biggest thing I have learned through all of my reading and exercising and trying things. The goal isn’t to do as much as you can. That is for the “normals.” That is the baseline of a person who doesn’t have a body of faulty nerves. I have fibromyalgia. The goal for me is to do as much as I can but still be able to walk tomorrow.
Yoga has been a life saver. Especially now that I have moved to Philadelphia to an apartment building without a pool. At first, I just read a lot about yoga, watched demonstration videos and tried stuff in my apartment. I didn’t even have a yoga mat at first. I put down a blanket and just tried poses on the floor after a lot of research. You have to really read about the poses, watch many videos before trying the poses. I started just googling my problem areas. I would google “yoga poses for a stiff back.” Then all these poses would come up. Another one to google is restorative yoga.
I have read studies of people doing just restorative yoga and losing weight. If you google it, you’ll see it is amazingly decadent. It is the yoga of laying around and deeply breathing. It is laying around the best way, the most productive possible way but seriously ya’ll it is just… laying around. It sounds like hokum, I know, but it isn’t. It is true. See, the thing is, we are so stressed as a people that we need to deep breathe to get out of this horrible pain cycle. Dr. Ginevra L. Liptan, MD who wrote The Fibromanual recommends deep breathing in order to activate this thing called the relaxation response. Basically, concentrating on your breath and exhaling heavily can help your fibromyalgia pain. What does yoga do besides make you move your body? It calls for you to breathe deeply.
So, after performing a pretty good homemade routine for a while, I went searching for more. There are times in my life when I am going to the doctor three times a week. Between physical therapy (which I will talk about later) and doctor’s appointments trying to solve my pain problems and the fact we are a one income relationship, we can’t afford paying for a gym membership (or I’d swim too). I needed free videos. Two I recommend: Sleepy Santosha and Yoga with Adriene.
Sleepy Santosha- She is a fellow sufferer of chronic illness. Her videos are so great because she knows what it is like to be chronically ill. She understands what we need. Some of the videos are in bed, or on the couch. Some of them are very relaxing but she has some challenging ones as well. You can find her by going to YouTube and searching for Sleepy Santosha or at her web site https://www.sleepysantosha.com/
Yoga with Adriene- I like to call her the yoga nerd. Have you ever had a teacher that was so deeply excited about the material that it was contagious? Adriene is like that. Her videos are challenging but also her theme is “Find what Feels Good.” So, while I finish her workouts sweaty and feeling like I got a workout, she also gives modifications for those of us who might have problems. She runs you through the poses in small slow movements in most of her videos so that you feel the change in your body and understand how your muscles work. She reminds you often that if you are in pain, you are doing it wrong. Also, she makes cute corny jokes and her dog makes appearances. You can search YouTube for Yoga with Adriene or go to her web site at http://yogawithadriene.com/
The thing I like about yoga the most is that it makes me feel good about my body. So often with fibro I feel like my body has failed in some way. Because of the pain, I made my body live separate from me. I had my mind. I thought that was enough. Through yoga I started for ten, then twenty, then thirty minutes to actively listen to my body and what it was telling me. The best part was my body had nice things to say during yoga. After three months or so of doing yoga- just my little homemade researched poses-I was able to start listening to my body more and more when I wasn’t doing yoga. I started having thoughts like my shoulder is tight. I should do that hugging myself pose (I think it’s called a half eagle pose, but I am not an instructor). Most importantly, I started recognizing when my body needs to move, or rest, or breathe.
I do yoga because the stretch feels good, the movement is good for me, but most of all because it helps me be friends with my body. I think any one who has a chronic illness can appreciate that is the hardest, most spectacular thing to accomplish.