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Long Covid, Rest, and the Alexander Technique: lie down ideas for covid long haulers

Now that I am coming back a little bit into my life as I knew it before covid I can write about all my experiences and share them. Now I can play flute almost every day after not being able to do so for a very long time. Playing music is what I choose to do with this newly found “extra” energy. Some days I do still really crash out so that I can’t play. However, I have made big progress on the ME/CFS with PEM (chronic fatigue with crashes) front. None the less, it is a roller coaster thing. I never know when I will have a big crash out.

Here is a great and short description of ME/CFS with PEM aka chronic fatigue with crashes. This is something I’ve been experiencing for over three years now. I’ve always had this condition but covid exploded it. “Exacerbated it” is too mild a term. I do think that this has been the hardest to bear of my all my conditions messed up by covid.

As I wrote in my previous post, January 18, 2023 was my magic day. That day I realized I suddenly had more energy to do something else after work rather than to go to bed. This didn’t spontaneously happen. I do think that one of the off-label drugs I had been taking for a year finally kicked in. So I got out a flute and started playing. I continue to play. This makes me insanely happy! It’s so great to be able to be happy and feel contentment while being so compromised.

Needless to say, pacing oneself is key. One must be attuned to one’s body. Alexander Technique assists with learning how to pace!

So to recap, every time I did something, like walk Eloise, change Cletis Milou’s litter box, change my sheets, see a doctor whether in person or online, after work, after writing, after the rare occasion when I tried to socialize, after any Zoom session, etcetera, I would then have to deep rest, in bed, to recover. I wish I could describe the quality of this fatigue but I just cannot. I still cannot do things people take for granted. Oh, and before I was able to go back to work, at times I was bed bound/ house bound because of crashes. And these crashes can last a long time.

What if you are so impacted by ME/CFS with PEM that you are in bed a lot? Why, you should do an Alexander Technique active resting technique. I am proposing some modifications for long haulers, ME/CFS sufferers, and all who suffer from debilitating chronic conditions.

There are various names for this: constructive rest, active rest, semi-supine, Alexander Technique lie down. I’m going to use the term active rest here as this term resonates the most to me when applied to the long hauler community.

Check out Alexander Technique Constructive Rest on Robert Rickover’s The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique for a thorough discussion of this important practice. Notice that the photos and illustrations show folks lying down on a mat on the floor or on a table with their knees up. 

Well, what if one cannot do that? This is when some modifications are in order. Some of us long haulers cannot get down onto the floor nor have massage tables. Some of us are bed bound. I do active rest on my bed or couch. Mostly in bed. Of course it helps if the surface is firmer. I happen to have a firm mattress. Instead of elevating my knees like in the photos I  put pillows under my knees. Instead of putting books under my head on a table I use a thin pillow. I cross my hands over my abdomen.

Try doing an active rest like this, if you are able to do so,  and try to keep this position for 10 minutes or so.

Think about your knees going up, up, up…to the ceiling above you. Think about lengthening your spine and having your head go back to the wall behind you. Keep your eyes open so that you can remain aware and present. You must be present! Remember, this is active rest. What should you think about when doing a long hauler Alex Tech active rest? Think about your body making contact with the surface you are on, let’s say the bed. Release your shoulders back into bed. In fact, relax your whole body, part by part, into the bed and make note of how that feels. Keep those eyes opened! This makes you aware and awareness is key here. Mentally scan your body. Notice every part of your body. Where is there pain? Pretty weird thought for a long hauler because often every fiber of your body hurts. A lot. None the less, scan your body. Think about releasing every bit of pain you are experiencing. Think of sending healing vibes to all the parts that hurt. Mega-tons of healing vibes. Maybe think about each organ in your body one by one. Give thanks to that particular organ because it is working! It might not be perfectly working but it’s working. Concentrate on that organ and its function(s.) “Hi heart! How’re you doing? So happy you are beating even if it is not regular. Hiya kidneys! So glad you are functioning properly and that I can fais pipi! Hey stomach! I know you are experiencing mega-problems but please be aware that I am trying to figure out the cause for this weirdness.” You get the drift. Address your particular issues. Remember, being alive and  kicking is the important thing. It is of paramount importance to try to live. Your working organs are helping you to live. Leave the anger behind. This will only bother you and make you worse. Such a waste of your precious energy!

I’m going to add breath awareness in general in another post. But meanwhile, notice your breathing when doing active rest. What’s happening? What’s moving? Notice how you inhale and exhale, and how your ribs are moving in the front and back of you. Can you feel your diaphragm? If not, imagine that you can. Practice this. Are you experiencing chest heaviness or pain? Are you having problems breathing? Are you coughing a lot? Think about what’s going on with your lungs. Remember mind and body are one entity. Just thinking about ameliorating a physical situation might actually help. 

Yiddish proverb: « Better ten times ill than one time dead. » Remember, the alternative is not better. Be grateful for your blessings. This will get you through the very rough times. And remember, other people have it worse than you do! And they keep on trucking. Long covid is like ten times ill all at once…or more than ten times ill. So, remember your blessings when doing active rest. One by one…go over the catalogue of them. 

An active rest is great to do right when you get up in the morning when the pain is the worst. I also do them in the afternoon, especially after any exertion. So do an active rest when you finish anything that is causing exertion and can might cause you to crash. This of course can be any physical activity, any mental activity, any social encounter. If you are bed bound, try doing an active rest right where you are. Perhaps it will help you! They can be rejuvenating. They often give me some extra boost of energy. They are de-stressers.

And here’s something radical…I also practice constructive rest with my eyes closed when I turn the lights out to go to sleep. I start going over the mental catalogue of my body and I never finish before I am out like a light. This is not at all Alexander Technique active rest. It starts out that way. Hopefully it ends in sleep. Notice the difference when keeping your eyes closed! In the beginning of my long covid journey I had terrible insomnia and could never fall asleep. I have found that this is one of the things that helped me. I do have a bunch of various sleep aids. Maybe this one will help you.

Murray the rag doll

Murray is an old guy and in lots of pain. Murray is in the correct position to do an Alexander Technique active rest for long haulers in bed. He has a thin pillow under his head and one under his knees. Notice his arms are crossed over his abdomen. Murray is pretty mushy but he does hang in there.

Here’s a fine article on what it feels like to have long covid.

Don’t you wish you could just take a nap whenever you wanted to? When my insomnia was at its worst I could not nap at all. I cannot nap even though my sleep is never refreshing. Well, I was never a napper anyway. Even when totally exhausted. Look at this snooze fest:

Napping at local shop UpperWestSkates: Cookie the dog, under Cookie is Christopher, Kennedy the dog, and Harmony

All children of Chris Vidal, owner and chief cook and bottle washer of UpperWestSkates

Chris offered to teach me how to skateboard! Alas, I have no balance right now. I sold my bike. I can’t dance. So I’ll skateboard in my dreams. Meanwhile, Eloise and I go to UpperWestSkates to schmooze and hangout. All kinds of fascinating people drop into the shop. And I check out Chris’ latest art and photo additions. In fact, the shop is a work of art. And I peruse all the boards, apparel and sneakers. Eloise gets treats. If the timing is right…it might even be rotisserie chicken! Hanging out at UpperWestSkates makes me feel better, no matter what’s going on with me. I feel “almost normal” whatever that means. I’m very grateful for various places like Chris’ in my neighborhood! Mom and Pop places. They are the best! Homes away from home. Kind of like variations of real French cafés in my little neighborhood. Well, I guess I’m going off-topic here. I think this is a topic for a separate blog post! if you are able, and live in an urban area, and you have cozy hang out joints, take a little walk around the corner, while paying close attention to your use of course, and go hang out for a bit. Then go home and do an active rest!

Whatever the scenario, if you are a long hauler, please add Alexander Technique active rest to your “striving to get better” regime. And for everyone else, you add this wonderful technique to your life too!

Stay tuned for more posts on how Alexander Technique can help long haulers! There is so much to share!

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