I believe you

I believe you

Over the past two years, I have had to face a series of MS-related cognitive issues. The best way I can explain it is this: Imagine you have a big plate of spaghettis in a tomatoes sauce in front of you. They look delicious and you’re starving but you are surrounded by a thick fog and you have to use a teaspoon to eat! This is how my brain regularly – but luckily not always- feels. Muddled. Untidy. Slippery. Concepts are hard to grasp. Ideas slither away before I can get hold of them. I try here and there but I feel overwhelmed. Then the pressure builds up and its gets even worse. Working in a busy environment is really tough. People chatting, colleagues asking questions, interrupting to call a meeting are all adding up to the stress of deadlines, reminders, the need to prove yourself. It is exhausting. But the worse is that when I tried to explain it, people refuse to acknowledge it. “Your brain works fine”. “Everybody feels like this”. “You can’t be sure it’s MS”. “You just need to relax”. Even my GP said it was just stress.   And then I met a GP who has MS and told him how I felt. He calmly looked at me and said “I believe you!” I felt the tears well up to my eyes. It was the first time in over two years that someone told me these simple but powerful words. I believe you. It felts as if he was hugging me in a loving embrace.   And I listened to him explain how he...
It’s all about the run…

It’s all about the run…

When I like something, I want everybody to try it. I can’t help it. For many years, I’ve campaigned for yoga and found ways to lure my friends into a yoga class. Be warned! Here comes the next crusade, and this time it’s all about the run. Yes, I’m still on a high after running my first 10K race yesterday but it’s not just adrenaline talking. Running is good for you, if you train properly. And I have the best trainer ever, Peter – so good I’m going to marry him next month but that’s beside the point. Anyway I started to run last September. I was doing lots of yoga but no cardio vascular training and I often felt some fluttering in my chest. I realised I need to strengthen my heart. After my first running attempt, which must have been max 1.2 K, I was short of breath and Peter was a bit worried. He got me to run very short distances for what seemed like eternity. So I ran around the block again and again, slightly afraid that my neighbours would get suspicious. I didn’t think I could ever run more than 3K. But we slowly increased the distance and in November I ran my first 5K. Hurrah! Over the winter, I couldn’t train because of colds and sore throats.Peter had registered me for a run in January but I had to postpone it and eventually cancel it as I didn’t feel I could run more than 5K. But from May onwards, I had an objective: to run the London Vitality 10K race on July 10th for a...
Low Energy = Feeling Down

Low Energy = Feeling Down

The equation governs the life of most people with MS. Right now, I know that I am in a great place. I know I am lucky: I have a wonderful partner, amazing friends and relatives, a job I love. But despite this knowledge, I feel down. Why? Because my energy level has run low. I usually pay very close attention, a bit like a stingy accountant: I am only allowed to give out energy if I have good reserves. However, over the last two months I tended to overspend. Flying to Amsterdam to shoot videos, then driving to Portugal for a one week yoga for MS retreat, back to the south of Spain to pack, driving through Spain and France to move to the South of England, unpacking and getting organised here…  I am now in the red! And although I am absolutely amazed at how swiftly everything went and feel blessed by all the opportunities I am given, I cannot fully enjoy it. The lower part of my body is numb. The upper part is aching. The back of my head aches as if someone just hit me with a baseball bat. So what do you do? Do you say “I’m happy” although inside you feel pretty low? Do you say “I’m down” although you know you are not really really down? I think the best is not to say anything but to RESTORE your energy! I only do restorative yoga at the moment. But I also enjoy reading, having a bath (not too hot otherwise it makes me tired) without feeling guilty! Ps: I am not sure...
Speaking of MS

Speaking of MS

I’ve been living with Veronique, my partner for the last two years who has MS and I have learnt so much about this unpredictable disease and what it is like for her. There’s lots of course she can’t share; her actual person experience of having MS for one thing. Veronique is a yoga teacher and dedicates a great deal of her time researching and developing a resource for other people with MS, mainly but not exclusively based on her experience using Yoga to treat the symptoms she experiences. One thing we spend many hours talking about is how to speak about MS and from some of the discussions I’ve seen on the internet, and some pretty forthright responses to Veronique’s work,  both positive and not so positive, my impression is that this is a very delicate area for many with MS. We have been particularly preoccupied with trying to find the right way to describe the potential of various treatment strategies for living with MS.  Do these strategies heal, cure, treat, tame, or overcome MS? Or do they help you recover from, live with, adapt to, accept, or even transcend MS? Just how high can we reasonably aim? Is it OK to say MS can be cured? Is it OK to say you can overcome MS? Or is it more accurate to say it can be tamed or controlled? Or maybe we should be learning to live with it, learning to accept we have MS and finding peace in our acceptance? Are people with MS, MS Survivors, MS Sufferers, MS’ers, MS Patients. Are they sick? Have  sickness, ill, chronically ill, disabled etc....
MS Hug (How Yoga helps)

MS Hug (How Yoga helps)

I had just finished reading a great article (Sam Harris’s Vanishing Self by Gary Gutting) when the pain started. My ribcage was caught in a vice. My breath got shorter and shallower. So I got up, walked around trying to stand up and then lied down breathing as deeply as I could. But it didn’t stop. I then decided to go on my yoga mat – I am lucky to have a ‘yoga room’ where my mat is always waiting for me, with bolsters and blocks. Without any hesitation, I went into Supta Badda Konasana, the Bound Angle Pose. I demonstrated this pose in a video for ekhartyoga: Watch the video I did this pose without the belt though and stayed for about ten minutes, listening to some relaxing music. Peter had brought my iPad in the room and lit the candles to help me relax – i think he was a bit worried as he had never seen me with the MS hug before! I then moved into Savasana, the Corpse Pose, and played a ‘Chanting Om’ album. I listened to Om being continuously chanted, anchoring my breath on each long slow Om. I did this for about twenty minutes, focusing on keeping with the breath, and then I felt better. Later on, I also meditated briefly, had a nice cup of tea and a hot shower. The crisis was over. Yoga doesn’t take away the pain of the MS Hug – it is hard to reach the muscles being in spasm with the MS hug- but it helps. For me, it is like having a toothache. On the one...
There are days like this!

There are days like this!

Yesterday I had this great idea: “Tomorrow I will do this and that… wouldn’t that be great?” But that was yesterday! This morning, I woke up – or did I?- and felt exactly as I looked. The best way to describe it would be to imagine someone dips you in a gigantic cheese fondue and you are trying to get out of it… A battle against Gravity! Gone was the big plan of doing some nice energetic Kundalini sequence. For a little while, I even tried to convince myself that it would be best to start tomorrow. Everything starts on Mondays, n’est-ce pas? But I thought “Yin, Yin, Yin yoga is what you need!” I took everything I could take hold of: a mat, blocks, bolsters, cushions… I lit some incense. And there I was, ready to work on my kidney meridian – I always need to relax a bit so working on this meridian is always useful. What I like about yin yoga, besides the fact that it is amazing to stretch the connective tissues, is that there is no rush… You have time to slowly settle into the poses (I usually hold each pose between 3 and 5 minutes) and you can  focus on your breath or observe your mind. The first few poses were challenging, not physically, but mentally. All these thoughts were coming in “Why don’t you do yoga later?” “You are tired, go back to bed”… I remembered a trick given by Esther Ekhart in one of her classes. She described how her cat would be waiting in front of a hole in the wall, ready to...