RA Blog Week topic du jour is Exercise! The answer for me is a mix of physical and mental exercise. As I’m fond of saying, there’s no right answer, and there’s no wrong answer for each of us.
When stricken with autoimmune arthritis, it’s easy to go into protective mode. Don’t move that joint, use those hands, walk on that ankle. That simply could not be a worse approach. Nearly three years into my battle, I’ve found the mantra of Motion Is Lotion to be a guiding force. Our family physician in Alaska was fond of tossing this around. Walk in his office beneath the Chugach Mountains, and this big guy might use some blue language, rough up your neck, adjust a hip, and emphasize that motion is lotion. I’ve heard his voice so many times over the years, and especially now with RA.
As Rheumatoid Arthritis advanced from my hands to my wrists, shoulders, ribs, jaw, hips, toes, and ankles, the easy option would be to stop moving. Instead, I’ve slowly tied my laces and headed down my country lane. I’m a big advocate of fresh air and have returned to favorite hiking trails. At my worst, I clocked a twenty-minute mile. I’m especially proud of that.
After a slow walk in crisp air, on a very high pain day.
I also use a recumbent stationary exercise bike, an inflatable exercise ball, and do (so far) seated yoga. There are times that this motion will help ease pain, other times not so much. I keep my focus on the bigger picture. I recognize that at times I must be gentle with my body, and there are those moments when the couch is the right location. Most often, the challenge of motion is what will care for body and soul.
Equally important to my management of Rheumatoid Arthritis is the concept of stillness. As we all know, the emotional aspect of chronic illness is perhaps tougher than the physical. There is no separation between the two. A spiritual approach to pain management and chronic illness is a very personal thing. I find comfort in the mix of Nature, attending a Tibetan Buddhist temple, and remain culturally Christian, being especially moved by the stories of the Catholic saints.
View from the meditation cushion this morning.
The stillness of meditation at times brings a literal physical lifting of pain. I feel it rise and float away. My soul is calmed listening to bird song, a sprinkler in the distance, feeling the warmth of sunlight on my face. More often than not, mediation consists of bringing the mind back to focus, and thinking-not thinking about the pain of the crossed ankles and stiff fingers folded at my knees. I’m a meditative work in process.
What works in your rheum?