Seated tai chi sessions in Chesterfield are helping members with ME and fibromyalgia manage their condition.
Tai Chi is an ancient martial art that combines slow and gentle movements with patterned breathing. It is usually practiced whilst standing, but has been adapted for those who require seated exercise. Instructor, Margaret Wood, 60, says tai chi adapts well, as it allows the individual to do only what they can physically manage.
Duraiya Kapasi, 51, from Sheffield, has fibromyalgia; a condition characterised by chronic, widespread pain. She’s been attending the class for over a year and says, “it’s not just coming out and doing gentle exercise, it’s meeting people that are understanding.”
Tina McDermott-Jones, 32, from Chesterfield, coordinates the fortnightly, tai chi sessions. She has ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) as it is also commonly known.
ME, similar to fibromyalgia, is dominantly characterised by extreme tiredness. People with the condition are prone to exhaustion due to disturbances to the brain and central nervous system that leave them feeling drained. Other symptoms of both conditions include heightened stress levels and difficulties with concentration and co-ordination.
In 2009, Tina fell ill with a constant feeling of tiredness, which followed a bout of fever. Daily tasks such as making meals or doing the laundry soon became a battle for Tina.
“I just struggled more and more each week. Eventually I got to the point where I couldn’t even look after myself,” said Tina.
Tina went on long term sick, and eventually moved back to her family home to recuperate.
“I genuinely did not know what was wrong. I just know that I had zero energy. I wanted to do things, but I wasn’t physically able to.”
Diagnosis and gradual recovery
Tina was diagnosed with ME in 2010. A diagnosis is determined by exclusion, whereby all other possible causes of illness are eliminated. There isn’t a specific treatment for ME and those affected are recommended to find the best ways to preserve energy.
“When I first felt ill I was trying to go back to normal, that’s your default response. Actually, you find the more you try and push yourself into doing exactly what you did before, the worse it gets.”
“Once you accept it for what it is and start to pace yourself, then you start to settle in your symptoms and improve slowly,” said Tina.
Tina is now back at work. She attributes her recovery process to the ongoing support of The Sheffield M.E and Fibromyalgia Group and also the seated tai chi sessions, which have helped calm her hyperactive nervous system.
“Tai Chi has very much helped me to gradually strengthen myself over time, improve my balance, my concentration and my ability to sleep at night. It’s hugely beneficial in helping me to relax,” said Tina.
“Tai Chi has helped me tap into feeling calm, feeling like I was in control again and feeling like I could do something for myself.”
“It’s also been a nice social thing to do. It’s a great way to temporarily take a little break from being unwell.”