I was formally diagnosed in May 07. I spent the first months after my diagnoses acclimating to the disease-modifying-therapy (Betaserone) and getting through the flu-like side-effects and the emotional hit of having MS finally catch me. (I previously had abnormal MRIS in 2000 and was told the lesions were most likely to be MS, but since I was asymptomatic, was neither diagnosed or treated at that time.)
Fortunately the emotional toll in 2007 did not take too long (2000 was a different story) and I decided to proactively take charge of my disease. I have always been a physically active/athletic person, but kids and career had curtailed my fitness over the years. Around December of the same year, I decided it was imperative to join a gym. I gave myself "permission" to spend the money and take the time I needed to stay healthy. Upon joining the gym, I asked for the trainer to help me develop a plan that was compatible with my diagnosis. We developed a routine that is predominantly yoga.
I now do Yoga 2-3 times a week like clock work. If I can't get the third session of Yoga in, I try to replace it with either Zumba or another class called 20-20-20. The Zumba and 20-20-20, I don't do at the same level of intensity as the other participants because it elevates my body temperature too much. I probably give it 75-80%, but Yoga I am able to do completely and I am actually able to excel at.
I am by no means a Yogi, but Yoga seems to help me build in three areas: strength, flexibility, and balance while allowing me to reduce my stress level. Two of my classes are at 6am when my body is refreshed from a full night's sleep (which I am religious about getting) and the room is cool from over-night. The room is dark and quiet. Very few people are at the gym at 5:50am, so my nervous system is not overstimulating with loud music and droves of people. And even though I only know my fellow yogis by their first names, we are a small little community gathering for 60 minutes of solitude and practice.
Yoga has been absolutely fabulous for me. I am stronger and leaner. If I miss a practice I find I really do 'miss' it. My husband started coming to yoga with me since Nov 2008. He is hooked. We have actually converted an open loft space into a home yoga studio. It is small, but it is our commitment to staying healthy and increasing the number of practices we can get in. Even just 15-20 minutes on days when there isn't much time does wonders for keeping me strong.
In my desire to improve walking, I realize how I may have overextended myself. My left hip flexors are quite weak and whilst the neurologist was questioning deterioration, secondary progression (I have relapsing remitting), the physiotherapist at the Neurological Institute did not find major changes except for a strained weak left hip. I know I overtrained and overextended myself preparing for the swim portion of a triathalon this past summer. I am passing this on for 2 reasons. First of all, take time returning to former activities during recovery-as Ann and Judi remind us-listen to your body. Second, keep looking outside the neurologist's opinion. I could be on my way to taking Tysabri if I'd only listened to him.
Good luck to all-I now consider myself recovering from a muscle strain so have eased up on aggravating activities. I am giving more time for the diet to work.
Ladies, I so enjoy this web site and your blogs, and I'm very encouraged, but still waiting for improvement to my walk. So I have a question. You and others in your book describe your walk improving, but how? I mean that my gait habits are so bad that even if my strength returned to my dropped foot, how does it come about that your walk normalizes? Judi, you sound as though you were very bad and improved quickly. Did sure-footedness and balance suddenly show up one day? Please share my question and your answer so everyone who visits your web site can be helped, too.
Nicole, thanks for the great recipes (see above) and the question. As sensation, strength, and endurance returns to compromised body parts, it often takes conscious work to regain former abilities. Conscious work means locating and exercising each muscle group. The bad habits mean that we tend to call on our stronger parts and tend to ignore the weaker ones to get the job of movement done. As you begin to recover, you may well need help to retrain yourself to equalize the the weaker/stronger situation most of us deal with. In our book, we suggest many exercises that should let you know which muscles work and which do not and there are some that specifically begin to call on the proprioceptive faculties that are involved in balance. If you have access to a good body work teacher of any discipline (see the resource chapter at the back of the book for brief descriptions of many kinds of movement modalities) I suggest you take a lesson or class with them and that will give you a blueprint of how to begin. An outside observer can be very useful to discover ways of waking up lost muscles and then you can take home the new challenges they offer you. My walking still requires effort on my part- undoing 40 years of downed communication lines takes time to reverse. To the casual observer over short distances, you may not notice how hard I have to work my weaker left side to achieve a normal looking graceful gait. It is mental work to remind myself to hold the appropriate muscle tone in my back. Before the diet, I had no access to those back muscles at all. Now I can tighten them the right amount if I think about it and eventually, my body wisdom will take over and it will occur naturally. Lost movement patterns may indeed show up suddenly for some, but for many of us, persistent ongoing exercise is the key. Good luck, Judi
This is my virgin post on the website so here goes. Thought i would share my insights on tai chi , qi gong etc. I used to do a lot of tai chi pre-diagnosis and really enjoyed it. When I started to feel less well but did't really understand what was up, I began to enjoy tai chi less and less becuase I felt a bit crowded in the class atmosphere - I even joined a tai chi class for seniors! Everyone there was so friendly but I used to get so tired mid-way through the class and it began to depress me slightly that all the so-called seniors 30 years or so older than me had more energy than I did!!!
Anyway, have dabbled with alexander technique over the years for various postural complaints but never seriously thought about it in relation to MS. However, after doing a bit of googling for Alexander technique and Multiple Sclerosis, I have given it a go again. I am seeing my teacher twice a week for the first month or so and then will probably go down to once a week. I love it because it really does help me feel reconnected to my body and that is a big issue for me. Whenever I have relapses, my right leg usually becomes paralysed and I feel that it is an alien part of my body, part of me but not part of me if you know what I mean. Anyway, Alexander Technique makes me feel whole again.
just a few practical things:
1. You don't have to be mobile to do have alexander Technique lessons.
2. I have copied the link for the google search that I did. Check it out.
3. I would recommend that you go witha teacher who really does Alexander out of a sense of vocation rather than a career change.
4. The two teachers that I have had a very close relationship with form and movement in general. For example, my first alexander teacher played the violin and this was helpful in that he had a very good insight into postural problems. My current Alexander technique teacher is a former dancer and therefore has a really good sense of movement and mobility problems.
Anyway, sorry for the long post, but I just wanted to try and give you a more comprehensive insight into Alexander. It's really like learning a new life skill that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. If like me, you tend to shy away from group classes for the moment, Alexander is wonderful becuase you get that individual attention which is often so lacking despite people's good intentions.
Good luck and enjoy
Yes! we list many techniques in the resource chapter at the end of our book- Alexander technique among them. Any way that encourages the sense of wholeness is healing all by itself. I agree that the most important thing is to find a teacher who is both knowledgeable and loves what they do- that they embody the desire to investigate the mysteries of the human body and the by-product of healing that each method offers. As an adjunct to the diet, regular exercise is highly recommended, whichever form you choose. To have someone guiding you from outside of your own body experience is extremely helpful. To stick with one form or another for a while is also helpful as you gain a baseline sense of where you began and how much more you can accomplish in any given method as time goes on. Thanks for your endorsement of Alexander. We love to hear from all of you who have found ways to aid in your recovery process. Judi
I ate something that I think was a trigger (still trying to figure it out). Decided to move some energy around and do some Qi Gong to get things moving. It helped.
Qi Gong is an ancient/modern way to explore the source of the life force that flows through us all. MS tends to amplify the experience of being stuck, heavy, and burdened in our bodies and in our lives The Asian methodologies view the body and its myriad interlocking systems through a very different lens than traditional western medicine does. This new viewpoint can help to turn our mindset around from that of " I am ill with MS and therefore crippled in certain ways" to " I am part of the whole of life, and see how alive I am." This can lead to shaking lose the identity of being victimized by this devastating illness and support your decisions to take your health into your own hands and heal. Changing your lifestyle to include the MS Recovery Diet is a tool to embrace for self empowerment. Qi Gong and other techniques can enhance this decision. Thanks for speaking to the efficacy of Qi Gong for your healing journey.