Exercise is one of the consistent recommendations for maintaining and stabilizing one’s cognition and memory. Two of the standard suggestions are walking and yoga, and I do both.
I live in Minnesota, so walking is often weather-dependent. On good walking days, my husband and I take our two dogs on a short ride into town and walk around one of two lakes located at the base of nearby bluffs. The small lake is a mile and a half around and allows dogs, so that’s our preference. The path is surrounded by beautiful scenery, and in keeping with the local “Minnesota Nice” culture, we can expect a smile and a nod as we pass other walkers. When the weather is not suitable, I walk on a treadmill at home while listening to public radio.
I also do yoga. I started practicing yoga before my diagnosis and have continued, however my relationship with yoga has morphed and altered as my symptoms have progressed. Initially I was in a very traditional yoga class—and by that I mean a class focused solely on yoga poses, with emphasis on posture and correct positioning of head, arms, and torso. The class ended with a relaxing resting pose. I loved the precision and preciseness of this yoga, with the identification of specific muscles and the focus on stretching and strengthening, but gradually I found myself struggling to keep up; I couldn’t remember the poses by name, and found myself constantly needing to watch the instructor or others in class to see what I was supposed to be doing…then just as I getting the pose and sinking into the stance, the class was moving on to the next one.
As I began to consider stopping, I was forced to a halt after a car accident fractured my pelvis in five places. After months of rehab I wanted to get back to yoga but hesitated, remembering the frustration I had experienced. After mentioning this to a good friend, she suggested I try the yoga class she attended. “It’s structured toward women our age. And the instructor, also close to our age, has an extensive background in both yoga and physical therapy.”
That was three years ago, and I’m still going to this class. The class is small—no more than 8 to 10 women, all in my age group, give or take a year or so. All of the gals have issues: arthritis, joint replacements, bad backs; even our instructor has had a knee replacement. We do a limited amount of yoga poses, always with suggested adaptations that help ease pressure on knees, hips, or shoulders. Strengthening with moderation is always stressed.
I offer this experience as an example of how giving myself permission to make adjustments and adaptations worked for me. Yes, yoga is great, but my mind couldn’t follow the traditional structure. I needed the alternatives my new class offered.
Having experienced this “aha,” I now actively look for ways to ease my stress by making adaptations and adjustments in other areas. For instance, if I start a book and struggle with “getting it” in the first few pages, I drop it. (Notice I didn’t use the phrase “I give up.”) I don’t have the time or energy to plod through; and equally, there are literally scores of books to choose from, so why not move on? I’ve mentioned before that I no longer knit—it was just too frustrating for me. I’ve replaced that hand work with embroidery, where I just follow the printed pattern. Cooking? I rarely try a new recipe, and if I do, it has to be a simple one. For instance, I like to bake bread, which can require numerous steps and specific timing. I’ve discovered a great alternative in a bread making book entitled Kneadlessly Simple. The recipes have minimal ingredients, there is little mixing, and no kneading! Using long rising times you end up with a beautiful loaf of homemade bread.
I no longer feel like I’m giving something up when I replace, adapt, adjust, revise, or alter, and I no longer feel that I’m less capable. In fact, I feel just the opposite…that I’m very smart and clever!
I’d like to hear from my readers for examples of how you’ve replaced, refined, or adapted to make your life easier. Just send me a note. I’ll collate them and post them on this blog.
Thanks for reading.