There were days in my life when the throbbing pain of palmar-plantar psoriasis was the last thing on my mind as I fell asleep at night and the first thing to pierce my consciousness upon waking. Simply touching my sore, swollen, stocking feet to the floor in the morning and hobbling to the bathroom felt like a cruel endurance test.
Each morning, I would step gingerly into the shower with socks and gloves still glued to my raw skin with dried blood, lymph, and steroidal ointment. I would stand under the spray, wincing quietly as the water soaked and softened the fabric enough for me to peel it away, taking care not to also peel away skin or reopen deep fissures that crisscrossed the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet like biological barbed wire. I used the tips of my fingers to work on a meager lather of baby shampoo — just enough to wash myself as quickly as possible — the stinging suds and salty tears mixing to produce the unforgiving waters of my daily baptism during a psoriasis flare.
When it was all over, I would collapse onto my bed, prepare my biologic injection, and hope I did enough to stave off another bout of cellulitis. I would then slather on more steroidal, antibiotic, and analgesic ointments, slip on clean socks and gloves, and swallow enough NSAIDS to take the edge off without burning a hole in my stomach. I was completely exhausted before I even left the house, and my only form of exercise was summoning the mental and emotional willpower to face the day.
Exercise in Gratitude
These days, after many years of therapeutic treatments, positive lifestyle changes, and the sweet relief of earned remission, the moment my feet kiss the floor in the morning, I close my eyes and give thanks. I give thanks for being pain free, infection free, injection free, and free from the daily burdens of psoriatic disease. And I give thanks, most of all, for being able to move my body with ease.
I practice gentle Hatha yoga in the morning and walk my leafy neighborhood most afternoons, bookending my days with reverence for my body and all its miraculous functions. Recently, I have begun to explore the benefits of qi gong, an ancient Chinese healing art involving meditation, controlled breathing, and movement exercises. I also regularly practice tension and trauma releasing exercises (TRE), an innovative series of exercises that help the body release deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and trauma.
Healthy, Calm, and Strong
My daily movement practice is a love song to my body. I still live with several chronic conditions, but pain-free mobility is a gift that I cherish every day, having been impacted both physically and emotionally by disease and obesity for so many years. Unlike traditional fitness and exercise, movement practice is less about aesthetics and results and more about healing, structural strengthening, healthy aging, and mindfulness.
In the Flow
Developing a regular movement practice was integral to my 140+ pound weight loss, and I know that maintaining a healthy weight benefits my system by keeping damaging inflammation in check. Ever mindful of the comorbidities that accompany psoriatic disease, my movement practice helps keep my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels in a healthy range. It also improves the quality of my sleep, diffuses my anxiety, and regulates my moods.
By moving my body every day in different ways, I’m working to create a tapestry of physical well-being that encourages energy flow and builds resilience against the negative impact of stress, inflammation, and chronic disease.