Coming off of a high fatigue moment last week this week I was finding strength both on my yoga mat and in the gym. On my mat my strength is not coming all from my body but actually some coming from my mind. I’m able to really let go and focus on being right where I need to be so that I can really deepen my yoga practice. For instance typically we find ourselves in Triangle and I’m breathing so deep, counting my breaths because I know after 5 breaths I’m coming out of the posture. Recently I have been able to relax and let my mind go so that I’m not tensing in the posture and wanting to come out so quickly. However, in my Yin yoga practice I can’t say that I am able to relax just yet. That practice is so deep and so much focus is needed to just stay calm while your body keeps saying over and over that this is not comfortable. It never hurts but it is not comfortable. The deeper the posture the more uncomfortable it gets.
The other day we practiced 1 armed, and 1 legged downward facing dogs into planks. It sounds incredible hard so when our instructor first started us towards that movement my brain actually went off and said, “what, is she crazy?” However, once you just concentrate on your breathing and you start in downward facing dog position, then lift one leg, and then lift the same arm as the leg that is raced. Your balance feels funny and you may even fall out so we she warns us ahead of time. Once you stabilize and have your arm and leg lifted you just stretch out into plank, hold for a breath and move back into down dog and repeat. She had us do 5 on one side and switch to 5 on the other side. I must admit that after accomplishing that I really did feel strong. My wrists may not have been very happy so I need to work on having strong palms and flat fingers when performing this exercise but I will get it very soon.
Another strength I noticed this week was my ability to meditate successful for a few minutes while on my mat at class. Granted we are taken through a guided meditation and the instructor did a great job of bringing us back when needed. I also tried 5 min of guided meditation at home and I honestly cannot find the same silence. I realize it takes practice and more importantly a commitment to practice so I need to find that commitment but right now I’m enjoying the silence and calm on my mat for even 5 minutes or so after class. Actually I don’t even know how long she guides us but I guess if I was counting down the minutes I wouldn’t be meditating. She joked and told me to try meditating during my golf outings. I use a tempo swing of 1, 2, 3 for my back swing with a fast 4 on my forward swing. She said I can use that as a type of mantra for meditating while I’m outside in the fresh air. I tried it at the driving range but the sweet curses that leave my lips after my horrible result threw my meditation all off kilter. More to practice I guess.
On Saturday last week I was faced with my high fatigue, on Sunday I had a golf lesson and my golf pro basically told me I needed to toughen up. On Monday I had a personal training session and I told my trainer do not take it easy on me that I need to toughen up. He looked at me and said we are going to have a heart to heart and in the conversation reminded me of everything I have accomplished and the heavy lifting I’m doing, and don’t forget the box jumps that had me terrified at the beginning that I now do with grace. These are all things of new found strength, but he also said I never take it easy on you and today is no different.
He loaded up a bar and I was lifting 85lbs. After my reps and sets the sweat was dripping off my arms, legs and face but I was lifting. He then put me through a serious of strikes, kicks, ball thrusts and a vigorous work out to remind me that I have strength and I’m finding new strength all the time. Life is an ever evolving sequence of good days and bad days so everything I can accomplish on my good days I do and I forgive my bad days. This practice has also come with time because my good days out weigh my bad significantly. Prior, I would have several bad days in a row and find myself in slumps, or frustrated but really what am I frustrated with? My body is doing great things and when it can’t it just means I have to wait for when it can and start again. We all start somewhere and we all start over sometimes.
picture from http://www.picturesof.net/pages/100802-143365-880053.html
Today I’m at 384 days without a flare but I certainly was teetering on the edge of a flare yesterday at day 383. I woke up early and I really didn’t feel like getting up and starting my day, so to do any form of exercise first thing did not feel appealing. I decided to stay in bed just a bit longer and got up to head out to my yoga class. My first yoga class was hard and I felt my body disagreeing with being there and stretching in triangles, warriors, and folds. Since I didn’t work out before yoga I decided to stay for class number 2 and and after my 3rd downward facing dog my wrists were in agony so when we were in plank and flowing into chaturanga I really regretted staying for another 90 minute class but I knew that my body was stronger than my mind was letting on and I finished the class with grace. We hit the floor in savasana and it only took a brief second for me to fall asleep right on the floor. I did wake up as soon as I heard the instructor’s voice again but I realized that I was facing a high level of fatigue.
I headed home and my husband could tell immediately that something was not quite right so I headed in and just laid down for what I thought was going to be a brief moment but instead it was an hour, and when I woke up I was feeling so much better. My body was not in agony but my mind was still pretty tired. I think I was dealing with a very high level of fatigue so I had to listen to that inner voice and just take it easy. I’m so glad I did because the rest of the day and today I am feeling much better and although I was teetering on the edge of a flare I do not think I went over to the other side and I didn’t end up in bed feeling very sick so I feel like listening, acknowledging and dealing with the facts of my body at any given time can really help me stay in the flare-up free zone.
Today was a day that started with a lot of exercise including strength training, cardio, and my new favorite find, golf. My husband and I have been really enjoying our trips out to the course and spending time together in the fresh air. Being able to laugh at ourselves has really helped keep the frustration at bay with this game they call golf.
I’m still flare-up free and loving life. I know the heat can be a trigger for some people with MCTD but for me I feel energized in the heat, my body feels great, and my mind feels opened to trying new things. Summer and heat bring new beginnings for me where as in the winter and cold months I feel more shut in and ready to hibernate. This summer has been full of trying new things and really incorporating yoga in to my daily life. There are evenings when I choose golf instead of yoga but for the most part I am trying to make sure I get some sort of yoga in at night which helps me relax, sleep better, and just feel better in general.
The vinyassa yoga flow has really benefited my upper body strength which Bikram did not do. I’m sure some people did get an increase in Bikram just because I would hear people say it was a full body program but for me my legs were strong but my upper body wasn’t as strong and didn’t get stronger during my Bikram practice. My weight training and now vinyassa flow as really increased my strength. I’m able to stay in downward facing dog and really believe it is my resting posture. I would hear people say that in the past and think there was no resting for me in that position but now I’m learning to enjoy being there and relaxing there as well.
The meditation part of yoga has been more difficult so when I’m at my yoga classes and in practices I use that time for meditation since I have been unable to dedicate any time at home to this practice. When I’m home, sitting quietly is very difficult unless I’m reading and then that is not meditating. It is a good practice to start but not one I have actually committed to. My commitment is to my vinyassa yoga practice which I believe is going very well. If only I looked graceful flowing into my chaturanga.
Today I have been 1 year without a flare and I have so many things running through my mind. I wonder where my next year will take me and I’m hoping I can continue this path of being flare-up free. I have been working so hard on my fitness and getting stronger and I wonder if that is the key for me. Could it also be that menopause has stopped the influx of hormones which in turn has quieted my MCTD? I have so many questions and not a lot of answers. My family wants to hear what I think is the reason behind being flare-up free and although I don’t know for sure I have a theory. Before MCTD I was not an active person by nature and thus didn’t exercise. When MCTD came into life the pain was so bad I couldn’t walk and my Rheumy just told me to start walking and use a pedometer to ensure I was getting 1500 steps a day which is not much but felt like too many back then. As time went on and I became more fit and exercise became a regular routine in my life I spend hours at the gym on the elliptical, in classes, walking outside whenever possible but not much weight training. I also didn’t understand how to fuel my body for exercise to that extent so I was burning major calories but not taking enough in and causing stress to my body. Literally I was causing a trifecta of inflammation to my body every day and ultimately would flare. My Rheumy wanted some weight training built into my routine each time I did weight training and while my muscles healed my body would flare so it didn’t take long for me to let the weight train slip by and stop altogether.
I did this for many years and would keep a journal of how many days I was flare-up free and kept waiting to reach 90 days. I used Bikram yoga for 9 years as a way to keep my body loose and enjoy the heat which my body loves but in truth that is a stressor as well and causes inflammation but I did finally reach 90 days without a flare and decided I need to figure out how to get more of those 90 day periods. I actually got to 180 days but then went into flare just by being too cold. Temperatures, my fragile immune system, and the added daily inflammation were too much for my body to endure so I flared. Once I flare it takes a long time to get back to a long period being flare-up free again so I struggled. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I embarked on the Paleo lifestyle and incorporated walking, Bikram yoga and weight training into my life while eating real food. I am not 100% Paleo today and although there are days I wish I were I’m too emotionally attached to food to be 100% so I live in a 70/30 realm and try to keep my diet as clean as possible. The weight training has really proven to be beneficial and I feel stronger than I ever have before. I started eating meat the same time Paleo came into my life and I think that combo of high fat protein, exercise and many more calories is again the trifecta I need to keep my body strong. I know I still have inflammation because my test results show it but I don’t feel it like I used to.
The last decade + MCTD has been my identity and write this blog because of my MCTD but now I don’t have much to say about it and I don’t see MCTD as an identity for me. I know I have it, but I don’t feel it and it doesn’t stop me from doing what I want.
I’m trying so many things and doing so much but keeping my core keys in tact which is eating enough. This is the most important thing I can do. In truth I have gained 10 pounds in the last 1.5 years as I have added the weight training, meat eating, and more calories into my life but according to my trainer I need this and perhaps one day I won’t care what the scale says or even have the urge to look at the scale but right now I look and sigh and then remember that I have gone a year without a flare. Sure I could get extreme with diet and exercise but to what end result? My fear would be a flare which I’m not willing to do.
I just keep doing what my trainer asks of me and find myself lifting heavier each week, feeling stronger each week and watching the passing days without flares increase. Now if only I felt so good about my golf game!!