Exercise 10 minutes a day (in bed) and give Lyme the finger
Four exercises to build your beautiful body despite Lyme disease
Hi! Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I hope you are feeling well and happy.
This post draws on my twenty years of teaching Pilates and experiential anatomy.
You can work out in bed!
I would like to share that I took my kids rock climbing today for the first time in years. Whoopee!!! I am sooooo happy and grateful to be feeling stronger. However - I spent months and months where the only exercise I got was from the comfort of my own bed. It can be so frustrating to feel yourself losing strength and muscle tone. But with Lyme disease and chronic fatigue, there are times when leaving the bed is just not an option.
Pilates based exercises for spoonies
This post covers four simple exercises we Lyme Warriors can do in the ultimate coziness of bed. You can stay strong and connected to your gorgeous body while you are healing from Lyme. Take it slow, and give your body love.
I have included visualizations for activating your deep pelvic floor muscles and organ support for these exercises. You may be very familiar with the movements, but the visualizations are subtle and smart, drawing on the twenty years I have spent teaching Pilates. These gentle exercises are fine for people with Lyme related pain or arthritis, and may even ease pain over time.
Each exercise takes your spine in a different direction, so the combination will ensure well rounded, supple strength. Especially if you are spending a lot of time resting, maintaining deep spinal and pelvic strength is critical. Strength in the multifidi (tiny little muscles criss crossing up your spine like shoelaces) and pelvic floor muscles (deep muscles lining your pelvic bowl) support vertebral alignment, and this support means less back pain.
Make exercising pleasurable!
Breathe through the movements to ease intensity. If something hurts, modify it. I list modifications to make each movement more gentle. If it still hurts after modification and deep breathing, skip it, and try again later. Exercise should never increase your pain, even slightly. Trust your own pleasure. Look for enjoyment, and discovery of new, pleasant sensation. Your body is your smart, intuitive guide.
Practicing all four exercises takes about ten minutes, give or take. You can take longer if you like - I spend a lot of time resting and breathing between exercises if I am tired. You can do these exercises every day, or once a week - any amount of movement builds strength and supports health.
Sorry Lyme, you can't bring us warriors down. We are strong, we are determined, we will heal completely. Join me in giving Lyme the finger and staying fit and fabulous!
Swan - Thoracic Extension
Of all spinal movements, extension is the most important, because of all the time we spend looking down. Start with your forehead on your hands. Exhale, and lift your abdominals gently up off the bed and in to your body. Then inhale as you raise your upper body, letting your eyes lead the way. Lift up as high as you can without feeling any strain in your lower back, and while feeling your abdominals still drawing in to your pelvic cavity. Hold and breathe, and lower when you are ready.
If you feel a strain, keep this movement tiny. Any amount will be beneficial. Fill your heart with your inhale, draw your heart forward and out into the room. Feel the back of your heart stretching forward. Feel the fascia between your heart and lungs loosening, left and right. Stretch your throat gently open as well, letting your thyroid gland expand. Breathing in to your heart and thyroid builds energy, stamina, and feelings of joy.
As Swan gets easier, strengthen your neck by looking side to side when you are lifted. Let your eyes lead. Look as far as you can over your shoulders without strain. Your cervical flexibility will improve every time you practice this, and neck pain will decrease. You can also play with arm position. Try reaching your arms long by your sides and lifting them along with you. There are a million variations of this exercise, you probably know many. Play, and enjoy, keeping your mind on your heart, lungs and thyroid.
Side bend with hip stretch
If crossing your legs like this is too much, just put your feet on the floor. The important part is the side bending. If you can cross your legs like this, side bend away from your lower leg. This gets in to a difficult corner of the hips (the TFL muscle) that are often what I call a nest of vipers. In other words, super tight and restricted. Looking down will save your neck from strain.
Stay in this stretch for a few breaths. Breathe in to your mid back, and draw your belly slightly in for support. As you exhale, lift your pelvic floor muscles in a gentle Kegal. Imagine your kidneys, one on each side, right under your diaphragm in your back. Let your inhale fill your kidneys. Imagine them softening. Your kidneys are intimately connected to your adrenal health. Send them some warmth and volume. They are doing their best to supply your body with energy.
When you come up to switch sides, move slowly, and use your kegal muscles to lift you. You can bend from side to side a few times before switching your leg position.
Lower body twist
Relax on your back, and let your head release. Keep your neck long and free. If you need to, bend your knees a bit. If your hips feel crampy, turn your knees away from each other a little. Hold your legs up in the air by deepening your belly toward your spine. If you feel any strain in your lower back, bend your knees further in toward you. You should feel as though you can hold your legs from deep within your belly, and with a gentle lift of your kegal muscles. Once you can feel this, exhale to tip your legs gently to one side. Move slowly and without strain. Hold the slight twist for a few breaths. When you are ready to switch sides, use your pelvic floor muscles to lift your legs up and over. You can twist further as you warm up, until you feel a wonderful lengthening along your spine and through your opposite arm.
Breathe deeply in to both lungs as you do this exercise, especially the back of your lungs. Let your lungs stabilize your upper body by opening back into your bed. Your upper body stays grounded, directing backward in to gravity as a counter balance to the twist. Opening the back of your lungs increases oxygenation throughout your whole body, and decreases nervous tension.
Rolling through the spine
By now hopefully your spine is feeling looser, and your abdominal muscles a bit more awake. Starting from a resting position on your back, experiment with slowly rolling up through your spine on a long exhale. If you need to, push your feet into the wall for power. If you feel any strain in your back, make this exercise micro. Bend your knees, and only come a little ways up. If you feel any strain in your neck, hold your head with your hands. Look for a feeling of your deep abdominals and pelvic floor doing all the work, your back and neck relaxed and easy.
Let your shoulders rest away from your ears, no matter your position. Imagine your spine like an eel in the water, flexible and soft, flowing through the movement. Let your abdominal muscles press your intestines back into your body cavity. Imagine your intestines resting and softening against your spine, and against the bones of your pelvic bowl. This gentle squeezing and moving through the intestines is terrific for bowel health.
Override Lyme disease anxiety with words
When I first started doing Pilates in my studio again, after months of resting at home with Lyme, I would feel afraid that exercising would wipe me out. I could feel the fear seeping in to my movements, and it made the whole process unpleasant. Some of this was just the annoying and horrible anxiety that Lyme creates in the body.
At a certain point, I started every exercise session by repeating, in time with the movements, "I am strong and healthy. Strong and healthy". This simple trick turned my mind around and got me past my anxiety. It is always a surprise to me how well these Jedi mind tricks work. Repeating such a simple line to myself tricked my nervous system into looking for strength, not tiredness. Inevitably, exercising felt better, less tiring, and more like it always did in the past - like fun.
Thank you for reading!! Please share this post with other Lyme warriors who want to lift their middle fingers to Lyme and Company.
Wishing you strength on your healing journey. You are lovely and full of power. Your body is healing, every day, and you WILL be completely well.