Yoga for Chronic Fatigue: Child’s Pose

I’ve posted before about some of my favourite yoga poses, and after getting especially deep into my practice over the holidays I’d like to share more!

Child’s pose, or Warrior’s pose, is one of my favourite, most relaxing, and stimulating poses.

There are several variations on the pose, but my favourite is to put your feet together behind your buttocks in a seated position, spread your knees apart from each other, and lean forward keeping your arms engaged. This stretches your hips, quads, back and neck, and allows energy to flow throughout your body.

If you are feeling exhausted or sore through the holiday season, I would recommend this pose!

*pictures to come soon

Have you practices this pose before? What is another favourite of yours?

Does Location Affect Your Health

Does where you live affect your chances at living a long, healthy, and happy life? Scientists are beginning to see evidence that yes, it does.

There is an island in Greece where inhabitants are known to live well into their 90’s, and Eric Weiner’s Geography of Bliss explores the subject in an entertaining travel memoir.

What seem to be the key factors in health and happiness:

– Healthy and fresh diet
– Strong cultural identity
– Plenty of time spent with friends and family

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Waking up to this every morning wouldn’t hurt either.

Do you find your location affects your wellbeing? Have you ever just felt connected or well in a place you were only visiting? Would you consider moving to improve your health?

Graded Exercise Therapy (GET): What You Need to Know

Pro Health recently published this article , summarizing a new study on Graded Exercise Therapy (GET). They warn that patients treated with GET, a widely used therapy for ME/CFS and FM patients, could be more harmful than helpful. While I am glad to … Continue reading

The Waters of Japan

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This waterfall at the Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto, Japan is meant to give health and longevity to those who drink from its waters. However, those who are greedy and try to drink from all three streams will be cursed with bad luck and ill health. Luckily, the hoards of tourists and spiritual seekers who now crowd around the falls, make getting just one drink challenge enough. It’s been over a year since I’ve had a drink from one of the streams…so far, so good!

What health superstitions have you heard of? Would you give them a try?

Cold Warrior

“it’s going around” they say, “everyone is getting sick”.  I may try to ignore the signs, yet I can’t help but notice my voice is slowly turning into mere croaking, my sinuses are clogging up, and I’m cold. All the time.  It’s not uncommon to get a cold at this time of year; the seasons are changing, and the stress busting days of summer are too far behind us to lend any enthusiasm to working life. Yet all my fellow cold sufferers seem to be pushing through their days: a little grumpier, and often interrupting important conversations with a hacking cough- but overall seem not so badly affected.

How I looked when I woke up this morning

How I looked when I woke up this morning

On Fridays (TGIF, am I right?) I only work from home, yet even crawling into my bed with my laptop to respond to some emails seemed like an exhausting thing to do. Instead I opted to put on some new episodes of Breaking Bad (and by new I mean Season 2 because I am very behind- no spoilers please!) while stuffing my face with soup, fruit, crackers, and tea. By noon my cough was beginning to break and my nose was running heavily. I could feel success beginning to trickle in – I’ll be back to my normal self in a few days.

I know a cold isn’t supposed to be a big deal.  I know I’m meant to be able to go to work or school and take some cold medication or Advil if I need it to get through the day. But do I really want to just get through the day? I understand the necessity on certain occasions, but more often than not doesn’t it just turn into getting through the week…month…year- this event, or that course- until eventually, I’m just getting through my life. I know our jobs are meant to be these all important entities, holding dire consequences if a project gets finished a couple days late. Yet more often than not those dire consequences are just someone else being a little bit grumpy that it’s a day or two late.

What’s the worst that could happen? Can’t I just take a few days off. CFS has forced me to listen to my body, even when I felt like my body wasn’t listening to me. We somehow learned to have conversations, and eventually become friends and allies. If I am willing to nourish my symptoms of CFS, shouldn’t I be willing to do the same for any ailment- including a cold?

Photo Credit: colorblindPICASO via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: colorblindPICASO via Compfight cc

I’m sure I could just ‘get through’ this or that if I needed to. But wouldn’t I rather rest and be with myself- and my television and my books for a couple days, and then really give my best energy to my work. I’ll enjoy it more, my work will be of higher quality, I’ll be more excited to learn and move on to something new- and yet the message I’m often sent is taking those couple days is unacceptable- it makes you weak. Yet, when I hold those two images side by side in my mind; one taking cold syrup every few hours, and sitting at her computer with a pile of Kleenex and sleep deprived eyes, and the other, a well rested and energetic woman, a couple days behind on her work but facing it with enthusiasm and bright eyes- it’s no mystery to me which one is strong.

What about you? How do you deal with a cold on top of your CFS symptoms? Would you take the day off?

 

The Danger of Classifying CFS as a ‘Physical Illness’

Rantings of a psychology major

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you have a convincing enough cough, and put a warm cloth on your forehead before your mom comes in to wake you in the morning, that you get a sick day, and can stay home guilt free. We are conditioned from a young age to believe that the only ‘legitimate’ kind of illness- is one that you can see. This is not only true for illness, we live in a society where ‘seeing is believing’ (despite multiple studies that show our sight may not be as reliable as we think). This creates a dichotomy of thought (ie. Visible= real and invisible = unreal), that oversimplifies the physical world, and especially the human body.

“There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who believe there are two kinds of [illness] in the world and those who don’t.”
Robert Benchley, American Humorist (1888-1946)

We like to think that our mind is in our control. It is the essence of who we are, our thoughts and emotions live there, and it is the centre for intellectual growth and stimulation. Whereas, our bodies are outside of our control; we might get a cold, gain a few pounds, break a bone or grow a tumor- and it seems like luck. We can’t change the body we were born with- healthy eating or exercise may help, but the healthiest people still end up with lung cancer, there is not much we can do once a tumor starts to grow in our body. We want our bodies to be ‘fixed’ when they are malfunctioning, rather than figuring out why they malfunctioned in the first place. But when the mind malfunctions, this is something to be looked down upon rather than empathized with. However, as more research gets done on different kinds of illness, it is becoming clear that the effect of the mind on the body is greater than we imagined. People with certain personality types are more likely to get cancer or heart disease, others are more likely to be obese or anorexic. Certain patterns of thought lead to depression, or anxiety, whereas for other people those same thoughts may lead to extreme perfectionism or Obsessive Compulsive personality disorder.

We are all born with certain genetic predispositions. Some of those show up physically, and others show up psychologically. For example, many people in University would be classified as alcoholics based on the amount they drink on a social level. Yet, most people leave university able to moderate their drinking habits and live normally, whereas others become alcoholics. They didn’t act any differently than their peers, but their genetic disposition combined with their environment and their actions led to their disease.

So while heart disease may seem like a straightforward condition, things like stress levels, thought patterns, eating patterns, and genetic predispositions have all accumulated over the years to lead to the heart episode. It seems unfair, because the person with the heart disease may not have done anything differently than any of his peers, and yet based on things like gender or genetics, he was more likely to have a heart episode- and did. This is true of all illness, just replace heart episode with panic attack, or bedridden.

It is no surprise that people suffering from invisible and psychological illnesses spend so much effort hoping to be believed. Getting the support you need both from family and friends, and from society (ie. Time off work or school, sick pay, etc.) rests on being believed. And of course, how do we become believed? We need a visual- and that can be hard to come by. However, when we put too much effort in trying to find this physical proof, we undermine both other invisible illnesses, and the role that the mind can have on a person’

I worry, that people living with CFS are waiting around for a physical cause or symptom to be found, because on some level, helping ourselves by, for example, changing our thought patterns or lifestyles, admits defeat. If we are cured without a great medical discovery, it means we were just faking our coughs and putting hot cloths on our head all along, that it’s not okay to get better until we have been acknowledged as very seriously ill by the medical community.

Maybe this will happen someday- I don’t know. But until then, it may be wiser to become advocates for the seriousness of invisible illnesses, and of ‘mind-body’ illness rather than body searching for physical causes. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) we are not all built to do the same things. Just like we are not all 6’4 with size 14 feet – built to be an Olympic swimmer, we are not all built to live in big busy cities, with high stress,high jobs, and eating over processed foods. But, if we’ve failed as an Olympic swimmer does it mean we should sit on the side of the pool moping and watching the others go by? No, it means we should get back in the pool, but lose the competitive edge, and we should try a different sport.

How to get Through the Hard Days

Sometimes the fatigue or the pain slithers through your body unexpectedly. Through my practice in mindfulness, I have become better at knowing when a crash is about to happen, and often this allows me to take action (or inaction) to stop it. Yet I still feel some anxiety when I think back to the unpredictable nature that used to be characteristic of my symptoms. What can you do when you find yourself slipping into a dark place, or unexpectedly wake up to find yourself there? I have developed a few mechanisms that work well for me, it might be worthwhile to give some a try the next time you feel yourself glued to your bed:

  1. Yoga in Bed: I love to do yoga, but sometimes the thought of stumbling out of bed to get onto a thin mat and support myself is daunting. Thus I have developed my very own routine of doing yoga in bed. Poses range from child’s pose (where I drag myself onto my stomach, lean back on my heels, and rest my head on the bed), lying crows pose (lying on your back, and pulling one leg towards you while the ankle of the other rests just below your knee), and savasana or corpse pose (exactly as it sounds- blissful!). This both helps me meditate, and stops me from getting stiff and sore if I feel the need to stay in bed for a day.

    Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/82795201@N00/120772906/">BrittneyBush</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

    Do not try this in bed

  2. Cook a Fresh Meal: The thought of getting up to cook, when you feel like you’ve been beaten by a series of bludgers the day before may seem like an overwhelming task, but if you can enlist some help chopping and cleaning (or, in my best practice, just leaving the kitchen a mess when you are done) the effects of a hearty meal can be wonderful. Being exposed to the fresh spices, herbs, and ingredients stimulates all of your senses- helping you feel invigorated. Also, you can’t forget that your body is sick and needs nourishment, order-in or a microwave meal is not going to help you heal.
  3. Pamper Yourself: Treat yourself to a massage, manicure, or even a haircut. These treatments will help you to fully relax for an hour or so. I know it sounds superficial, but boosting your appearance often helps to boost your mood as well, making it easier to feel a little more energetic.

    Photo Credit: Sakurako Kitsa via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: Sakurako Kitsa via Compfight cc

  4. Do Something Creative: This is a tricky one, being creative can be draining of energy, and if you are deep in a brain fog, it may feel impossible to do anything that requires the slightest bit of mental prowess. However, doing something creative can actually help you through a brain fog. It doesn’t matter much what it is- I personally like to write, or take photographs, but it doesn’t even need to be something that is ‘artsy’. Trying out a new recipe (or creating one of your own), thinking of a new idea for your business, or thinking of a creative solution to a problem you’ve been having, all fall into this category.
  5. Rest: This does not mean lying in bed thinking about all the things you wish you would rather be doing instead. It means treating yourself how you would treat someone you love if they were sick. It means taking the time to really, deeply rest. You can achieve deep rest through meditation, or sleep, or lying quietly with no stimulation. My vice is reading, if I am in bed and awake I always want to have a book on hand. But we need to close our laptops, put away our books, turn off the TV and focus on letting our bodies get the rest that they need.

    Photo Credit: ~fb~ via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: ~fb~ via Compfight cc

Have you tried any of these? What are your ways for coping with bad days?