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qi gong

New practice, new healing

Healing through cross-training
Surprises. Some are fabulous, whereas others we could live without. Before I was diagnosed with Lyme I never would have guessed that it could happen to me. Took me completely by surprise. But the nastiest blow was being told by the IDSA doctor, “Looks like MS. My advice is to apply for disability, get a wheelchair, and get ready to spend the rest of your life in it.”

Needless to say, I changed doctors, and was lucky enough to stumble upon a group of smart ones who had a clue about Lyme, and as much faith in me as I had in myself. I didn't get a wheelchair. I learned to walk, talk, and think straight again even through the pain. Over a period of years, I found ways to heal my body, mind and spirit through cross-training.


Time is a river
I thought about the element of surprise yesterday. A friend told me an anecdote about the way different cultures perceive the concept of time. Westerners and Easterners envision time differently. Both see time as a river.

However, in the West we imagine that events flow towards us from the horizon, approaching the present moment where we stand. In front of us, we see future events as they approach. When the event/time has past, it disappears behind, fading into memory.

Easterners imagine time's river approaching from behind. The future comes up from behind, like a surprise. It isn't visible until it's upon us. As events pass by, they flow away to the horizon, fading gradually from memory, appearing smaller and farther away as they go.

Lyme disease was like that for me. It attacked out of the blue, and engulfed my present moments for many years. But gratefully, as the time of being so sick has faded into the horizon, I see it from an increasingly distant perspective. And life continues to come up from behind and surprise me.


Starting a practice
I recently did something that I wanted to do when I was a teenager, at which time circumstances intervened, so I never got around to it. So it seemed a bit surprising, a little out-of-the-blue when recently I started taking Taekwondo lessons at a local studio. The present moment snuck up from behind once again. But this is no brutal blow like Lyme delivered. It's a nice surprise.

Starting a martial arts practice in my 50s – peri-menopause and post-Lyme. Ha, ha, right? Yes, I have stepped out of my comfort zone. And in spite of however it looks, I'm going for it. Even if I look silly, or have to push myself really hard. Even if I am really bad at it. Which I am. But I will stick with it, because it's fun, challenging, and has benefits for the brain (and god knows, I can use all the help I can get).

In fact, physical exercise is reported to be better for improving cognitive functions than even mental exercise. My brand of cross-training has always included an exercise component, but martial arts is well suited to my needs, because it's a body-mind-spirit practice. You have to find what works for you. When I was fighting Lyme at the acute stage, I couldn't even handle much walking, let alone do martial arts. For help regaining my balance, slower, meditative exercises such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong were well-suited.


Importance of community
The Taekwondo community my partner and I joined is a family-friendly place. Very supportive. Folks are each at their own stage of development. There are lots of women and children, and people of every age, from three-year-olds to at least one 70-something. Some have been at it for years, some are newbies. Everyone has something to teach or offer.

I practiced with a 5 year-old yesterday whose listening skills were, embarrassingly, better than mine. As instructed, he nonchalantly executed five perfect kicks in a row. Meantime, I lost track of count and lost my balance. Ten minutes later, I was mirroring an economics professor, a black belt. He helped me aim my roundhouse kick more precisely. Following that, I sparred with a woman ten inches taller and four years more experienced than me.


Astonishing turnaround
Another beginner, a 43 year-old pediatric endocrinologist (I know, it's a mouthful), told me she had decided to start training because of a patient of hers. He is a member of the community too. She saw him go through astonishing changes over the course of his seven years of practice. He is 18 now, and was diagnosed with diabetes at age six. He had been overweight and at times severely depressed. Last Saturday we watched him skillfully earn his first-degree adult black belt. Afterward, he read aloud a personal essay he'd written about his healing journey through martial arts. He's headed off to college, a dream that when he was child, he assumed would never come true.

But the future is full of surprises. Some surprises we will abhor. Others we appreciate. Perhaps in the end it equals out, I don't know.

Can you recall any good surprises in your life since Lyme? If you're not there yet, it's okay. Sometimes it helps to hear stories of courage and victory. Other times, not so much. It depends on where you are on your path. My wish for every person suffering from Lyme or any chronic illness is always this: Persevere. Find the right healing path, diet, medicine, and Lyme doctors for you. Find a community of people who will cheer you on, offer you a hand up when you lose your balance, and celebrate your victories when you succeed. The river of time is on your side.

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Interview with Functional Movement Specialist Katherine Dowdney

I'm pro exercise! I never had a regular exercise program until I was healing from Lyme, and its perks and positive effects have been countless. It is one of those amazing gifts that's come from dealing with Lyme and chronic problems.

And, I'm so inspired by CJ Jaffe, Perry Fields, and all of the other athletes and exercise enthusiasts we've interviewed here, who have kicked Lyme and continue to integrate a rigorous exercise program into their schedule of healing.

But when we're talking exercise, just how much is enough? How much is too much? Should you start an exercise program without consulting your doctor or medical adviser? After all, getting stronger and getting well are the goals, not wearing ourselves out.

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk about these issues with Katherine Dowdney, a Functional Movement Specialist with a private practice as an exercise and rehabilitation coach. She describes her experience in working with people who suffer with conditions brought about by chronic illness. She talks about the problems and concerns we all face, such as how to choose a good exercise coach and just how far to push ourselves when we're really sick ora feeling out of balance.

Here is her bio and website:

Katherine Dowdney’s passion for anatomy and movement is evident in her teaching. She enjoys empowering clients to meet their personal fitness and wellness goals. Utilizing a combination of the Pilates method, yoga, traditional weight training, and additional corrective exercise modalities Katherine has a special interest in working with individuals with chronic conditions and pre or post rehabilitation. Katherine is a certified ACE personal trainer, a dual certified Pilates instructor through Peak Pilates and Balanced Body, an E-RYT 200 hour yoga instructor, an NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist, and an AFPA Post Rehab Specialist. She has received training in experiential anatomy, pre/post natal Fusion Pilates, Sadhana Chi yoga, Children’s yoga, and Structural Yoga Therapy. She recently attended an 8-day training in Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors at Duke Integrative Medicine. Her interests are in mindful movement, pain management, and corrective exercise.

Katherine is a founding member of Moving Women Dance Performance Ensemble in Asheville, NC where she choreographs and performs as a modern dancer. Along with dancing and teaching movement science, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Sam, and their dog, Ranger.

Her website is www.blissful-body.com

LDRD members, please listen to the conversation with Katherine.
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Qigong and Lyme Disease

If you are like many people and would rather have a root canal than exercise, listen up. In Chinese traditional medicine and complementary medicine, there is a belief that in order for us to stay healthy or to heal from disease, we need to maintain balance. One of the simplest ways to do this is with a bit of daily exercise. Qigong is a simple and easy way to help your body regain and maintain balance. You may know that Qigong is an ancient exercise that hails from China. Qi, or chi, refers to the life-force or energy. Increasing your qi leads to healing, but bear in mind that you must also practice patience with yourself, because healing probably won't happen all in one day. Create a simple, pleasant space where you can practice your daily routine. Express your determination, kindness and compassion for yourself and your unique healing path.

You can practice these gentle exercises by yourself in your living room, or maybe you're the type of person who needs the support and camaraderie of a group. Figure out what feels right to you, then just set your mind to following a routine. Dedicate yourself to healing. Asians have used these exercises for over 5,000 years to maintain health in mind, body and spirit. Qigong is only one form of exercise that you can do to help alleviate stress, increase your blood circulation, and calm your mind. I find that Qigong, like yoga, helps calm my mind. I recognize that I'm dealing with a serious illness that has changed my life, my relationships and my daily routines in every way. Anxiety is a natural result of all these changes. Anxiety arises when I feel my healing going two steps forward, one step back. A daily routine of calm and focused physical exercise helps me release the fears and find balance, literally and metaphorically.

Learn more abour exercise and it's effects on Lyme disease as a member.
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