I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Exercise and Chronic Pain - Honoring the Mind-Body Connection

Isn't it funny how often when we don't think we'll find what we want, then that's when what it appears?  I have been wanting to find some kind of exercise that I can do and I have been very frustrated.  About a month ago I tried going to my old yoga studio again after about a year and even though I adore the instructor, I really did not enjoy the session all that much.  Being in a large class stressed me out - exercising with a large group has always been one of my worst anxieties! - and I was in pain most of the time.  I just was not able to let go and be mindful at all, which I believe is what yoga is supposed to be about  in the first place!

I've started seeing my old nutritionist again and that is going quite well.  We're discussing mindfulness and ways to get me moving without me hurting.  I was feeling pretty dismal after that yoga session and told her so.  She then assigned me the goal of seeing if there was anyone in my area who was leading a gentler yoga class that would be easier on my joints than the Hatha classes I was previously taking.  I was a bit skeptical.

Of course, I had already looked before many times, and never with any luck.

Begrudgingly, I looked for a yoga studio in my area that offered restorative yoga, a kind of lower impact yoga, and I was very surprised to actually find it in my area! I found a place called Your Mindful Path Counseling & Yoga with Jennifer Del Castillo as the yoga instructor.  She specializes in offering yoga for people with disabilities and has fibromyalgia, herself.  She offers restorative, gentle, and chair yoga.  So far, I have only tried her restorative yoga class.

I was very nervous about trying the new class-remember the group exercise anxiety?  I found her website first on meetup.com and so for a while, I was RSVPing yes and then pressing, "no" at the last minute until the instructor finally asked me if there was anything she could do to ease my fears.  I asked her which class would be the easiest one to start out with and she advised me to start out with the restorative yoga.

The day came when I finally got up the courage to try it out!  It was the last time it was offered before seeing my nutritionist the next day and I really wanted to be able to report my experience, so it was do or die.  I nearly barged in on the class before me, so then I felt embarrassed and more anxious, but I needn't have worried so much.  In fact, no one else turned up for the class and it ended up being a one-on-one session.  Ironically, if I had known that I was going to have an individual session I would have been too anxious to come, so I guess it's best to be surprised sometimes!

 Castillo is very laid back and calming and I astounded myself by being able to let go and be fully engaged and present after about just ten minutes. Consequently, I ended up having the best exercise class experience in my entire life!  Also, I experienced absolutely no pain the whole time!  The whole experience was completely different than a typical "exercise" class-it's really a class to help people de-stress and relax and not to lose weight or reach some target heart rate.

It's hard to deprogram myself from what I've learned from society and school-I want to become more attuned to my body, to learn how to relax and to just in general do what feels good to my body and my brain and to not worry about whether or not the activity will result in me losing weight or any other superficial grading scale, but I still find myself internally asking if I will lose weight if I do a certain activity or refuse to eat a kind of food. It is a battle I fear I will always wage inside of myself. Ultimately, what is important to me is the mind-body connection and what is not is fitting into the patriarchy's mold.  Ultimately becoming friends with myself is my true goal and I must keep this goal ever in my mind.

I am glad that I was able to surrender to the moment during the yoga class and I will definitely go again.  I am finding more and more that the world is a lot more friendlier place than I often think it will be and that I often can find what I am looking for when the time is right.

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