It may sound bizarre, but there are various things that I can do that leave me with noticeably more energy than I had before I did them. My scientific mind wants to find an explanation, and the best I can come up with is the idea that these activities help me release any resistances and tension in my body that are using my energy wastefully.
However, since chronic illness struck, science has offered me very few helpful solutions, and I’ve found the ancient eastern paradigms of the body being made up of various energy centres and channels have offered me far more practical help. My experience has shown me over and over again that releasing blockages and restoring balance to energy channels contributes to improving health and can leave me feeling as though I have more energy available to me.
There are three things that have shown to consistently and powerfully improve my energy, that I find much easier to understand when I think of us as energetic beings not just physical ones.
1. Mindful gentle movement connecting with the breath
Learning tai chi was a turning point for my health the first time I had ME/CFS. At the time, I was practically house bound. My tai chi class was about the only thing that I did outside of the house; I could barely drive the mile to and from the class. But my teacher was so incredibly understanding and adaptive to my needs, it was a lifeline. By the time I’d learned the first 10 movements of the form, I was able to perceive how much better my energy was after practicing. When energy is so low, even small improvements are really obvious! I’d never been particularly self-disciplined before that, but the results were so astonishing that I have continued practising every day for 22 years! This gentle movement is thought to help release blockages in energy channels (meridians) and help energy flow more in balance, thus restoring health. The breathing exercises are designed to top up energy reserves.
In the yogic traditions, the idea of a universal life force or vital energy (prana) is linked to the breath. Breathing exercise are conceived of as bringing more of this vital energy into the body. When I’m practising my gentle yoga stretches, without exertion, while concentrating on my breath, I can get a real felt sense of how my energy flows more freely. And no matter how tired I’m feeling when I start, it always feel as though I have more energy afterwards.
2. Donna Eden’s energy exercises
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This is something relatively new to me but after being recommended various times in the space of a couple of weeks, I thought I’d check Donna Eden out. The routine* I tried isn’t focused at chronic illness, more at general health, but it was only 11 minutes to watch the video. I decided to experiment with it and see what happened and again I was really struck by how much lighter I felt immediately after practicing. The effect wouldn’t last long at first, but I’ve persisted and after a couple of months I’ve noticed that my general energy level has significantly improved. There may be other things that have contributed to this improvement as well, but now that I know these exercises, they only take five minutes, I do them at my lowest energy time of the day and feel a wonderful boost!
3. Connecting with nature and gardening
Spending time connecting with nature always leaves me feeling as though I have more energy than before. It’s not just about having my spirits lifted. I can physically feel heavy and drained in my body, then after 10 minutes or more of silently contemplating the natural world, my body can feel lighter and energised! It works best when I’m alone and pay all my attention to appreciating being in the natural environment. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in the garden, in a park or in the mountains, as long as I am paying attention to something that is living and breathing.
The other day I was feeling tired, but I wanted to water something I’d newly planted on the veg patch. It was an easy five-minute job so I decided I’d go and do it anyway and would water everything else the next day. 30 minutes later I’d weeded six rows of plants in a relaxed effortless manner whilst watering half of the veg patch (setting the hose at the neck of irrigation channels) and I felt physically lighter and energised.
I’ve no idea how science could explain this so I have to believe that our bodies interact with energy in ways that go beyond traditional western belief systems. I do know from experience that it results from being peacefully focused in the present moment on something living, either with an attitude of appreciation or nurturing.
What things do you find can boost your energy even though it must use it at the same time? How could you include them in your daily routine?
*11 minute video of Donna Eden’s daily energy routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di5Ua44iuXc
Julie Holliday, ProHealth’s Inspirational Editor, is a holistic life coach and writer committed to helping people take back control from energy-limiting chronic illness to live a more relaxed, balanced and fulfilling life. Julie loves spending time in nature, growing her own vegetables and spends as much of her day as possible in a comfortable pair of yoga pants. Writing as the ME/CFS Self-Help Guru, Julie shares tips on her weekly blog. You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.