Exercising with Fibro

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My making a bridge with my body, during Yoga with Adriene. I don’t know why it doesn’t look the same…lol

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.

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Supplies: a yoga mat from Walgreens, a pillow, and my Wonder Woman blanket sister gave me, an epic reminder of strong women.

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.

Wrapping Revelry

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I love wrapping presents. Most of the people in my life don’t understand, and consider this task a rather fruitless or joyless task. My mom only does enough wrapping to disguise the gift and she even finds this tedious. My friends sourly say things like, “Oh, I’ve got to wrap presents tonight.” You can hear the trumpet blowing in the background sadly Wahhhh wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I can’t wait to wrap my little parcels. As soon as I get the first purchase home, I clean off the table, turn on the Christmas music and arrange all my wrapping supplies. It is one of my favorite things to do all year. I used to have a plastic tub filled with wrapping paper, bows, tape, and scissors. I had to get rid of it in my new apartment and I miss it. However, I still buy enough for the current year and take my time making each package look pretty.

I love wrapping for many reasons. Some are selfish. I love looking at the shiny wrapped packages hanging around our house, like tiny promises of momentary joy. The colors reflected in tiny lights or flickering candlelight. It’s kind of like marketing for a movie. Those packages are a small preview of the shiny faces to come.

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I love wrapping because I feel a release in the process. For moments of time I am thinking of the person who I bought the gift. Do they like this color? Does this paper remind me of them? Santa Claus paper is always reserved for Mom. Blues are reserved for my sister. I try to have funny little cute images on my nephew paper. I even have slightly staid manly-ish paper for the men in my life. While wrapping I think about the person, memories and likes and dislikes and try to imagine how they will feel about the gift or the wrapping. For whole moments, I am outside of my mind and anything that stresses me. I am joyful with anticipation. It’s like a meditation. I picture the joy on their faces for just a little bit, hoping it takes them out of their worries for just a minute.

That’s the other thing I love. It is a beauty that will last only a little while. So much of artifice and art is meant to last a long time. Wrapping is meant to be torn apart. ­­­­­I love the idea of someone thinking Look how pretty that is and then ripping it to shreds. I love watching people tearing apart wrapping paper. That is so fun! I feel like small pleasures here and there are all we can really guarantee in life. To be lost in a little bit of time here or there. To be lost in something beautiful for a minute like the look on my sister’s face when she opens something surprising or lovely.

No one can count on the big stuff. Big moments don’t last very long and then you’re only reaching for the next one after that. We live in the small moments: Brad kissing me unexpectedly or tearing up when I am happy, my Grandma gushing when she is proud of me, my sister texting me to call her out of the blue, Mom confiding in me, or Caleb telling Grandma how he took lead on his school project.

I soak up all this happiness and marinate in it. If I don’t collect them. If I don’t pay honor to them, if I don’t hold these moments almost sacred, then they fly by without notice. I only remember the pain. Because sadly, pain is memorable on its own without me adding my notice. Like my little offerings to my family, I think God or life offers us small presents in moments of love or beauty and the key to true happiness is to hold them in your mind dearly and most precious.

Are there any small rituals surrounding this holiday time that you adore as much as I do wrapping?

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The next morning the candlelight flickers off the wrapping paper to illuminate my yoga mat!

My Ego Hates the Bow Pose

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I can finally do this pose for twenty seconds on one foot. 

I have been reading a lot about yoga because I don’t have a gym or a studio I go to. I am learning on my own. I research every pose before trying it. In my reading, I’ve come across countless articles about ego and how ego can lead to injury. I am not going to assume that people injure themselves because of ego.  I could injure myself because of concentration issues and definitely my horrible balance. I have to admit feeling as if someone would need a small amount of ego to try some of the poses, like a handstand. A handstand could be significantly dangerous if done wrong. I have yet to attempt one because I’ve only worked up to thirty seconds on my planks. I am shaking still at second twenty five. I think I need to be able to do the plank for a lot longer if I am ever to do a handstand. I am working on buffing up my arms because I have trouble with pickle jars. I mean I love pickles, but it’s more about the functionality of having arms that can lift, move, and open things. Being able to do a handstand would be just a fun by product of that.  I think it might be years before I try a handstand. I am not putting myself down or pushing my dreams down.  I just have to know my limitations.

Why is so much literature out there about how not to get hurt with yoga and how to put your ego aside? Is that because we so often want to share our practice with others? I do find myself bragging when I have mastered a new pose. Sometimes it is a little ridiculous because I can only do the very basic moves. It’s like a sixteen year old bragging about being able to tie their shoes. I’m like, look at me I can do a twenty second plank! My ESL class was counting me down while I was showing off. All of them shouting 1, 2, 3 etc., when they said twenty I got off the floor to shouts of jubilation!

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I know it looks like I’m bent but it’s just my butt.

I don’t think it is bad to revel in the accomplishments but I think it’s important for my practice that I sort of marinate in the process of getting there. The vernacular is being mindful but I don’t think that is even appropriate. It’s more like savor. While working into the poses I don’t just want to be mindful of where my body is placed or how my muscles feel. I want to love how they feel. I want to enjoy it so much I feel the need to slow down and honor the way my body feels.

I’ve been desperate to open my hips up because of they are in pain. I do a lot of poses that stretch my pelvis and open my hips. In addition to Bound Angle Pose, Hand to Big Toe Pose, Reclining Bound Angle pose, countless upward dogs and many more hip openers, I heard that downward facing dog with stacked hips is one of the best hip openers. So I watched a video how to do it. After the video I went to my mat and started my practice. About seven poses in I usually do downward dog, but this time I lifted one of my legs held it there for ten seconds and then flexed my foot and bent my leg. I did exactly what the video told me to do. Boy did that feel good… at first. I was really enjoying it so I tried to deepen the stretch and then felt a ping of pain. It wasn’t a major pain. It was just a twinge that I knew could have turned into a major injury if the twinge hadn’t shocked me into stopping. As it was, my right hip was sore for about two hours. I was lucky. After researching the pose more thoroughly, I realized that I didn’t square my hips right. Was it my ego that convinced me to try a pose I hadn’t properly researched or desperation or both?

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Close but not bow pose
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It felt closer than it looks

Is it ego that lets me try yoga at all? I am a plus size person who has no previous exercise experience. What business do I have trying something that seemingly only thin impossibly beautiful people can do? At least that is what I used to believe before all those wonderful plus size women blew up Instagram like Dianne Bondy, Jessamyn Stanley, and Dana Falsetti. So I think there is a little ego involved in doing yoga at all, on many layers.

There is a challenge to starting any exercise and then continuing it after failing at exercise over and over. In yoga I have failed a lot. Not only is my downward facing dog with stacked hips a failure the first time, but I can’t do a bow pose to save my life. I can’t reach both feet behind my back at once. (I can’t do many poses. Bow Pose is just the one I am working on now.) The only way I can continue with my practice after failing so much is not to look at it as failure. I have to look at it as progress. Just getting on the mat and getting closer is a big deal.

I used to quit exercise at the first sign of failure but now I inch towards things I never thought I could do. Savoring where I am now is what makes me able push through the doubt, but also temper my enthusiasm. Research and living in the pose, not just keeping my mind on it, but thoroughly enjoying the pose is the only way I am going to avoid a downward dog debacle again. It’s the difference between stretching, like To The Oldies, and yoga. This “mindfulness” should be inherent in the process, right? Maybe instead of my Ego getting the better of myself, I just lost sight of that. I will remind myself every time I get on my mat, that if I am taking the time to do this, then I better really appreciate it.

Questions about the Yoga Community

 

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My first prototype outfit: jeans. It worked until my workouts got more difficult.

I just finished my fourth day of “Thirty days of Yoga with Adriene” and I am finding that I love it. Husband and I are amazed at what are bodies are able to accomplish after only four days of practice. We still have problems though because we didn’t understand two of the shoulder stretches and we continue to have wardrobe malfunctions. It is okay because we are at home so there is no embarrassment but it is quite annoying.

First off, my husband’s pants kept falling down. It is so cute to me his pale cheeks glowing in the darkness of my living room, if not distracting. It annoyed him to no end. He just let it stay down but our apartment is pretty cold. After the work out I was teasing him because he had a striped pattern on his buttocks from the yoga mat. I however didn’t apparently have the concentration to keep from pulling up my pants which would fall down every time I did downward dog. It wouldn’t uncover my butt, it was my tummy. My pants would go down leaving my large white belly swinging in the breeze. Not only that, but my boobs were almost suffocating me because the bra I was wearing wasn’t very good. So I kept having to maneuver them this way and that in between poses. Downward dog, which we kept coming back to, wasn’t as enjoyable as usual. I was trying out an outfit that I thought might work on the outside.

See I usually do my yoga in pajamas. I can’t do yoga on the pier in my pajamas. Even if I could it wouldn’t be that comfortable since they do yoga on the pier in the summer and all my pajamas are fairly warm. (Husband is pretty insistent on keeping the apartment artic cold.) Going to do yoga at the pier is one of the things I have promised myself as a reward for trying more difficult poses and longer yoga work outs. I would love to meet other people who love yoga as much as I do because my family and friends are sick of me talking about it. I would love to be around other people who can tell me if I am doing things right, and HELLO it is doing yoga on the pier. I mean I love the water, and I love yoga. It seems like the nexus of joy.

I don’t think I’ll get to do it this year because I have nothing to wear, and finding something in my price range, in my size seems near impossible.

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Khaki capris? Now I do it in my bra and hubbies underwear but not going to show you that…lol

I have been able to really embrace yoga as an exercise, but nothing more than that.  I’ve been adding yoga feeds to my Facebook and Instagram. Yoga magazines and Yogis are almost consistently positive and usually educate me on being a better human. I enjoy that because I am always striving to be calmer, and more helpful to other humans. Also it is extremely dark on social media, and a dark time for all this year. I need inspiration just to keep from sitting around depressed. What I didn’t count on were the countless articles and ads that show me clothing I can’t have. Continue reading “Questions about the Yoga Community”

What a Miracle is my Body

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This is me after a seven block walk. I sweat profusely.

So much of my life is built around distracting from my endometriosis pain right now. I watch TV or listen to music while reading. If I engage my mind enough then I can ignore the pain. It is only partially successful.

I realized, as I walked to the library, that distraction is how I’ve always gotten through exercise. I don’t like to sweat. It is uncomfortable, although I am working on that distaste. Exercise has always caused pain in my ankles and I’ve never been good at it. Today, I walked in the heat as fast as I could manage to the beat of my Lady Gaga Pandora channel. I used the beat of Pitbull’s Shake Senora to move faster and faster. By the time I made it to the library I was dripping with sweat and my pants were sticking to me. If there were such a thing as tiny men, they could have slid down my cleavage like a slip and slide.

This is in total contrast to my yoga experience. Every move in yoga has to be thoughtfully carried out. For one, my balance, as it stands, is horrible. Some of the poses require me to be on one foot or one knee. I have trouble with standing on two feet or balancing on both knees. I am learning and practicing over and over, but seriously have to concentrate. I have to feel every part of my body and muscles I didn’t know existed. Normally when exercising, I would try to ignore pain in my muscles or work through it, using the adage “no pain, no gain” or more likely I’d give up. With Yoga, if there is pain—I am doing something wrong. Not only do I have to concentrate on my muscles, hand and foot placement, and balance, but then there is the breathing. Yoga just isn’t the same without the breathing. The deep breathing brings in a sense of calm that I have never experienced with other exercise.

It amazes me the contrast. I love the difference. I believe that is why I love yoga. I love how I can totally immerse myself in the activity. I breathe in and out slowly and deeply. I free my mind of anything that doesn’t have to do with the pose at hand. When it is really good and I have focused enough towards the end of the practice I am more aware of what my body is doing than I have ever been.  By focusing intensely on what I am doing and making sure it feels good.  There is gain with no pain. Don’t get me wrong I feel strain on my muscles but I don’t feel pain.

I have always ignored my body because I have been told no pain no gain.  I wasn’t very good at sports because of my bad ankles, and I was never the type of body I wanted. I got told repeatedly by society, my family, and even “friends” I was the wrong body type. When I repeatedly fail at something, I tend to forget about trying it again. I have hated my body because of what it could not do. It could not be good at aerobics, softball, or volleyball. Even worse, It could not be skinny. Don’t get me wrong, it was thin at one time, just not the thin that was popular in my youth. It was curvy thin. I hated it. I wanted to be the woman who could wear pleated pants and poufy shirts a’ la Different World. I wanted to be Lisa Bonet.

I surely didn’t want to be me, with my curves and very strong muscled legs. I wanted to be like a reed in the wind. Then I became known for my curves and then abused because of them, and then I wanted to be a bulldozer, not a human.  So more and more I retreated into this body, and wore it like a coat, a covering for my soul but not something that affected my soul.  IF I could distance myself from my body then I would not be responsible for it or how it made other people think about me. I thought I’d focus on what I was good at, reading.

Recently, I have distanced myself so far from my body because it seemed mean to me: the pain my body brings me, the interruption to my day, and pushback of my goals. My body has been a bitch for quite a long time. (While some of that has been caused by me ignoring her, most of it hasn’t. Endometriosis can’t be exercised away. It can only be burned away or excised by a doctor). Trust me it wasn’t hard to get mad at my body.

Yoga has helped me to forgive her. Yoga has helped me see that this body people made fun of, that wasn’t good at sports, had weak ankles and poor balance – even she could be loved. At first yoga was another distraction from the pain but as I got into it, and as I started awakening the understanding of my bodies minutiae it started easing the pain. I started to realize that just like any love I had to actively participate in the caring for the object of my affection in order for it to thrive. Those balance issues are still there, but it works my ankles and they are getting stronger. I am so aware of my body, I can tell when I am going to start sweating. I feel the heat from within and I welcome it. For the first time in my life I welcome the sweat. What’s more is that the first time I did it, I was really bad at it, but the more I practiced –miraculously- I got better. For the first time in my life I got better at exercise. Each pose takes time to master, but when success comes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my body.

It is only recently through yoga and my families help have I been able to figure out a way to celebrate what my body is capable of. I am super stretchy, more than the average bear. My body likes yoga, it craves it. I am a good swimmer. I am a good dancer, with a natural rhythm. My legs are super strong. I ride bicycles with ease. I am double jointed in my fingers, I do a mean downward dog, and I am working my way up to hour long yoga sessions. I am resilient. I fail at these poses but keep trying.  I am able to heal pretty easily if I take care of my body. I am finally able to see what a miracle is my body.

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Oh, and I can give good cuddles. Look at him smile. That’s some good cuddling.

 

 

I have some good news.

These are my non-skinny jeans.
These are my non-skinny jeans.
  1. Things are going slow but they are going in the right direction. I bought a size down in pants about six months ago and they were tight but now I am able to wear them loose. Brad and I accidently left our scale in Boise so I haven’t been able to weigh myself, but this tells me I am losing inches. Also, I went down two inches in my bra size which reaffirms that. I practically skipped out of Lane Bryant after finding that out!
  2. I am walking up to two miles without having to do nothing the next day.
  3. I bought boots!!! I finally got my calves small enough to buy a two pair of knee high boots! This has been a lifelong goal. I know it sounds shallow to have a goal for a pair of boots, but I have always had large calves. Even when I was in the single digit sizes my calves were abnormally huge. I am built like a tree and I have shied away from shorts, boots, or ankle bracelets. Moving to Philly was like the last straw. I have been living in Boise, Idaho and, while some people wear boots there, sneakers, Tevas, and Birkenstocks are common place. It is a land of exclusiveness and mountain people. Here I have only run into one person on the street wearing tennis shoes. It only intensified my need for boots. I felt like the only one who didn’t have them. So I finally had the guts to measure my calves and they finally allowed me to order boots from Torrid! Thank you Torrid!
  4. With that ballsy move, I also order a pair of “skinny” jeans. I confessed to my long time best friend Brandi, who is also plus size, how nervous I was to try them on. I didn’t want to look like humpty dumpty. She didn’t know if they would look good. She too had never bought any because she figured they would look bad on her. So we both thought skinny jeans were only for skinny people. If you look me in my regular boot cut and my new skinny jeans I think that I look just as good in them. I would go even further to say that I look slimmer in the skinny jeans.
  5. I am getting back into my yoga practice which is good for my muscles. I have been having headaches and when I wake up my right arm has been going numb when I wake up. These things I am hoping to fix these problems with the yoga practice. I am just proud to keep it up, even though I am not feeling so well.
Me, in my skinny jeans.
Me, in my skinny jeans.

Because I met some of these goals I have to set new ones now.

  1. Get down to the next size at Lane Bryant and Torrid.
  2. Cook at least all our weeknight meals. Brad and I have been eating out too much due to the excitement of being in a new city with new tastes.
  3. Double my yoga practice, right now I am only doing it about twice a week. Slow and steady is the way I am choosing to go.
  4. Get up to three miles of walking.
  5. Eat more consistently during the day, with protein and carbohydrates. I have had a couple of close calls with low blood sugar, which means I need to be testing more.

Reaching a few of my short term goals has made me feel more confident. When I think about losing inches in my bra size I get giddy with pride. Things don’t work that way normally for me. This is the first time I have ever lost a size. I hope this sense of accomplishment will push me forward into more accomplishments and more weight loss.

Getting back to Zen

I have a new life and need a new way of living it. I know I need a new tactic on how to approach life. I need to learn what I can handle and what I can’t, and what life is going to be like for me now. I expected life to be different since I have no job, and I am focusing on my health and my writing, but I didn’t have any idea what that would mean. I used to sit at my job and day dream about the time when my husband would be working and give me this opportunity. I thought of the recipes I’d make. I thought about the yoga I would do, and the time I would spend writing and editing my book. I didn’t think about the unpacking, laundry, or the finding my way around a new city. These have been the challenges. While I have powered through obstacles, I have also been a bit whiny about it.

This week I fulfilled one of those day dreams.  I painted a secretary desk white that I had bought on Craigslist. I only had one day to finish it, because my apartment is small and I had furniture coming the next day. I painted two coats and a coat of wax all in the eight hours my husband worked. Two things made this possible, the chalk paint, which dries very quickly, and I think I get into a trance some times. I focused and didn’t stop until a little after Brad got home. It was a beautiful piece of furniture when I got done, but the minute I put down the waxing cloth, I knew I had made a mistake. My back was instantly on fire. I had to lie on the floor until bed time and then had trouble falling asleep because of the pain. The next morning it felt better but my shoulder wouldn’t move and it was asleep. My husband massaged my shoulder but when the feeling came back, the feeling was of serious pain. The entire day I was on pain pills. It still hurt on the pain pills but at least I cared less. I was useless about two or three days. I am just now coming out of it.

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This is what it looked like before I painted it.

I have realized that a lot of my problem stems from not pacing myself.  I have read about being mindful before. I need to induce that awareness now. I need to realize everyday what my body can’t go through and what it can’t. I also need to figure it out before it is too late and I am relegated to the couch for three days. On those days I feel like the worst wife in the world. I know my husband doesn’t think so but I know there are other people who can relate to this. I have to pull my own weight in this relationship or I feel useless and feeble. I need to realize that my body won’t do the things I want it to yet. I can walk two to three miles but not seven. I can do one coat a day but not two and a waxing. It isn’t that I can’t do it really, it is I shouldn’t. I need to pay attention to when my body is wearing down. I have always been taught to push through the pain. No pain no gain, right? I don’t think that is always the truth. I think there is only so much I can do in one day in order to be able to do stuff the next day.

I am new to all this physical activity. I have to be able to walk before I can run, pun intended. I want to one day be someone who can walk seven or eight miles without having to take the day off the next day. I am again day dreaming. Day dreaming leads to accomplishing. I know that is true because I have lived it. I day dreamed of a day when my husband had a good job in an exciting city and I had time to write.  We got here, and now we are going to get better. We can only get better. With patience and pacing, I am going to slowly work my way into physical fitness and domestic bliss.

The after
The after

In an effort to listen to my body more, I am getting back into my yoga practice. I am meditating and trying to listen to my breath and how it feels in my body. Not only will this help me to listen to my body but it will also help me slow down and pace myself. Perhaps it will help me eat in moderation. Any other suggestions on how I can pay better attention to how my body feels and what it can take I would appreciate.