Thursday, July 08, 2010

Trying some yoga & journaling

Amanda Watson-Will 2007 Nervous system

I had a very busy week-end and start to the week, and found myself crashing yesterday. Today I am quite a bit better, but trying to use my energy cautiously. It is actually a pretty good result to only crash for 1 day. Perhaps my new routine is helping. I've been doing 15-20 minutes of gentle yoga most days. Yoga seems to be the thing for me that really makes a difference.

I only started doing yoga after I was diagnosed with CFS, and for a year or two I was able to attend a gentle beginners class with only a few “extra rests” to see me through. That period of time corresponds with the time when I was most well – but whether the yoga resulted in the wellness, or the wellness meant I could do yoga, well, of course it’s not really possible to say for sure.

Unfortunately, I had to give up the classes when I was trying to be relatively medication-free, and a lot of my symptoms became a lot worse. And although I’ve been back on the meds for over 4 years now, there’s been such a lot happening emotionally that I haven’t given the classes a try again.

About 2 months ago, driven crazy by the worsening of my migraines to once or twice a week, I decided to try some gentle stretching here at home. My headaches are caused by a variety of things – hormones, stress, posture, fatigue – and can easily trigger migraines.

And I have to say that since starting regular yoga, headache-wise there is a noticeable improvement.

I’ve only read a little about yoga, but it comes from the Hindu faith, although I was happy to read that you don’t have to be a “believer” to attain the benefits. It is an approach which definitely works with the body, mind and spirit in an holistic and integrated way – and this just seems to be what my body needs. I find the stretches can ease away a lot of pain, before it builds up too far. 

The other thing I have been trying to do regularly (not quite as successfully) is to journal or write. I’m not aiming for the “morning pages” thing of 3 pages everyday recommended in “The Artists Way”. My aim is a little bit different, in that I don’t usually just write whatever comes into my head, or set a target number of pages. I prefer to write down whatever it is that I have noticed I am ruminating about.

From practising awareness meditation, I’ve come to observe my thoughts reasonably well, so I use my writing to just dive in and write down the prevalent issue. Then I devote a little time to working it through, or if it is the sort of thing with no real solution (as is often the case with repetitive thoughts) I just write about how I feel.

As an occupational therapist, I was trained in the medical model, and although for OT it isn’t a great fit, I am naturally wary of “unproved” treatments and approaches. Nevertheless, I’ve been observing what happens in my body for long enough to know that the separation of mind and body touted in western medicine is a false way of thinking. How many times do you hear people say “I’ve got this important project at work and I’m really swamped, and now I have the flu – as if I don’t have enough to deal with already?” Well, yes exactly, and maybe that is why you have the flu right now?

I think the yoga and the writing are helping me to be more aware, to keep things moving and not build up emotional blockages in my body. I know I’ve taught myself to suppress emotions so well that in the past I haven’t even been aware that an issue is an issue until a migraine or some other physical symptom pulled me up with a crash. Now if I can just overcome the very human urge to give up on a routine that is working well for me…


  1. oooh cool. So are you doing yoga at home by yourself? Or are you going out for it? If you are just doing it at home I'd be really keen to hear more about it .... do you have a dvd or something you use??? I'm really keen to give it a go but it needs to just be gentle stretchs etc because I am not at all mobile and generally have very little energy ...

  2. Both wonderful ways of trying to use energy wisely and extend physical energy. I have a yoga CD esepcially devised for PWME and I have been trying to practice meditating too.

    Journalling I find a bit difficult because, ironically, it was something I used to teach people to do when I was working and so whenever I try to do it for me I feel my work hat on my head and more stressed :O)

    Glad you're finding ways through

  3. Really interesting, and for me with my current migraines, very thought provoking. I need to email you after I think about this some more.

  4. I'm afraid that I haven't got the discipline to journal. I've tried it on several occasions but I never stuck at it.

    Glad that yoga is helping you, it must be a relief to have those dreadful migraines eased.

    I find meditation helps me. It tends to put me in a better headspace and also helps me to relax and relieve tension.

  5. It's interesting to read this, Amanda, since earlier this year, I returned to yoga and it's making a noticeable difference. I now have a routine (I aim for three out of 5 weekdays) of starting my day with 20-or-so minutes of gentle yoga, followed by 10 minutes of journaling. Sometimes it's writing, sometimes it's visual journaling, which is usually as simple as mark-making.

    I'm finding that it has a salutary effect on the rest of my day, both mentally and physically. I've also done it consistently enough to know that the days when I think I have too much to do to make time this practice are the days when I need it the most.


  6. Hey Amanda, just wondering if you are getting my emails?

  7. I went to a yoga class a few years ago and found it good. It definitely increases awareness of your body and how you are feeling, but it is so subtle you are not always aware of the changes.

    Lee Lee asked about DVD's. I found a really good DVD & Book in a charity shop by a teacher called Gary Bromley. Normally I don't like this kind of thing but he is really good. He also has another lady with him demonstrating how you can do the poses if you are not so flexible!

    Its out of print now but you can get it on e-bay in the UK.

    Gary Bromley is Australian so maybe it will be easier to get over there.