As a marathoner, triathlete, personal trainer and fitness model, being able to work intensely became a part of my identity. Then, I was diagnosed with Lupus. My doctors told me that I needed to back off of the workouts that I was doing because I was making myself worse. How was I to continue be “me” if I wasn’t working out twice a day? How was I to stay in shape without intense, “I’m-going-to-throw-up” workouts?
In time, I realized that I had been over-working myself for years, and my doctors told me that it had been difficult to diagnose me because they presumed that my aches, pains and fatigue were due to all of the intense training. In the years that followed, I went from doing Bikram yoga to becoming a Hatha yoga instructor. I went from running marathons to running agility with my puppy. I went from working out until I was achy to working out to make the aches go away.
There are days when I wake up and miss the “old me;” the days when I ran on very little sleep and looked fabulous in a size zero. But I feel so much better nowadays and my disease is much more under control now that I listen to my body and work with it instead fighting against it.
One of the things that I have learned over the years is that it’s perfectly okay to take a day off of exercise if my joints are swollen or if I can’t get out of bed. Even on those days, a simple meditation helps me to balance my mind with my body; it helps me to find peace in the battle that is ongoing between myself and my immune system.
Try this meditation on one of those days when you want to be good to your body but you can’t exert yourself enough to lift weights or to go take a spin class:
Find a comfortable place and position to sit or lie down. Pay attention to your surroundings. What’s in front of you? What’s behind you? What’s to your right and left? Close your eyes and allow your body to relax into your chair, bed, yoga mat, etc.
Scan your body from the toes up, as you find areas of tension, inhale deeply into the sore spots and as you exhale let it go. Do this until you get all the way to the top of your head. Then repeat the following to yourself:
I am grateful for this day.
I am grateful for this body.
I am grateful for the ability to listen, to feel and to care for myself.
Having Lupus does not define me. I am defined by how I respect my body.
You can repeat this once or several. Do what feels right. Then just feel your breath. Feel how the air enters your body and how you allow the Earth to support you. Take this opportunity to let you body talk to you so that you can go about your day making the best decisions possible for you health, both mentally and physically.
“Breathe. Focus. Believe in Yourself.”