Category Archives: Yoga

WELCOME SUMMER

Today I woke up and felt a rush of energy as I realized it was the first day of summer. This is the longest day of the year and I have only been waiting for 9 months for this day to come.  I do love autumn as well so maybe 6 months is more like it but either way it is here.  My body enjoys the heat and humidity and I often tell people that my 3 favorite H’s are hazy, hot and humid.  Most people don’t believe me when I tell them but the reality is that our bodies and lungs like a little moisture in the air and my body in particular craves this weather and needs this warmth.  I can start to back off my Raynaud’s medications in the summer as my body is able to have more warmth and I spend more time outside getting vitamin D, as well as I just spend more time in the fresh air living life.

I rode in the Tour de Cure on June 11th and although it was 92 degrees I was ready to ride.  Tour de Cure is a ride for diabetes and even though I do not have diabetes, Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease.  My thought is that any research done towards autoimmune disease is a win for the whole autoimmune community. The heavy hitters are Diabetes, Crones, Celiac, and MS.  As they come up with new equipment, medication and science based research for these autoimmune diseases they are likely to come up with some for other diseases.  I don’t know how much if any time, research, money and attention is given to MCTD but benefits are reaped when they can figure out what causes this disease.

Back to the ride, yes it was 92 degrees but we were riding along the ocean and the breeze was amazing.  I rode the 50K and at the end of this 50K I was ready to climb off that bike.  How does a body dealing with MCTD hold up under those circumstances? Let me start by saying I wear full biking gloves with a lot of padding in my palms.  I try to really relax my breathing and my mind before the ride although I did feel a little anxious at the start.  700 riders all take off together and for the first part I’m navigating other riders and drivers, but at the 7mile mark there is a rest stop and I keep going while everyone stops for a rest. This allows me time on the road with nature, quiet and myself to find my rhythm.  I’m not strong rider so the stronger ones leave the rest stop and catch up to me and maybe even pass depending on how strong they are, but I keep my pace.  I try and shake out my hands as often as I can and keep breathing steady.  At mile marker 26 my feet were completely dead, couldn’t feel them at all and needed to give them a break so on the next down hill I lifted off the seat and sat back behind the seat right in myhips and glutes, this allowed me lift my feet off my sneaker and give my toe pad a rest.  After that I was ready to go again, but my hands have almost no feeling left shifting gears becomes a challenge.  At the mile 32.3 or 50K there is a steep uphill to finish and I dropped my chain shifting to hard on the gears but I completely lost all working function of my hands.  I had crossed the fnish line and my chipped registered I was back from the ride and my husband came right down, helped me off my bike and walked it for me.  I had finished the ride with pride and was eager to eat a huge lunch.  A ride like that takes me 2 hours and 20minutes or an average of 14mph.  No records, but it is a ride not a race and I do it because I can.

There may come a time in my life when I am not able to do what I want when I want and if it comes I will deal with but right now even though I haven’t been feeling all that good since March I’m still able to dig deep and do what I need, what I want and do it when I want.  I did a lot of yoga after to stretch out and felt great the next day.  It did however take me 5 full days to get back on the bike but for those 5 days I was doing what I love which is walking and yoga.  I literally could and do walk every day and do my yoga when I can and still teach.  I would say all in all I’m doing well and waiting to see what this summer brings for fun, joy, and even good challenges.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

I woke up this morning and realized I’m at 225 days without a flare so this is a great start to the new year. We don’t have to wait until New Year’s Day to make changes in our lives or set goals but it seems easier to do so when it seems the slate has been cleaned and the new year ahead is full of opportunities. I started my day by teaching a yoga class and I started by saying I think we should ease into the new year and what I heard back was no bring it. Most people are tired New Year’s Day, most people haven’t been sleeping enough, eating out of the ordinary, drinking more than they normally would and we should probably all let our bodies rest but instead we wake up on the first day of the new year and want to be challenged. Whether in a spin class, a new facebook challenge, or even a yoga class. We want that push to get us started in the new year right. We all look for this, but what is the drive? I don’t have the answer to this question as I’m still trying to figure out what drives me to do all I do, and try all the things I try. The people around me wonder where my energy comes from, where my drive comes from and what my boundary is. The only thing I know for certain is that I do as much as I can on days that I feel good because it isn’t every day that my body is running at 85% and never at 100% these days, but I do what I do because I can. If you have been with me since the beginning there was a time when I couldn’t walk and with therapy walking 2000 steps a day was a chore and took all day, now I hit 10,000 steps usually by noon, because my legs work, because my body functions. I do hours of yoga because I have the strength in my arms, elbows and wrists. I do what I do because I have worked to get here and part of me is afraid it could be taken away at any moment. I live in the now as best as I can, but there is a lingering fear that my body could and probably will some day long from now not do what it does today. I believe I will always be able to walk and I will always be able to do yoga. That is where I put my focus, but I’m crazy about spinning. I’m crazy about trying new things, and I’m crazy about succeeding.

I don’t know what this New Year will bring, but I am open to all the events that come my way. I know I will not like everything that I’m faced with this year, but I will face anything with calm, peace and grace. I will continue to encourage all of my yoga students to do the same and challenge them as they need and let them rest when they must without judgment. Happy New Year to you all and hope your year brings you health, happiness, and peace and may this year bring you everything you need.

HEALTHY BODY, HEALTHY MIND, HAPPY HOLIDAYS

I haven’t written in a while but have not had a lot to write about. This is a good thing actually because it means that things in my life are relativity in balance. The point of this blog is to tell my story about MCTD but that story is very much the same day after day. I’m at 217 days without a flare which is wonderful and I’m very grateful that my body is feeling good. I am still working out every single day whether it means walking, spinning, or weight training. My yoga practice is a daily adventure whether it is my own practice, preparing for yoga classes, or teaching. My body is strong and most days I feel like my mind is strong. However, this time of year the days are short and it is dark when I go to work and it is dark when I get home. This time of year can be stressful for some people and even bring on depression. We are rushing from place to place, trying to prepare for events, eating and drinking more than we might normally, sleeping less than our bodies need and feeling the stress throughout our bodies and minds. Many people are rushing around so much that their immune systems wear out and illness takes over. I live with MCTD therefore I have a “super-immune system” I don’t worry about the common cold or flu. I don’t worry about picking up germs from the places I go. I enter a gym atmosphere nearly every day, which other than an airport might be one of the germiest places on earth. What I worry about is running my body too hard and putting myself into flare.

This time of year we must make choices, and they won’t all be easy. I thought I would write about some of the things I do in order to stay flare-up free during the holidays and winter months. I am not saying I don’t or won’t flare during the holidays or winter months but I try to keep things quiet in order to stay flare-up free for as long as possible. In Maine our winter started several weeks ago and will take us into April. It is long, it is cold, it is hard to endure sometimes. The way I get through this time is simply one day at a day time. Each day when I wake I take inventory of how I am feeling and then decide what my body needs. I will do something every day even on days I wake up a with some fatigue. I can always walk, as long as my legs will move, I can walk. I find some days it is actually easier to walk than to do yoga. Even if I choose restorative yoga because my body doesn’t always want to bend and move in certain postures.

This time of year we are invited to many events as most of you are, until I was diagnosed with MCTD I rarely said no to things even when I should have. For the last 13 years I say yes to the things that most important to me and my husband. Our families will always be high on the list and if I can help it we do not turn down family events. I also choose 1 evening event a week, this way I’m not out late 2 nights a week. We may do something Friday night and something Sunday during the day but not two late nights. This ensures that my body receives the adequate rest and sleep that it needs. I’m not hyper vigilante about what I eat this time of year except that I make stuff I really want. On Dec 26th that is when I go back to being hyper vigilante with my eating and drinking and let my body fully recover. By New Year’s I am not looking to go out or make resolutions I’m looking to start my new year fresh, clean and re-offer my body everything it needs. Think of it as a back to body basics cleanse.

I meditate a lot this time year. I take minutes in the morning to reflect on the day ahead and things I might have done differently yesterday. Not with anger, or regret, but as ways to learn and do better today. I take minutes to watch my thoughts, make my thoughts cleaner, and notice days when I really don’t have a lot of thoughts. I take this time for me, the time in my life that truly belongs to me, not my family, not my work, not my yoga, not my trainer, not my spin instructor, truly just me, only me. Minutes, not several minutes or an hour, minutes in my day.

This holiday season is going to look different to each and every person, but my goal in this holiday season is to capture the joy, love, peace and calm that it brings. Happy Holidays to all.

WINTER IS AROUND THE CORNER

With winter around the corner my body is starting to feel it and react to it.  What happens with my body in the winter months?  My Raynaud’s is in full gear which makes it hard to feel my fingers and toes, as well my hands are more swollen in the winter months which means I have trouble making a fist or able to grip objects.  In my weight training class I noticed that my grip was not strong enough to hold my regular weights.  This means I need to weight down, or use a less weight and do more reps.  I recommend anyone else that lifts weights and have these issues make sure you are talking to your trainer about what happens to your own body when winter is near.  I also suggest being very kind with your words and not being too judgmental with yourself.  It is perfectly fine to use a lesser weight at any time that your body is not feeling a 100%.    At my weight training session I tried using my regular weight but quickly realized that was not a great idea so I was honest with my trainer and said that my grip and muscles just couldn’t do it.   What I did in the weight training room last time is not indicative of what I have to do each time.  I must listen to my body and do what is appropriate at that moment for that day.

This is the same thing I teach in my yoga classes that each time a student walks into the yoga studio it is a new day and working with what you have on that day is the most important thing.  Again, without judgment and without stress.  It is much harder to use this philosophy with myself and so much easier to offer this compassion to others, but the truth is if I’m not honest about my capabilities I could really end up hurting myself  and not being able to lift weights at all for several weeks.  I need the weight training to keep my body strong.  My body loses muscle mass quickly with the MCTD and age so weight training regularly is a must.  I do use straps as well to help me grip heavier weights but also do not find shame in powering down and turning my weight training session into a success.

I do find that my body might not be as sore the next day with less weight and more reps but I do know that it is still working and keeping my body strong through the winter months.  There will be times this winter when my body will feel great and my hands will be ok to lift heavier weight and on those days I will take full advantage, and on days when my grip just isn’t there or my joints don’t feel up to it then I will modify and luckily I have a trainer that understands and makes the modifications easy and doable for my sessions. Only 6 months and ticking down to when the weather turns warm again and my body feels better on a regular basis.  This time of year is also when I need to be very diligent about my eating and sleeping to ensure that I’m allowing my body to have every fighting chance.

157 Days without a Flare

I’m please to write that I’m not 157 days without a flare.  Although I haven’t had a flare my body and mind are very tired.  The seasons are changing and I feel it in my body and my bones.  My Raynaud’s is more prominent so I have to keep my hands covered and warm as much as possible and the cold is sitting my hips and knees.  It is interesting how weather and seasons can have an effect on our bodies and even my mind to some effect.  As we move into winter I feel as though I go into protection mode, making sure I’m doing all I can to stay well, stay far from illness, try to get more sleep and rest and my exercise moves inside.

I’m still doing my yoga teaching and practicing on my own but as we move into the winter I really yearn for that hot yoga experience which I’m not involved in due to time really.  I teach in a regular studio and practice in my home so my goal is to find one time a week to enter a hot yoga studio and do some personal practicing.  I’m looking for that quiet time on my mat where my practice can be my own instead of my own practice be preparation for my classes.  There is a fine line between teaching and practicing and how to separate the two.  I think that is why many people love yoga and would make great teachers but choose not too because you lose a bit of your own quiet, time on the mat and moving to how your body moves vs how you think your students will move.

I took a trauma sensitive training course this past weekend for my yoga instructing and it was both inspiring and overwhelming.  Many people turn to yoga to help them through their trauma.  Many people experience trauma in different ways and handle it differently.  The training was around severe trauma but as you listen to stories and you reflect on your own life so many people are plagued by trauma.  Losing loved ones, living with illness, your own or someone else’s, abuse, addiction, war, pain, suffering.  There are so many aspects to trauma and what people go through.  As I’m listening to stories and reflecting on my own life, I feel gratitude, so much gratitude because I’m not living with trauma.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt loss or pain, it doesn’t mean I’m not dealing with health issues, but it means that I feel like every morning I wake up I’m in a state of secure, love, health, happiness and contentment and feel grateful for this place.

I turned to yoga as an outlet to bring me better health and what I find is that it isn’t just my own yoga that brings me better health but sharing yoga with others brings me better health. I learn from the people I’m around. I take a little of their energy with me. I give little of my own energy to them.  We are in a community of sharing, caring, healing and giving.  As I move into winter and my body might flare I know I have the tools to recover quickly so although I’m thrilled about 157 days without a flare, I don’t fear the next flare.

LISTENING TO MY BODY

My body was giving me all kinds of signs to slow down and rest, but dealing with life stuff was making it hard to take the time needed to actually listen and do something.  This past weekend I didn’t flare but my body was very stiff and my hands were so sore and swollen that when my husband asked if we could go golfing on Saturday, I literally couldn’t hold my golf club.  I walked beside him in the sunshine and fresh air stretching out my sore hips and knees but a golf course on Saturday doesn’t lead to power walking, more a stroll around the course hitting the ball and waiting for the team up ahead.  I actually enjoy walking golf courses more than I enjoy playing golf courses.  If only early mornings they would allow people to walk them for exercise, that would be great.

The following day we decided to go hiking which is a great way to be outside and together and I didn’t need my hands at all.  Some hikes require walking poles but this one was just a leisurely walk in the woods and very relaxing.  After a weekend of just taking it easy, no moving boxes or stressing about what happens next my body was able to find that calm zone again.  I do feel that there might be a flare right around the corner so this is where I really have to listen, take notice and try to be as kind to myself as possible.

I’m teaching a lot of yoga classes the next few months but that doesn’t mean I have to do all the classes and my plan is to just use verbal cues for half the classes each week and then practice the other half.  I’m in a studio where it is preferred that we do the poses with our students, but each studio, each principal, each instructor is very different and some teacher trainings prefer to not have their instructors practice.  Although some students feel it puts the instructor at a power level and there is no power struggles in yoga, at least not for me.

I will explain to the practitioners before each class if I’m not practicing and why as to make sure that there are no triggers for anyone. Yoga is very personal and people come to their mats and our studio for all kinds of reasons.  As an instructor my soul purpose is to guide them and allow them a place to explore their own space.  I’m brought to my mat each day for different reasons as well and every time I climb on my mat I am deciding if I’m restoring, powering or finding a balance between the two. My favorite class that I’m teaching right now is restorative yoga and although many people come to their mats to sweat, work and release stress, sometimes people need to be reminded that rest and restoring is very important too.  I’m finding that my class is growing in numbers since the word is out that people should slow down and the let body heal between their more intense sessions.

I’m in rest mode and trying to keep a flare out of my way but also know that if I do have a flare I can come out of them quickly as well.  Life is about balance and even when you think you have found it, it is time to look again.

THIS THING CALLED LIFE

I realized last night that it has been an entire month since I sent out a blog post and honestly last night was the first time I even thought about it.  This crazy thing called life has gotten in the way.  I don’t mean this in a negative way because even when things are good, life can get in the way.  My husband and I are making a move after 17 years and you just realize how much work is involved.  My body and mind are not able to rest even for a minute these days but because there is always so much to think about, to do, to discuss and to re-evaluate.

This morning was my first time back to weight training in over a month and half.  I figured I was getting my weight training from packing boxes and moving them to storage, but this morning I was reminded that when you don’t use your muscles they will fatigue incredibly quickly.  It won’t take long for the muscle memory to return and I feel strong again and honestly I haven’t run into any boxes I couldn’t lift and haul so I think my strength is there I’m just using it differently.  I also decreased my prednisone to 4.5mg about 3 weeks ago. I wasn’t sure if with the extra fatigue and stress my body would allow the switch from 5 to 4.5 but I can say that things are going pretty well with.  My doctor wanted me to start to ween off since I have been on the Cellcept now for 3 months.  He is hurrying me to get off of it but I figured I would try a small dose reduction and try another one after we move if my body feels ready.

I did some meditating this morning for the first time since we started this whole life change back in April.  Everyone says that this is the time to meditate the most but I was feeling like things had to give, I had to give up many things and that was one of them. I also started walking every morning to conserve some energy to get me through my work days and do yoga whenever I’m teaching but I don’t have my own practice right now. We are about 2 weeks from moving in our new home, starting our new life and making new memories in a new place and I’m hoping that once we get moved in and settled we will find that tranquility life I crave.  I wouldn’t change what is happening right now in our lives I just wish we were at the end of this journey.  Every journey has its struggles and challenges and also its joyous events but all these things cause stress and as we know stress is my biggest trigger and usually the biggest trigger for most of us with autoimmune diseases.  I am at 62 days without a flare today and feeling really good about that.  My husband is constantly reminding me to breath and rest but my hope is to finally find some real sleep in my very near future.

I am too close to the situation to see when I really need to take a breath and relax . I give people advice all the time but it is very hard to take my own advice.  My plan for the next couple of weeks is to get back to my regular routine, walking, my personal yoga practice, weight training and meditation so this morning I was able to get my weight training session and meditation session in. That felt really good.