The truth of the ‘not so good’ days

… Pilates – it has literally saved me.  But I’m sure you’ve heard that before from me.  So, below, I’m going to share with you that despite all my best efforts, from time to time, my HSD does manage to catch up with me, I am human after all.

Being hypermobile myself with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder – HSD, I have to work hard at keeping the condition under control to the best I can.  After all, I’d rather it didn’t control me and I can enjoy life to the full.  The biggest underpinning success in managing my condition is Pilates – it has literally saved me.  But I’m sure you’ve heard that before from me.  So, below, I’m going to share with you that despite all my best efforts, from time to time, my HSD does manage to catch up with me, I am human after all.

 

Chronic fatigue is extremely common with EDS/HSD, those muscles have to work so much harder to keep us upright and moving. 

Chronic fatigue is extremely common with EDS/HSD, those muscles have to work so much harder to keep us upright and moving.  For me, my HSD fatigue means that I literally collapse to the floor in an extreme energy crash.  I have absolutely nothing left in me to move my muscles for quite some time (anything from 20 minutes to many hours). I simply lay flat out on the floor, awaiting for energy to return… a bit like waiting for a car to recharge! 

 

I do tend to get some warning that my fatigue is running close behind my heels, so for the majority of the time, I can get home in time for when it finally hits.  I’ll recuperate at home and the next time I emerge, to others around me, they will be unaware of the struggle that I have just had.  (the invisible nature of EDS/HSD is what I talk about here in another post).  However, unfortunately I have been caught out on the few odd occasions outside of the home.

 

And this is exactly what happened this week!  Earlier this week, my morning started well.  I went to work early and ran two of my Pilates Reformer classes (I love helping others with Pilates).  All was good, I was fine, we were having a giggle in the class, my clients left feeling refreshed and had an enjoyable session.  Not too long after, I set off to the hospital for a routine appointment.  Upon my arrival at the hospital, my HSD finally caught up with me and my extreme fatigue set in fast!

My collapse begins with me having to be seated, but it quickly progresses to a final ‘flat on my back on the floor’ position – at this point I have no energy left within my muscles at all.  So you can imagine that this changed to being from a routine appointment to an extended appointment with the A&E team.

 

Nearly 4 hours later and I’m still not able to walk, sit or move from my position of lying down full-length on the bed.  The best place for me was to continue resting at home…except one slight problem!

tanya_ambulance_delivery_square_caption_still_smilingNearly 4 hours later and I’m still not able to walk, sit or move from my position of lying down full-length on the bed.   The best place for me was to continue resting at home…except one slight problem! I cannot sit upright, so no car lift for me.  So, stretchered home I was, via an ambulance.  There’s nothing better than a picture to explain, they say its worth a thousand words.  So, here is a picture of me being delivered home, by the amazing local ambulance team.

 

Finally, after over 6 hours since the fatigue began its descent, I managed to be able to find energy to be able to sit on the sofa.  I’ve been taking it easy for the past few days, with lots of film watching and I’m now back on track again.

 

With Pilates, I have a much stronger body and thankfully this extreme tiredness is no longer a common occurrence.  I’ll keep remembering what a lucky lady I am and continue to help others in their Pilates journey to manage their condition too.

 

Have a lovely rest of weekend all

Tanya x

 

Hypermobility – The Invisibility Cloak!

For those with a hypermobility condition (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – EDS  or Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder – HSD), it’s a bit like wearing a special magic cloak – one that masks their real condition to the outside world.

 

To the casual onlooker, being hypermobile (having the ability to extend joints beyond their normal range) can only have benefits – surely having that level of flexibility is what everyone desires right?  To the inner circle of close family and friends though, they know that impact of EDS/HSD is far more wide ranging…filtering through to every area of the body with a multitude of disabling symptoms.

 

EDS/HSD is a genetic condition that affects the connective tissue in the body.  In the hypermobile body, the connective-tissue (a form of collagen) is fragile and stretchy.

EDS/HSD is a genetic condition that affects the connective tissue in the body.  In the hypermobile body, the connective-tissue (a form of collagen) is fragile and stretchy.  The most visible impact on the body of stretchy connective-tissue is that of the joint flexibility and sometimes stretchy skin too.  However, as connective tissue lies in every fibre of the body, segmenting and supporting muscles and organs (and the very layers of the muscles/organs themselves), then, the true impact of symptoms is multi-systemic.  Symptoms can impact the heart, the digestive system, the womb, the bladder, the bowels, the neurological system, the immune system, to name just a few.  All in addition to the chronic joint pains and chronic fatigue.  These extra symptoms are hidden to all but those who are nearest and dearest – the invisibility cloak seems to have an amazing skill of keep these symptoms out of view. The level of impact of symptoms varies, there are many areas of similarities and overlap, but no one single person is affected in the same way (hence why the conditions are also known as spectrum disorders).

 

Living with EDS/HSD is like being chased.

Living with EDS/HSD is like being chased.   Keeping well and symptoms to a minimum takes hard work, diligent commitment to exercise, commitment to diet and supplements and for some, medication too.  And when you are running hard, keeping that distance in the chase, you are managing to work, enjoy family life and enjoy doing whatever your choose to do…just a ‘normal’ contributing individual in society.  To everyone in the outer circle, a hypermobile person looks just fine.

 

However… despite all the hard effort, there are just days when the EDS/HSD will catch up in the race.  On such days, symptoms will be at their worst, but on those days, the hypermobile person will often be out of view, too unwell to leave the home and taking advantage of much needed rest.  The next time they emerge, all is well again and to the work colleague, co-worker, person in the street, it is difficult to see what could possibly be the issue – the invisibility cloak doing its magic again.  How often the ‘bad days’ occur and for how long the symptoms stick around, is again, dependent upon the individual, and their own personal journey.

Having HSD myself, I still have days where HSD catches up with me and I simply have stop and listen to my body.  To give you an example of how HSD can impact on someone, I’ve written another post, you can read that post by clicking here.
Also, If you want to find out more about hypermobility and links to other websites then pop over to the ‘hypermobility info’ section of this website.

 

I’ll finish this post by saying that I hope I have provided you with some awareness of this condition.  And maybe it reminds us that not all conditions and their symptoms are visible I’ll always lend an ear to those who need it and provide a chance for a bit of a giggle… because life is all that much better when we are smiling. 

 

As a Pilates coach who specialises in rehabilitation, especially in chronic conditions such as EDS/HSD, I am passionate about sharing how Pilates helped me and I love helping others to move forward in their journey too.  I have made enormous progress with my HSD with my commitment to Pilates.  Maybe it can help you too.

 

Keep smiling one and all and have a wonderful day

Tanya x

What can I do to address the balance of my Autonomic Nervous System

Welcome to the third and final post in this series.  If you have not yet read the previous two posts on this series then follow the links here to catch up:
first post… https://wp.me/p8enlF-7S,
second post … https://wp.me/p8enlF-7X

This final post on the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) looks at how we can readdress the imbalanced and now dysfunctional system.  We achieve this by taking the time to focus on increasing the functioning of the Parasympathetic system.

 

Increasing the Parasympathetic (PSNS) activity

There are a few self-help techniques we can follow to increase the Parasympathetic Nerve activity.  If you attend Pilates with me already, you’ll know that I often explain that each time we practise an exercise, we build more neuron (nerve) connections, making it easier for the body to follow/carry-out the next time.

In the same way, practising of these techniques on a regular basis, will help increase the PSNS activity and strength. 

Thus taking you out of a continued ‘stress’ state, to a balanced body with the ability to efficiently rest and maintain its functions to steady state.

 

Deep Breathing

Here is a technique that I practise with clients to calm the ANS system down, stimulating the PSNS with diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing:

Set yourself up… make yourself comfortable:

  • Laying down on the floor with back on the mat/floor
    knees bent, feet flat on the floor
  • Provide lots of pillow support for your body
    (under the knees, under the lower back and head)
  • Place hands onto your lower belly

 

Now to begin focused breathing:

  • Begin by focusing your breath into your hands…
  • Inhaling: breathe deep down into the pelvis, towards the pubic bone
    (rising into your hands)
  • Exhaling: feel the belly sink and fall into the mat/floor
  • Continue this focused breathing, noticing the rise and fall of the breath
    (belly rises to the sky as you inhale, letting the belly fall/release as you exhale)

Now, continuing the focused breaths (deep into the pelvis), continue with a body scan to notice the tension in each area of the body and release the tension with each exhale.

Begin at the toes, work your way through the whole of the body, right through to the top of your head.

Take the time to work through every area of your body to release any tension, for example:

  • Toes, sole of the foot, bridge of the foot, ankle
  • Lower leg, shins, knees, upper leg
  • Pelvis: all sides and top/bottom, hip/leg sockets
  • Waist, waist sides, ribcage: back, sides, front and sternum
  • Lower, mid and upper back
  • Fingers/thumbs, knuckles, wrists
  • Lower arm, elbows (inside and outside), upper arm
  • Shoulders: around the arm socket, shoulder blades, upper shoulders, chest muscles into collar bone
  • Neck: leading from shoulders, up to base of head
  • Separate the jaw, lick the lips (or run finger over the lips)
  • Head: base, back of head, facial muscles (mouth, cheeks, eyes, forehead), crown of head

Work through your body mindfully, that is, being present and focusing on the body scan and breath alone.  If your mind wanders, gently return it back to where you stopped.

 

Mindfulness

Using mindfulness to quieten the mind.

Continuing the ‘mindful’ and ‘being present’ focus as applied in the above breathing technique, into your everyday life.

Reducing our multi-tasking by focusing only on the given task, bringing your awareness into the very smallest of activities that we take for granted.  E.g. when eating, focusing only on eating.  When climbing the stairs, focus completely on that movement alone.

Of course, we are so used to doing ‘everyday’ activities without thinking… so this does take quite some practice.

 

 

This is the last of the 3 posts in this series.  I hope you have enjoyed and feel you could apply some of these tips into your life.  Enjoy practising and keep an eye out for more informative posts.  Feel free to share.

Tanya x

What Does the Autonomic Nervous System Do…For Me?

Welcome to the second post in this series about the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).  If you missed the last post, then see the link here to catch up…. https://wp.me/p8enlF-7S

You’ll recall that the ANS has a job to self-regulate the body’s functions, all in the background without our conscious input.  This self-regulation is controlled by managing the balance between two areas of the ANS: ‘Sympathetic Nervous System’ (SNS) and the ‘Parasympathetic Nervous System’ (PSNS).

 

The balance of the SNS and the PSNS

The SNS and PSNS work together like Yin and Yang…two opposite functions complementing each other perfectly.  The Sympathetic (SNS) division manages our emergency response system, whereas the Parasympathetic (PSNS) division manages activities when our body is at rest.

These two divisions manage our day-to-day body process operations; sending messages via a vast network of nerves, reacting and responding accordingly to information received from the body or environment. 

It can be said that the Sympathetic division (SNS) works by quickly responding and reacting to a situation (fight or flight reaction), whereas the Parasympathetic division (PNS) is said to work slowly to dampen the body’s responses (rest and digest action).

For example, the SNS will mobilise your body to enable you to quickly flee if needed and once the threat has passed, the PSNS shall return your body responses back to normal resting status.

Thus, the SNS primes the body for action, in a response for a need to move, or maybe reacting to a stressful situation It provides an adrenal response to organs such as the heart, lungs and kidneys to manage the extra workload (e.g. increase heart-beat, widen bronchial passages, increase blood pressure etc.).  In addition, it will send messages to slow down the not-so-crucial bodily activities….for example to decrease movement of the digestive tract.

When the ‘threat’ state has passed, the job falls with the PSNS to restore the body to a resting state.  Its job is to slowly activate dampening activities to regulate the body’s organs, to bring them back to a calm, restful, maintenance state….restoring balance in the body.  For example, in absence of stressful stimuli, the PSNS will return the heart-beat back to a resting state, reduce blood pressure and activate digestion and urination processes.

A perfect example of Yin and Yang!

 

An unbalanced ANS

Our lives are crazy busy!

We try to manage everything and more, into a hectic schedule, trying to keep the balance (family, work, friends, home) like a finely managed bank account.  However, too many withdrawals on our limited resources only ends up in one (negative) result.  And it’s usually too late before we finally notice.

Imagine.. if you are going through a stressful time right now, your body activates the SNS and places the body in a ‘high alert’, ‘high threat’ state.  Stresses come in many guises…, home-life troubles, work-life stress, money troubles, grief, moving house, the daily commute, living with chronic pain, caring for others, pessimistic mind-set and more.

Continued overstimulation of the SNS results in a dampening of the Parasympathetic system functioning.  With a dominant Sympathetic division, the body spends more time in ‘fight or flight’ mode and places less focus on the ‘rest and digest’ activities and voila… there goes the balance of our ANS.

A dominant SNS is very draining on the body, here are just a few examples of the mental and physical impact on the body:

  • Feeling overstimulated and ‘brain busy’, yet tired
  • Overwhelming feelings of time pressure, the need to be busy, to rush around
  • Chronic digestive issues (bloating, digestion issues, stomach pains, etc.)
  • Nausea and poor appetite
  • Insomnia, impaired sleep quality
  • Increase in sweating
  • Chronic muscle and joint pains
  • Continued tiredness and fatigue
  • Agitated feelings and irritability
  • Hypersensitivity to light, noise
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • Body temperature regulation issues, especially cold hands/feet

So, how do we address this imbalance? 

Read the next and final post in this series where I explain more…  

https://wp.me/p8enlF-80

 

The Autonomic Nervous System… What exactly is it… and Why Should I care?

“Moreover, such a body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all of the complex problems of modern living.” ~ Joseph Pilates

“The Body is so clever!”

As I am always saying to my Pilates clients, ‘The Body is So Clever!’… It adapts to our everyday lives in so many ways, and, if we are looking carefully these adjustments can clearly be seen.

For example, the physical body may be feeling misaligned following that marathon gardening activity you did at the weekend (and it letting you know about it with aches/pains).  The mind and body strength maybe be feeling like it just isn’t functioning correctly because you are getting over that awful cold from last week.  And also, let’s not forget the impact of our emotional health (stress/tensions, fears/anxiousness, social connections, work/life balance), which can manifest itself in any number of ways in the functioning of our body.

Recognising the impact of our day-to-day life on the overall health (mind/body/spirit) of our body, is one giant step forward to being able to understand how we can better look after ourselves.

There is an area of our health though that is very easy to overlook…and that is the effective functioning of those bodily activities that we don’t consciously control…. That is, for example, activities such as your heart beat, your core temperature, your digestion, your breathing and more.  And it is these such activities, that are managed by the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). 

The ANS briefly explained… but why care?

So, the ANS is the body’s way of autonomously regulating our bodily functions – that is, it works away, for the most part, unconsciously to us.

The purpose of this special nervous system is to control our internal body processes, the aim being to maintain our body at homeostasis (self- regulation to maintain steady conditions). 

Great!  Good Work ANS! …So, no need to think about it a moment more right?  Well… maybe not.  Otherwise, why would I be writing 3 posts about this area of our health?  (Yes, there are two more posts to follow)

Whilst the ANS does work in the background (a bit like auto-pilot) and we largely have no conscious control over it, the stresses of our lives can greatly impact its function.

If the body is subjected to continued stress (stressful job, busy non-stop lives, chronic (ongoing) pains), the effective functioning of this clever system is impacted, resulting in many (seemingly unrelated) issues.  This can include digestive problems, impaired sleep, cognitive decline, increased pains, anxiety, temperature regulation problems and more. Sound familiar?

The ANS is divided into two main functions and to be effective, these two functions need to work together in balance.  So, if you are wondering how an unbalanced ANS could affect the body or you are wondering how to look after this area of your health, then please read on (with the following posts)…

Link to the second post in this series…  https://wp.me/p8enlF-7X