Yoga, sunshine and a six foot lion

The tendons in my left leg are slowly but surely stretching, the muscles are getting stronger and that’s in no small part thanks to yoga.

When I think how tight my tendons and muscles were around my arthritic hip and down my leg last Autumn, when early onset osteoarthritis was diagnosed… I was in pain most of the time, I couldn’t sit cross-legged without my left knee being up in the air – and I immediately tipped over to the right. Bit of a mess really.

Nine months of physio, strengthening exercises and yoga and I’m almost balanced. I’m now on to a course of core strengthening, squats and lunges.

I go to classes weekly and practice daily but in the Autumn I started taking yoga more seriously and i wanted to study it in more depth so I began a monthly, all-day Saturday yoga course which ended last week.

Best feet forward in yoga

Best feet forward in yoga

It was a sad-happy day full of laughter and tears as the group talked about what they’d gained from the course. It’s powerful stuff, yoga. It can change much more than your body. It can open your heart and help you mould the way you view life. Sad though it was to say our ‘good-byes’ at 5 o’clock, it’s not a complete goodbye as we’re all getting together in December for a full day of yoga with our beloved teacher. And some of us will see each other before then, because a number of us – including me – are going on to yoga teacher training.

Believe it or not, even in the north, the sun is shining.

Bolton - early morning sunshine

Bolton – early morning sunshine

This is Bolton. Yes, that’s right – not Bath, Bolton. We have a beautiful cobbled crescent and as I trotted off to work on Friday I snapped some views for the University facebook page. The town hall was looking pretty gorgeous too.

Bolton Town Hall

Bolton Town Hall

And on Tuesday I made a new friend in Bolton, Lofty the Lion.

Lofty the Lion

Lofty the Lion

Lofty was at a local primary school, helping one of our graduates tell children about their new green energy business as the mascot of the town’s football team where their company, FibrLec, is principal sponsor.

The children loved Lofty and, of course, it’s difficult to resist a big cuddly lion. As you can see!

Lofty the Lion

You can’t resist hugging Lofty.

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Joyful June 1-9

First of all, confession: I am, quite shamelessly, copying this idea from Running Sunflower.

It’s June and I am going to try to do something that makes me super-happy, every day.

I have a bit of catching up to do so I’ve had one very fun day today.

jasmine in my garden

Stop and smell the flowers

In my garden is this deliciously intoxicating jasmine bush. How often do I sit beside it an inhale that lovely perfume? Not often enough.

wold rocket seeds - sown

Growing my own salad greens

I’ve always wanted to grow my own salad greens. Today I sowed wild rocket seeds into one of my window pots. There is something very cheering about grubbing about in soil, running it through your fingers, smelling earth. My seeds are sown, watered and hopefully the little babies are germinating in the evening sun.

My bike

My bike

And then I went for a ride on my bike. In shorts and sandals with my keys on a piece of string round my neck. No watch.

Remember how you used to go out all day on your bike. Maybe home for some lunch. No phone. No watch. Just you and your bike and your imagination?

I cycled down the river and watched butterflies, I even saw a little bob-tailed baby rabbit bound into the hedgerow before heading home because I was hungry. Getting on and off my bike isn’t as easy as it used to be before the arthritis. I can’t easily swing my leg over the back of my bike, like I used to. I’ve worked out a rather ladylike step over the crossbar.

Isn’t it great, feeling the sun on your skin? Let’s hope the sunshine lasts – loving it!

Physio score!

Well, believe it or not, all that cake eating on holiday has done my arthritis no harm at all.

Yes I am being cured by cake!

Well maybe not. Let’s say the stiffness in my hip is easing and I’ve been doing my physio exercises everyday and my yoga every day and eating enough oily fish to lubricate the stiffest of joints.

But my hips are definitely wearing the odd slice of cake.

At physio my hips were almost even. Possibly one more session. Woohoo.

Of course being off work I’ve been doing a lot of yoga.

At yoga school we were asked to make a structure out of 11 sheets of the Guardian that could stand up. It was part of a team bonding exercise.

IMG_2802

Meet Wellington. (Our yoga school sessions are in a chapel on Wellington Road).

And if you look carefully at his ear, I’m pretty sure Mel has managed to twist the paper to say ‘bark’…

Yoga school

Namaste people

On Saturday I got up early for yoga school. It’s not really called yoga school, it’s called British Wheel of Yoga Foundation 1. Snappy. So in my head it’s yoga school.

I’ve been on this course since last Autumn and loving it. I’ve learned about aspects of yoga beyond asana such as pranayama, mudra, dhyana. It’s like reading a great book and then someone saying ‘oh, didn’t you know that’s just one in a whole series?’ And then suddenly you’re tucking into the other books and being blown away by how the story unfolds.

This is me at 6.30am on a Saturday morning. Don’t ask me what my hair is doing, but it is clean.

Asleep? Almost...

Asleep? Almost…

This is what I need to eat to keep me going until lunch time. A lot of porridge, with nuts, seeds and fruit.

Brekkie

Brekkie

This Saturday we did lateral extension and twists – focusing on asanas like triangle and sage pose, which are great for the muscles around my arthritic left hip.

arriving at yoga school

arriving at yoga school

Muscles which, I think, are slowly but surely releasing. It’s a real lesson in patience, regaining mobility in muscle stiffness. But it is possible.

This foundation course ends in June. I’m going to miss the women from the course. With them I’ve learned, laughed and expanded my understanding, of life, the world and how to manage the stresses we are subject to as we try to earn a living, manage our homes and relationships, plan for our futures…

And I’ve eaten a lot of cake. Oh yes, cake. Several women in the group are great bakers. Mel, I swear, is a baking goddess. Her lemon drizzle… unbelievably moist and zesty. I didn’t think I even liked cake!

Spring in my step

That’s a bit of an ambitious title.

More like spring in my limp but I can walk three or four miles now so improving, though I need to roller and stretch when i get back in.

According to scientists, brisk walking is better for you than running. Hmm.. I’m sure some of us would disagree with them. But a brisk walk is what I can manage just now, so a brisk walk is what I shall be enjoying.

daffodils

late spring daffodils

Spring is late here this year. MrM is the weather-watcher, something about a wind being stuck in the Mediterranean which means we get lumbered with freezing temperatures. but it has been bright and clear, so I feel like I’m emerging from semi-hibernation.

I walked down to Chorlton Water Park to see the river.

The Mersey, Chorlton Water Park bridge

View from a bridge

This looks fun, although as they passed me the woman at the back assured me she was having ‘a nightmare’!

Horse riding at Chorlton Water Park

Horse riding at Chorlton Water Park


If you look this way, into the distance, you can see the rise of the hill I used to use for hill-running practice (little sigh).

My running hill

My running hill

I then went for a sit in the orchard.

Plaque on the orchard bench

The plaque on the orchard bench

And you know, sometimes it is nice to just sit. And breathe. And really look at what’s around you.

Chorlton water park, orchard view

The Orchard view

Even if we could do with more of this…

first leaves

Look – leaves!

Come on Spring!

Balls

Tennis balls, to be precise.

tennis ball

sports rehab muscle tension equipment – tennis ball to you

It turns out they are brilliant for pounding away at those tight spots which cause muscles to spasm. I highly recommend. Apparently squash balls are even more effective.

So while I am pretty much welded to my roller, to knock out the ITB area tightness, for those hard-to-reach spots, you can’t beat a tennis ball.

I’ve discovered knots of tension all down the sides of the muscles running from my hip to my knees. back and front. Inside and outside the leg.

My most annoyingly persistent tense spots are on the outside of each knee, but my roller is great for the back of my hip and round the sides.

roller and tennis ball

Tension tacking combo kit

I woke up at 4.30am this morning with my hip niggling so I’ve been up an hour rollering myself. I know, ridiculously early, but there’s nothing more irritating than trying to get comfortable with muscles spasming themselves stupid, right, left and centre. And it’s not much fun for MrM, having me toss and turn while he’s trying to sleep/do an impression of an unconscious walrus/wake the street with his snoring.

Of course there’s always someone wanting attention…

fifi the cat

you try to roller – she wants her morning cuddle

Hope

As we all know, I’ve been diagnosed with arthritis in my hip and it’s caused me all sorts of problems with my leg muscles.

I’ve been having sports physio on it for the past six months, I’m now well into a year-long advanced yoga course which is helping me understand the therapeutic application of this ancient mind-body philosophy, and I have changed the way I eat so I consume as many natural anti-inflammatories as I can during the day.

So, six-month review.

1. pain – overall huge improvements. The muscle cramping moves around still, but it’s been a long time since I felt twinges stepping onto a bus. The bone ache has gone but i am still stiff if I sit for long periods.

2. flexibility – I can actually sit crossed legged for a wee while now, without shooting pains down the outside of my knee and the general impression that my inner thigh muscle is going to tear off.

3. mindset – I am optimistic, I do believe I can run again, and I do believe my flexibility far further with time, application and patience.

The other day I ran for a bus and i didn’t immediately get any pain at all. That odd tightness pulling on the outside of my knee and across my inner thigh kicked in after 30 seconds, but it didn’t pull me up short with its intensity.

Moving forward. 🙂

Curry good for arthritis?

Did I mention I was going to bang on about arthritis a lot? because I am, now I know I have it.

While i was seeing Dalbinder the nutritionist the other day she was extolling the virtues of turmeric, garlic and ginger. Now garlic and ginger I’d heard of, but Dalbinder said ‘I’m hearing amazing things about turmeric…’ Having combed the internet for anything concrete I can see why she was vague – there’s been research into its ‘cure’ potential for lots of ills – from cancer to Alzheimer’s.

But there is something interesting on osteoarthritis, research from the US which adds some substance to claims that it has an anti-inflammatory effect on arthritis.

Worth trying? Is there a small jar in my shopping bag? oh yes.

Brie still my beating heart

Video

Kicking arthritis into touch means the cheese has to go. The fat in cheese apparently cancels out all the good effect of the Omega 3 fish oil I’m consuming. Can’t have that can we?

Of course, I love cheese, I’m in mourning for the cheese. If you listen carefully Karen Carpenter is singing my lament…

I’ll Say Goodbye to Cheese.

Yes she is 😉

Food for thought

Part of my Operation Arthritis artillery is food.

Last week I went to see a nutritionist and herbalist at Neals Yard in Manchester, to see if I could improve my diet and whether a herbal concoction would magically spirit away the aching and stiffness in my left hip.

There are no easy answers, as it turns out, but there are answers. It cost me £15 for about 25 minutes of Dalbinder’s time and I learned lots. Well worth the investment, I’d say.

We live in an instant-gratification culture where consumerism teaches us that it’s all there on a shelf waiting for us. All we need is money. Sometimes a lot of it.

Running, of course, teaches us that everything worth having takes time and commitment and you can’t buy fitness anymore than you can buy intelligence or compassion or love.

So, thankfully, I have the right mindset for this, which is just as well as I’ve had to make some radical adjustments to an already healthy eating plan and know I need to do this for at least six months before i can assess whether food changes alone will help me heal. If the food plan isn’t cutting it by then, we’re trying herbal remedies as well.

I am determined I am not going down the route of steroid injections. I want to manage my osteoarthritis though natural remedies.

I was already taking glucosamine and omega 3-6 fish oil supplement. This is now being boosted by a multivitamin and a probiotic capsule.

Now for the tough-love challenges:

* say goodbye to cheese. Apparently the type of fat that’s in cheese completely nutralises the good effects of the omega 3-6 oils. Bad cheese!

To say I love cheese, is a bit of an understatement. In Waitrose last Sunday, I audibly whimpered as we passed the cheese aisle. I used to eat my way through a round of camembert a week, plus cheddar here, goats cheese there… it’s so sad.

But I have noticed I’m considerably less snuffly since I cut it out 10 days ago. I don’t need to blow my nose half as much as I did, I can breathe more clearly – and as any yoga fanatic will tell you, breathing is where it’s at.

* Bye-bye regular red meat, hello oily fish, chicken and turkey. I can live with this, she says gritting her teeth.

* Utter horror – cut back radically on the English breakfast tea and coffee. Two a day is the prescription and then anything more is dehydrating. It’s a wonder I didn’t resemble a prune; 12 cups of tea a day could happen some days, eight minimum. I’m supposed to drink two litres of water a day, which is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Water? Meh.

Hello veg – leafy green and bright colours – and fruit – focusing on the berries. Hello pulses and grains. All easy for me. I genuinely like veg and love puy lentils and chickpeas.

Hello nuts and seeds. Seeds are new for me but I actually quite like them now.

Ginger, cardamon and turmeric have all been flagged up as goodies. I’ve tried grated ginger and hot water as a herbal tea and it’s not the most offensive thing I’ve ever drunk. (Pernod holds that dubious honour).

So far I’ve invented a quickie broccoli soup that is delish and I roast peppers with something bordering on glee.

I’m supposed to eat every three hours and include a protein at every meal.

Quite a lot to take on board, one way or another. But I want the arthritis stiffness and pain to sod off much more than I want the cheese and caffeine.

It’s been a week now since I embarked on this journey and I have to say I do feel well. I haven’t cut out red wine or chocolate completely, or red meat – they are on the treats list.

I thought it would make a big difference to my weekly shopping bill, but not really. Pulses are cheap and tasty and I’ve noticed supermarkets mark down blueberries, cherries etc regularly as the berry fans don’t seem to live near me. Big wins on a pound a box there.

Eating well really doesn’t cost a packet – now there’s a marketing line for you!