Yoga & CFS

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME (CFS) is a debilitating condition and can often take years to diagnose, usually when all other diagnoses have been exhausted.    Overwhelming fatigue is one of the most prominent symptoms, others may include low-grade fever, muscular aches and pains,  poor memory and concentration ‘brain fog’, sleep disturbances, headaches, sore throat, noise sensitivity to name but a few.  With CFS, multiple systems within the body are affected: nervous, immune  and hormonal systems.  Yoga teaches us to retrain the body and calm the bodies systems through synchronization of the breath with movement.

Why is so little known about ME?  Listen to TV journalist Gary Burgess experience of living with CFS/ME: http://BBC Radio 5 Live

To read more about Dru Yoga and its health benefits click on the link below:

Dru Yoga Research

Exciting new research Yoga and CFS 2018

Whilst the NHS is able to offer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Graded Exercise Therapy as a treatment for CFS new treatments are being sought. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines recognise and recommends yoga as an effective treatment for treating pain, stress,   depression and post breast cancer treatment fatigue. Despite breathing and relaxation being seen as beneficial for those with CFS, yoga has not been included as a recommended treatment due to lack of research evidence.  A small number of studies have shown yoga to be acceptable and beneficial for CFS sufferers and I now know a number of yoga teachers who have also experienced and recovered from CFS.  Yoga is not a cure for CFS and may not work for everyone but it has been shown to improve sleep, reduce fatigue and promote feelings of well being in those who took part in the research studies.

Having personal experience of CFS and experienced the benefits of regular yoga practice I was delighted when the CFS team who cared for me in Oxford asked me to develop a Yoga based programme for CFS patients. Over the coming months I will be designing the programme with the help of  CFS patients and experienced yoga teachers and yoga therapists.

As CFS sufferers, our own experiences and symptoms will differ greatly, as will the experiences of our family, friends and work colleagues supporting us. This verse from a poem ‘I struggle’  by Tracy Davies, reflects some of my own experiences of living with CFS/ME and how other people responded  with the best but often unhelpful of intentions!

I Struggle

I struggle

I struggle a lot

You won’t see it

You won’t feel it

That’s the way for me to be

Don’t disregard me, push away

That’s why you don’t get to see the real me

It hurts, it pains, knocks and blows

Try real acceptance and looking at thee

Don’t judge yourself by how I do

Judge yourself by how you do

Free and accepting of me

This is healing, this is real

 

If you have experience of CFS you may recognise this, the ‘don’t you look well’ when you are feeling truly dreadful ( you won’t see it).  Putting on a performance just to crash the moment they walk out the door (you won’t feel it).  The ‘well I can’t do that’ (don’t judge yourself by how I do) or the other unhelpful opinions of what is really wrong with you….it’s your age, its  the menopause, you must be depressed.. familiar?

I feel very fortunate that despite my life being put on hold I am now traveling a path that perhaps I would not have found if it wasn’t for CFS so for that I’m grateful. I have been fortunate to have a fantastic support network surround me, if not always able to understand, always there. Whilst my body keeps telling me in various ways that I’m no longer an endurance runner or triathlete, I’ve been able to transfer my competitive side into a more chilled out yogi!  Yoga has helped me to become more grounded, flexible, regain muscle strength, improve my breathing and taught me the art of relaxation.  Teaching friends yoga  lake side in the summer, work colleagues in a lunch break, slowly they are beginning to understand and feel the benefits I have been telling them about, amazing!

The athlete has been tamed……well almost! Open water swimming has helped fill the gap not being able to run has left, the lovely support of the water, the meditative quality of being in a quiet bubble, lulled by the rhythm of each stroke.

Breathtaking Buttermere!

Not only do I feel relaxed and have made lovely swim buddies it has opened a whole new world of possibilities! Open water swimming is thought   to help boost the immune system and will promote feelings of well being.

BBC Open Water Swimming

I definitely feel more alive after a dip in the lake! The compression of the wet suit, it’s buoyancy and the swimming so relaxing, it was something I could do without completely wiping me out, go figure! Other physical exertions could wipe me out for days!  More recent pre-swim yoga warm ups  proved a great hit at
my local lake and saw improved performance in many
of my friends!

Buttermere, the most magical place to swim!

Whilst I tend not to ‘race’ I have been able to take part in events with friends. As my wonderful Specialist CFS Physio Charlie, once said when I told her I’d entered the ‘End-to End Swim of Lake Coniston’ (5.25 miles…yes really…) ‘why not, it will all be about how you recover’. I was expecting a lecture of “why I shouldn’t do it!”

With careful training, use of a heart rate monitor and yoga, lots of visualisation using a Dru sequence,  EBR3 involving goal setting and the removal of obstacles  I successfully completed the swim!
See: Coniston End to End
I even made it onto the video! I’m in the pink wave!!!!

Healing powers of water and nature!

Throughout my Graded Exercise Programme there were triumphs and set backs, Charlie helped me to gradually increase my exercise tolerance, rebuild muscle strength, enable me to manage set backs and not to be frightened to do things.  The thought of doing something that may have a negative effect for days afterwards would stop me sometimes doing something I would enjoy and the message that has  stayed with me is ‘NOT TO MIND BEING TIRED’.   As my recovery progressed it was hard to challenge some of the barriers I had put up to protect myself but with support and yoga, I managed to find ways to manage my symptoms and to recognise when old patterns start to creep in and hopefully stop the ‘push crash cycle’ I once
inhabited. Sometimes more successfully than others!

Me and my good swim buddy Mike at the Great North Swim, Lake Windermere

Following discharge from the CFS clinic after two years of treatment I still felt there was more that I could do to aid my recovery further, a friend suggested I try Functional Medicine and after many months of procrastination I met with a Functional Medicine GP, Dr Sarah Davies, through in depth questionnaires, medical history and a host of tests she unearthed a number of undiagnosed medical conditions contributing to my on going fatigue. Through supporting my body with supplements during this time of healing, an overhaul of my diet  and  a lot of hard work I have succeeded in improving my energy levels further.  Whilst  I’m not cured, I’m managing my symptoms better and can see year by year improvements, some set backs and then glimpses of ‘normal energy’ only to be snatched away
…however I know it is there, can be achieved and in time sustained.

How we think can directly affect how we feel, not minding, being relaxed and having fun is so important. There is something different and special about Dru Yoga, it is difficult to put in words and best experienced, my latest slogan is:

‘ For the new you it has to be Dru!’

Being

The joy of being

Has begun again

Be open and willing

To receive to feel

To taste to hear

To see to smell

The essence of everyday magic

Within every minute thing

  Tracy Davies 2016

The joy of living has begun again!