Lyme disease derailed life as I knew it and left me scrambling to put the pieces back together. On a good day, my circumstances frustrated me. On a bad day, my hopes and dreams shattered. I felt like my body was betraying me, stuck in an ongoing cycle of muscle deconditioning, fatigue and pain.
After nine years of misdiagnosis, I began Lyme treatment in October of 2013. Along with a lengthy list of medications and supplements, I committed to incorporating movement-based therapy into my protocol. Pilates has been integral in my healing journey as it's allowed me to reconnect to my body with gentleness and understanding as I continue on the path to reclaim my health.
Here are four ways Pilates is helping me heal from Lyme disease:
1. Pilates is restoring flexibility in tense and rigid areas of my body.
During the darkest days of my illness, I was bedridden for 18 months. My muscles became tight and weak from the lack of activity and I had difficulty turning my head from side to side, standing upright and raising my arms above my head.
To begin, I'd lay for hours repeating the Pilates repertoire in my mind while doing breath work. It was the concept of fluidity, the body's ability to let go and flow freely within each exercise, that then motivated me to try gentle, warm-up sequences. By remaining mindful of fluidity even when doing the basic exercises, I have been able to slowly increase muscle and joint flexibility.
2. Pilates lets me know I don't need to push harder.
In the past, I coped with my illness by telling myself I had to try harder. Pilates taught me I could honor the limitations of my body by working smarter, not harder. Recovery from Lyme disease is exhausting, but I found I could enjoy training in a way that didn't fatigue or over-stress my body. I now focus my efforts on fewer, more quality movements as opposed to greater repetitions.
3. Pilates reminds me that pain isn't the way to regain strength.
If I'm experiencing pain during a workout, I'm either not doing the exercise correctly or not practicing good postural alignment. I know that's my cue to stop and seek the guidance of my instructor. I can retry the exercise later. Pilates is helping me to understand and respect my boundaries as opposed to pushing past them.
4. Pilates is restoring my sense of power.
With such a drastic change in my life, I felt powerless and out of control. The feeling of leading my body carefully through an exercise again was exhilarating and led me to a revelation: I'd been short-changing my expectations for a better quality of life. Pilates helped me see there were aspects of this illness where I had power and could take action.
It has been a Herculean feat for me to go from supine to among the bipeds again, but I'm slowly accomplishing it. Recovery will likely take many years. Undeterred, I continue to plan and dream about my future. I'm enjoying less pain and greater ease of movement in my life thanks to the therapeutic nature of the Pilates Method. As time passes, I see glimpses of my old self emerging again.