Our flowing energy can get stuck in areas of our bodies. If we live a sedentary life, our energy is most likely stuck in places and those places can become un-well. We can do enormous good for our positive energy levels by simply moving our bodies in appropriate ways.
Let’s talk about that second type of energy we mentioned earlier – the energy you feel in your bones and muscles and have to work with during your day to make your body move. The second kind, the kind in your muscles, gets a huge boost from the first kind, the kind that flows through your energy fields.
If you have great levels of positive flowing energy and then find after you exercise that you’ve lost it or that your mood suffers even though you keep hearing about how exercise should boost your moods, you’re doing too much or the wrong kind. Let’s explore that further.
Exercise & Siestas – Don’t overheat your body if you are chronically ill. People with chronic conditions and autoimmune diseases have a difficult time regulating temperature in general. Overheating your body causes inflammation. Inflammation causes illness. Illness causes a flare-up. And a bad flare-up can put you in the hospital.
Right now, your temperature is possibly already slightly higher than normal due to the fact that your body is in attack-mode. If someone has given you advice to go running or do a vigorous work-out, they are wrong.
While it is important to keep your circulation going and bring oxygen to all the parts of your body, never, ever do any kind of exercise during this time that makes you breathe so hard you are panting or makes any part of your body hurt. Remember – Do No Harm.
If you’re breaking out in a heavy sweat – you’ve done too much. If you can’t talk and breathe – you’ve done too much. And if your muscles or joints are sore – you’ve done too much.
Think of your day as a square. You have a finite amount of physical energy to make your body move and to heal in that square and that is all you have for today. If you over-exert yourself in exercise, push yourself trying to do more than your body can give, you deplete the entire day’s supply of physical energy in that square and then start stealing from tomorrow’s square. When you look at tomorrow’s square, now you see you’re starting at a deficit. When you wake up in the morning, you will feel lethargic and achy. You won’t have enough of what you need and you’ll spend all that day trying to make up for it, and that keeps you in a place where you’re just surviving, not healing. Be careful with yourself. (See also, The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino.)
People with a chronic condition are frequently overweight and feel an urgency to lose it. They may even have misinformed doctors or well-intentioned friends or family who encourage them to diet or exercise to try and shed pounds during this critical time. Let’s look at that closer and get a little science-y.
When your body is in a state of shock or panic or nearing an emergency, the last thing it can do is worry about losing weight. They only thing it can worry about is surviving. In the case of a chronically ill person, the body’s immune system is currently attacking vital organs and healthy tissue because it perceives them as the enemy. Over many months, the body may think that adding more and more weight is a good thing because it acts is insulation around your organs. The only way to get your body to even think about letting go of excess weight is to remove the inflammation, quiet the storm and soothe the system to the point where survival isn’t the only thing happening. Then, other things can happen like weight loss. And it will be an organic and natural thing.
Because getting oxygen to all parts of your body is important and circulation is vital, short walks on relatively flat ground during cool hours of the day is recommended. Wear sunscreen and a hat.
Restorative yoga and Ti Chi are also very good at stretching your body and oxygenating the blood. If you enjoy swimming and have access to an indoor pool (that hopefully isn’t over-chlorinated), take advantage of that or wear sunscreen and go swimming in the ocean during the early morning or evening hours. Stay out of the sun when it’s too warm. Many people with a chronic illness, especially autoimmune diseases, find that more than 30 minutes in a warm sun is simply too much and spend the rest of the day in recovery mode with a headache and stomach ache. Days like that will prolong your healing time.
Deep breathing will massage your Vagus Nerve. Your vagus nerve starts at your brain stem and continues through all major organs and ends up in your gut.
Here’s the thing about your vagus nerve: it is in constant communication with your brain and it’s actually sending far more messages up to the brain than down. The vagus nerve is part of your Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which is a super important part of your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) that you’ve probably never heard of.
Your ANS is comprised of the Sympathetic (SNS) and ParaSympathetic (PNS) nervous systems and the enteric nervous system helps them communicate. When you are in Fight or Flight mode, your SNS is in charge of flooding you with endorphins, shutting down low-priority body systems and diverting blood to the brain, lungs and muscles. After the crisis, it’s your PNS that brings everything back to Homeostasis, the natural set-point of your body. Without your ENS to do the go-between conversation, you’d just be dead.
So deep breathing, besides helping to send oxygen to all the parts of your body in your blood, wakes up your vagus nerve and keeps it in tip-top shape and able to help all your systems communicate.
If you are not in crisis, venturing out to a bit more strenuous type of exercise is fine. Doing short and intense strength exercises every few days and doing yoga and deep breathing daily can actually be better for a body than cardio for 45-60 minutes every day. Why? Let’s get a little science-y.
What happens inside your body when you’re a chronically ill person and you’re running long distances? It actually stimulates a response very similar to the Fight or Flight state by increasing your cortisol levels, triggering inflammation and damaging your cells with free radicals being released in the process. We used to think it was a huge rush of endorphins sent to calm the system down, like morphine. New studies show it’s more likely to be serotonin or norepinephrine, both of which can pass the blood/brain barrier. If you’re healthy? Awesome. But if you’re pushing past what’s good for you as a chronically ill person on a continued and daily basis, you’re teaching your body that you’re always just about to go into crisis mode and it better keep the adrenaline handy. That eventually will wear our adrenals out and make us more tired than before. We literally use up our bodies trying to be healthier, leaving our immune response more depressed.
One benefit of cardio is that it’s increasing your heart to the point where it’s pumping your blood to all the parts of your body. So, how do you keep that part, because you really need it, and let the rest go?
Oxygenating your blood is done effectively with brisk walking, yoga, deep breathing and massaging the vagus nerve. Short but intense burst of strength exercises help you build and keep muscle. Resting in between and giving yourself recovery time is just as important. If you gradually build up your strength, your body will respond in positive ways and it’s highly unlikely you’ll experience the bone fractures or feet issues associated with prolonged cardio exercise.
I’m not talking about joining a rogue gym where they do a heavy-duty version of the strength and conditioning exercises so popular right now. Those tend to get a little on the insane side with very little supervision and with the intent to grow your muscles really large. No.
I’m talking about learning to do squats to increase the strength in your legs and groin and buttocks. Do some pushups and pull-ups. Get a bike and go up some hills, like, in nature. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get some light weights and do a few repetitions.
The old theory that you have to “burn more calories than you take in” to keep a healthy weight is false. We aren’t counting the calories we put in our bodies and we aren’t going to count them going out. What we want is oxygenation of the body and strength in the muscles, but we don’t want to do an activity that stresses our systems out for an hour. Instead, think about what activity feels right for you and do that thing, whether it’s biking or swimming or yoga, and smile while you do it to help those endorphins release.
Oxygenate Something Good
Do some deep breathing. Take two minutes and do some deep breathing exercises right where you are sitting this very moment. It massages your vagus nerve which means better communication from your organs to your brain and increases the energy flow throughout your entire body while oxygenating your blood from head to toe. Throw in the thought affirmation of “Way to go, Body!” a few times and you’ve just done something really beneficial.