August 24, 2010


The thing with arthritis is that people will avoid moving because it hurts! It is instinctual to protect yourself by avoiding pain when possible. However, by restricting movement, stiffness increases and loss of mobility results.

Yoga and tai chi have physical and psychological benefits for many people, including and perhaps especially those with chronic illnesses.

Physically speaking, they are great because they provide a GENTLE way for people to increase flexibility, muscle strength and balance. Ideally the movements should not add more stress on the body. It is important for people with joint damage to not overextend. The physical focus is typically on posture, fluidity and breathing practices. Certain poses are believed to activate particular body systems or provide releases.

Traditionally, these practices have a very important psychological aspect as well. The mind and spirit should be actively involved in the process. The practices along with focused attention, meditation or channelled energy can boost the immune system, increase energy levels, reduce pain perception and create a sense of awareness, clarity, gratitude, serenity and peace. I believe this to be essential for a full healing benefit.

Personally I enjoy doing guided yoga sessions at home using dvds. I have begun to integrate yoga into my daily practice. I'm amazed at how much I loosen up as I practice. The things I think I can't do become easier as it goes on. I still struggle with fully letting go, fully releasing. It is an internal struggle with me and it is something I want to strive for. In good time.

I was so lucky as to make a great contact with a local yoga instructor [from the Bodhi Tree in Calgary] who has offered to help me modify the poses that are difficult for me.

I am not experienced with tai chi, but I would like to get involved with the Tai Chi Society of Canada soon. The energy of tai chi appeals to me. I often walk by the center and see large groups of people practicing the poses together and I get an incredible sense of oneness and peace.


August 3, 2010


Energy conservation (aka REST) is something that I have only recently begun to take seriously. It is something that my rheumatologist and my occupational therapist tried to emphasize with me. I (unintentionally) disregarded it at the time. I think it's because there are certain things in my life (ie. school and work) that I have to keep up with. It's not exactly an option to just start "taking it easy".

Then, a couple weeks ago, I spoke with someone whose wife has rheumatoid arthritis. He said that she sleeps about 10 hours every night, and that it really helps with her condition. This got me thinking again. I went back and looked at a note that my occupational therapist had left for me. She said there were two things I should really pay special attention to. The first was preventing joint deformity, and the second was "USING YOUR ENERGY WISELY".

Fatigue and low energy are common symptoms for people with arthritis. The doctors asked me if I have low energy levels. I absolutely do, but I never thought that it might be related to the arthritis. I am a working student, I'm busy and of course I'm tired. How do you know when your energy levels deviate from the norm when they are normal to you? I'm still having a hard time accepting this possibility. If it is a reality, it is important that I acknowledge it and respond to it.

I have learned a lot about the importance of sleep. I know that the body does a lot of healing and detoxification during sleep. There is a direct link between sleep (quality and duration) and many health ailments.

So why is this so hard? Why is it so difficult to give myself permission to relax, rest or even slow down? I honestly feel guilty giving myself time to do nothing. I think we are socialized to always stay busy and productive. Sleeping in is often seen as lazy, wasteful.

I'm making a commitment to myself (and it's a process) to allow myself to rest. I have always tried to be in tune with my body and its needs. If I feel that I need to relax, then I need to feel guilt-free about doing so. I need to be okay saying no. I need to be okay with telling people what I need. I need to be selfish and give myself the gift of rest. It may be vital to my healing process.