I love my yoga sessions. I love how the feeling of stretch revives my stiff joints, and I enjoy the calm fluidity of moving from one pose to another. Depending on how I feel, I either do a short course of yoga or a long one, but no matter how long my session is, my favourite position is the last position, known as the “corpse”. The “corpse” (lying on the back with arms and legs stretched out), is a restorative position. It’s a position of recovery and healing where I can listen to my body, my breathing, my heartbeat, and the blood flowing through my veins. It gives me a few moments to revel in the accomplishment of getting up and moving forward with the day. These quiet unencumbered moments are what I like to call restorative moments.
Restoration isn’t just about the body – it’s also about the mind. Restorative moments are deeply personal and help us reconnect to our dreams. Part of my own restoration is my yearly vacation to the desert. I loved its beauty before I ever saw it, and long before RA, I felt like I belonged there. Now with RA in my bones, the desert means more to me than just vacation. It is a place of healing and escape from swollen sore joints triggered by the long west coast winter.
This year my partner and I hit the road for a week in Santa Fe and Roswell New Mexico. Santa Fe is a walking town. It was a brilliant place for acquiring my daily step count and engaging in continual movement. It’s also a place of history and art, so not only did is appeal to my joints, but also my passions. It felt a little bit like stepping back in time, back to a place where people lived off the land and gave back to it. Spanish colonial architecture enhances the deep red canyons that absorb the heat of the sun. The deep crimson rock is reminiscent of the heat in my joints during a flare. Scattered across the countryside are ancient Pueblos, steeped in tradition and history. Lost in the astonishing landscape and the incredible story of ancient civilizations, I forget I am someone with chronic illness.
The road to Roswell is almost a four-hour drive through miles and miles of barren desert land and cattle ranches that reach far into the horizon. The odd tumbleweed blowing across the road in front of us fascinates me – something about it’s flowing movement across the desert countryside inspires me. A long bout behind the wheel of a car always aggravates my joints, however here in this enchanted place, distracted by the life around me, the stiffness is lessened, and finger splints that go on in the morning are removed by late afternoon.
Restorative moments don’t have to be long expensive trips – they can be as simple as a walk in the park or watching the sun sink into the salty ocean. We can find them everywhere in our daily lives – yoga, naps, spa days, a good book, a quiet cup of tea, a hike in the woods. I find them under the crimson twilight of a desert sky or beneath inky nights filled with starlight. Restorative moments support my life with RA. They are an important part of my self-care package. They heal, recharge, refresh, and allow me to tap into the energy I had before Rheumatoid Arthritis.
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”. – John Muir
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.