Let’s get physical
I basically feel and look like the Tin Man after being confined to my bed for so long due to COVID19; the prolonged, painful recovery period hasn’t been much better either.
I tried walking on the treadmill a few weeks ago and was utterly exhausted after a few minutes. I ended up sleeping for three days after. Talk about feeling like a failure and allowing utter depression to come in.
My doctor told me I have to “be kind to my body and literally pace activities to allow my body to come out of the trauma of surviving COVID19.”
“I am learning how to be kind to myself and literally pace activities to allow my body to come out of the trauma of surviving COVID19.”
So I am starting with the basics to make the long journey back to normal. I am slowly going through physical therapy workouts to regain my range of motion, strength, and confidence in moving my body.
A month ago, my O2 stats were diminished. Can you imagine trying to do activities with less oxygen?
I can tell you it’s painful. It feels embarrassing that you aren’t functioning “normally.” I have to retrain my lungs too. I am fortunate that I can lean on years of breathwork from opera singing to strengthen and increase my lung capacity.
I also started attending a pain therapy group. Having COVID19 was bad, but the aftermath has been hell too. The first session I attended, they focused on teaching diaphragmic breathing. I laughed out loud when the therapist recommended diaphragmic breathing because this is the foundation of singing and the breathwork I’ve already been doing on my own. After years of vocal training, breathing from my diaphragm is how I naturally breathe all the time.
In my most recent doctor’s follow up appointment, I shared this story with my doctor. She smiled and told me this habit is most likely why I have been able to functionally breathe despite having had COVID19. At this point, I’ve heard the same affirmation from a few of my treating doctors, so I’ll take it as fact.
How to work out your lungs
What is diaphragmic breathing?–it’s when you use your diaphragm, which is a muscle below your lungs, to push outward to automatically draw air into your lungs (inhaling) and, when pulled inward, automatically pushes out air from the lungs (exhaling).
If you cough, you’ll feel your chest muscles engaged–those are the muscles a lot of people use when they breathe. If you make a huge yawn, you’ll feel different muscles engaged; your diaphragm pushes out, and your rib cage rises when you breathe in. THAT is diaphragmic breathing.
When I was at my worst with COVID19, I will tell you that breathing from my diaphragm really did help me push through the extreme pain in my lungs and shortness of breath. Now I practice building up my lung capacity by taking counted breaths in this way, holding it in for the same amount of time and then slowly exhaling for the same amount of counted seconds.
If you are interested in learning how to do this type of breathing, here is a quick 2-minute introduction video I found by Massachusetts General Hospital: