Earlier this year I was featured for the Digital Writers Festival as part of a collaboration with the lovely Madeleine Dore from Extraordinary Routines. I discussed my day and shared photos of my writing routine. My routine had elements that I tended to use every day but I had no real timeline for how my day would play out.
Living with an unpredictable chronic illness like Dysautonomia, plans and strict routines can be more depressing than helpful. Each time I failed to meet a deadline or complete a To Do list (or lost my To Do list!) I beat myself up. A trait I learnt back in the cradle. I wasn't giving myself any compassion or understanding and stupidly ignoring the physical impediments that were frequently out of my control. In writing out my day I realised how fluid my routine had become. Apart from taking medication and my morning shot of caffeine there was little structure.
This year I have found it hard to find a break in symptom flares. If it's not Dysautonomia it's a migraine, or a flare in my gastric pain, or a bowel that stops working, or my heart throwing up new problems, or....the list has been never ending. And with that I have lost most of even my tenuous routine. Recently I realised the lack of routine was starting to affect me negatively.
When Madeleine recently asked the question,
One of the most delightful things about rituals and routines is how effortlessly they belong to our days and shape who we are. That morning coffee, the way you tidy your desk before you get started, that sip of wine after work where you let everything escape from your mind 🍷🙊 But sometimes routines and habits are stubborn. No matter how many times we mark something on our to do list, we just can't make it work. We can't rise at 6am, or write those two pages of creative prose every morning. We miss coffee dates, skip exercise and procrastinate. We want to hear about that one habit you wrestle with. Comment below and be in the draw to win a double pass to an Extraordinary Routines - In Conversation event at @emergingwriters ✌️
yoga and mindfulness (which I'll discuss in another post) were two aspects that came immediately to mind.
Now admittedly my neuromuscular weakness, disc problems, and autonomic issues make activities like yoga difficult. I can't stand for long, or frequently short, periods and holding certain poses ends with my weak muscles shaking and giving way. Not to mention exercise intolerance. But I know from experience even simple yoga stretches make me feel lighter and in turn calmer.
Earlier this year I was alerted to a 30 Day yoga program run by a yoga teacher from Austin, Texas. 30 Days of yoga with Adriene, made me realise how much I missed the practice. What I liked most was Adriene herself. She is relatable and easy going. Her motto of Find What Feels Good resonated. This wasn't a program where I felt like a loser when I couldn't do the poses or finish a full day. I didn't feel bad when I skipped a day or two as my body played up. And I did A LOT of child's pose when I was unable to keep going or needed a break. But at the end of each session I felt like I had achieved something.
And then I stopped.
Life, or more my body, became complicated yet again and I didn't keep going.
I had subscribed to Yoga with Adriene on Facebook but just flipped past the posts as I fell into a familiar, comfortable, apathetic, life sucks, pouting, mode. Then about the time Madeleine asked the question, a link to Adriene's video for Bedtime Yoga* popped into my feed.
At a time when stress and insomnia were taking turns to give me atomic wedgies, it stood out. So I clicked on the link and fumbled my way through the sequence.
And I enjoyed it.
I didn't sleep better, but tension was lessoned. And I finished the whole sequence. A small achievement for sure, but it's surprising how good that can feel. So I did it the next night. And the next. And the next. I may not have been sleeping but I was more relaxed. Given that my insomnia is a creature of years I don't expect that it will disappear after a couple of weeks of yoga, but I am enjoying the process.
The sequence is easy and as ever Adriene is encouraging and relaxed. Find What Feels Good resonates throughout. Plus she makes a joke about her "rack" and that made me laugh. A yoga teacher that is not only relatable, not cracking the whip because you don't find your inner light or do a move perfectly, and makes a boob joke? That suits me to a T.
(Must get one of these)
Recently I decided to incorporate her Morning Yoga sequence into my routine.
Similar to the Bedtime routine it is easy and slow. I have tried other morning routines in the past and they were so quick and energetic with little time between moves. And filled with jargon. And I quickly gave up. On the bad mornings (well really it's more a brunch yoga than morning yoga, for me) I only do the lying down movements and only the bits I can, but at least it's movement and I can even do that in bed.
Plus all of it is free on Youtube. And free is a priority for those of us who pretty much need to sell a kidney just to pay for our continual medical needs. Given I can no longer drive, it also takes out the need to organise lifts to yoga studios, yet another bonus.
My routine has expanded and is now bookended by these two videos. I lie here on my yoga mat in my lounge room in country Australia and follow videos from Austin, Texas. And feel lighter.
Now if only I could stop Freyja from coming to check on me when I am lying on the floor with my eyes closed. An unexpected face full of Great Dane breath or a forehead lick does break through the relaxation aspect a bit.
I'm working on other parts of my daily routine. The balance between structure and flexibility can be hard one. Especially when you are living with complex chronic illness. But factoring in a bit of self care during the day is worth it. Even if I forgot for a while.
*As always, before beginning any exercise program you should check with your doctor that you're okay to start. And not everyone will be able to do even these easy yoga poses. And that's okay. Mix it up. Do what you can. Don't force it. As Adriene says Find What Feels Good.
Sing it Nina, Feeling Good. This is one of my favourite pick me up, belt it out songs. My scatting needs a lot of work but I always feel like I can kick some serious arse after singing along.
Feeling Good, Nina Simone by mrfnk