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Old 08-24-2005, 10:02 PM   #6
Al Garcia
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 16
Re: Article: ...With the Body You Have by "The Mirror"

This reply is to Maya's question about working through the start of a flare-up. One thing that has really helped me is sleeping "warmer", i.e., with more covers on so that my body temperature stays higher. It takes getting used to, yet seems to keep the muscles from tightening from pain quite as much--perhaps because the muscles are better able to repair themselves during the sleep cycle under these conditions. Folks with Fibro tend to have slightly lower body temperatures than the normal 98.6 and cool sleeping environments can aggrivate a flare for this reason.

Stretching thoroughly before (and during practice if necessary) helps during episodes, especially leg muscles and any other area that gives you specific trouble with pain or tightness. If you regularly do aikido warm-up stretches which hold the stretch for a long time, do this instead: stretch just to where you feel the stretch, back off slightly and hold the stretch for maybe 4- 6 seconds at the most, then release fully and repeat--this keeps pain to a minimum and doesn't make your muscles think they need to tighten up to "guard" themselves from tearing. If you repeat the stretch maybe 10 times, you will find your range of motion improves and you should have a lessening of pain (it interrupts the feedback loop a bit). This type of stretching (called A I stretching) has been used by Olympic athletes for years and is very effective with Fibro. Another thing I've found useful is rotating your ankles and shoulders (arms hanging down, not extended), one side at a time, maybe 5 times before getting on the mat.

To "practice through" requires focus. Assess how you feel once you've stretched your muscles out. Is pain still intrusive (your primary focus) or a dull roar (there, but you can concentrate on the lesson)? If it's the former, you may want to just observe; one can still learn from watching. If it's the latter, acknowledge the pain and just let it be there ("Body, I hurt, but I choose to continue to practice carefully with respect for your limits") and focus on moving in a range where you aren't adding additional tension to your body (often all this takes is a tiny shortening of movement). Talk to your partner so they'll know you need to do this. I've found that concentrating on doing the whole technique smoothly from start to finish helps; often we train in a 1-2-3 manner, but when you're moving through pain it's easier somehow to keep moving, not be stop-start. If you find yourself tiring easily, let your instructor know and take frequent breaks to stretch and sit. If you find your leg muscles getting ropey (they feel like a washerboard to the touch) it's time to stretch. I carry a small hard rubber ball with me (like a racquetball) to roll over my tight leg muscles--this "ironing out" of tightness saved me countless times at seminars, and allowed me to practice longer that I would have been able to without it.

Finally, if you live in a high-pollution area (like I do) and it's a bad air day, recognize that air quality may affect you. Many people with Fibro have slightly diminished oxygen utilization capacities, and this may directly translate into tighter muscles and clumsiness on such days. Regular Yoga breathing practice, Zen meditation-style breathing, or Ki breathing (for Ki Society folks) are useful in helping increase lung capacity to mitigate this effect.

Remember: do what you can. Some days are tougherr than others, some are impossible, but if you adopt an attitude of "let's see what I CAN do, living with Fibro", most practice days can be very, very good. Not necessarily pain free, but good.
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