Jackie, a 38-year old woman, consulted me
for incapacitating chronic fatigue. As a teenager, she was very athletic. She was quite
health-conscious and had maintained an active-exercise schedule even after she had three
children. She had been given prolonged tetracycline therapy for acne and had received
multiple courses of antibiotic therapy for recurrent episodes of sore throat and
bronchitis that were in reality allergy symptoms. She knew she was allergic, but her
allergies had never been diagnosed and managed properly with desensitization.
In tears, Jackie told me of her struggle to pull herself out of
her debilitating fatigue with heroic efforts to exercise even when it caused severe pain.
"I work hard at it. I push myself even though I feel my
muscles are being torn apart. Sometimes I think it helps a little, but then I collapse
again, she said.
Some people who do research in the so called
chronic fatigue syndrome amuse me. They harness their exhausted patients with sore limbs and aching
muscles into their computerized ergometric machines. Next, they demand from their injured
and energy depleted tissues to perform according to what they -- the researchers -- think
is best for these patients. The researchers then conclude that exercise causes spasms of
the blood vessels in the limbic system of their brains and leads to vasoconstriction an
inadequate blood supply. Should this really surprise us? Why wouldn't these frightened
blood vessels tighten when molested by the clever designs of these researchers?
People who suffer from chronic disabling fatigue do need
exercise, but not the type that our "researchers" teach us. They do not need
exercise that further injures injured muscles. Exercises for patients with chronic fatigue
must be slow, sustained and non-traumatic. In other words it must be limbic.
For several reasons, I recommend that
the beginner start their training for limbic exercise with an exercise bike. The bike
should be an inexpensive one without any electronic gimmicks. Flashing, ticking, beeping
video screens on exercise equipment are cortical devises that serve only to distract and
discourage. They are completely irrelevant to our desire to achieve the limbic state of
The Two Beginning Rules of Limbic Cycling
1. PURCHASE THE STURDIEST INEXPENSIVE EXERCISE BIKE YOU CAN!
Garage sale and bazaar enthusiasts know first hand of the
ability to find exercise equipment at these events. Why? because their owners got tired,
frustrated, disgusted, and disappointed in their results as they chased the cortical
dream. If you go to the sporting good store, get a bike with a seat, handle bars, and
peddles, nothing else.
2. DO NOT SET GOALS!
Goals are cortical devises that we do not need. In the
context of goal-less exercise, setting goals is nothing more than a plan to punish our
tissues. Case in point, the simplest of all goals is that of duration. How many of us
decide to dedicate 30 minutes a day to exercise, and then decide that our schedule does
not allow this? Then how many of us think that we can get the same benefit of 30 minutes
in 10 minutes if we work three times as hard, "no gain, no pain?" How many of us
do this and soon quit because our cortical desire has turned peaceful, joyous exercise
into an anxiety attack that leaves us sore?
HOW TO EXERCISE WITHOUT GOALS
1. As you cycle, pick an object in the room that you find
pleasing, rest your eyes upon it, and stay with it.
This object for your eyes may be a branch of a tree or a twig
outside the window, or a simple picture on your wall, by maintaining a "loose"
concentration, your eyes will desire to close themselves.
2. Allow your eyes to close if they wish to.
As we learn to keep our cortical mind out of the way of our
eyes' desires, the eyes begin to follow their own inner cues: Sometimes our eyes want to
stay closed, at other times they wish to open. We must simply accept what they wish to do.
3. When this occurs, the legs take over, when you can do no
more, your legs, not your mind will take over, and tell you its time to stop.
|Any exercise is better than no exercise. Sometimes it might
be difficult for the beginner to comprehend exercising in the above fashion. Thus exercise
done with videos, music or even the television has clear physiologic benefits and in turn,
will up-regulate fat-burning enzymes. None of these exercises however can lead us down the
path of limbic listening (our mind hearing what our body is telling us). None of the above
regimes can banish the monkey of our cortical mind in its desire to stop us from
ADVANCING TO THE GHORAA RUN
The reason cycling on an exercise bike is
beneficial to start with is because it is a weight supported exercise. Once the chronic
fatigue sufferer has become advanced enough to understand limbic exercising, we move them
gently towards Ghoraa running.
Kirto is my ancestral village in Pakistan. During my childhood, the
only way to reach Kirto was by a tonga, a poor man's buggy, pulled by a ghoraa, a horse.
Ghoraas harnessed in tongas have large, ugly leather blinders
pulled over their eyes. As a young boy I wondered about the Ghoraa's ability to run over
long periods with this blindfold, and about what he thought about, whether he knew or not
how far he had to go, or knew how fast he had to get there.
I observed these ghoraas for hours as I traveled to and fro.
Sometimes I thought that the ghoraa knew I was thinking about him and he wanted to turn
around and answer my questions. But then came the loud curse of the tonga river and the
jolting sound of the whip, the ghoraa would move his legs faster, my questions would not
At times I was convinced the ghoraa wasn't even with us. Oh, he
was there physically, but he was not there. The ghoraa simply ran, he did not look
around or ahead, he was oblivious to the world around him. His legs moved with their own
rhythm, he considered no judgment on the humans he pulled, he vented no anger, he didn't
show signs of objection to captivity no resentment, nor the ability to discern between a
right way of running and a wrong way of running. He simply ran.
I spend the bulk of my morning exercise
time on a "custom made" treadmill. Simply a piece of rug, 3 feet by 3 feet, that
is anchored to the floor. After many experiments with running on the road, on the track,
on the beach, and other locations, I find rug running most conducive for limbic
exercising. I use the rug only to anchor me when I close my eyes, my feet tell me when I
am off the rug.
When I first started limbic running, it was not unusual for me
to feel some heaviness or resistance in my legs. Muscle stretching relieved this to a
large degree, but it still persisted. Within minutes, my muscles would loosen up, my
breathing would slow down, my hands would begin to throb and pulsate with fresh blood, and
I knew I was on my way to limbic exercise. The Minutes flew by without my knowledge.
My pattern of limbic exercise has not changed since my early
days of research with limbic breathing and limbic exercise. The difference is that now
there is no initial resistance from my leg muscles.
I begin jogging in place, slowly taking the lead from my limbs.
I do not consciously follow any techniques nor do I set time limits.
Some of my patients who take my limbic exercise workshop, try a
ghoraa run on a piece of rug or ride an exercise bike with closed eyes. They return and
describe their discovery of the joy of motion for the sake of motion---different senses of
movement, new perceptions of space, changing relationships with the world around them.
They speak of primal experiences--recall with some shape and texture the elements of what
early man must have felt as he ran. They sense what he felt when he looked to the sky to
search for the meaning of existence and when he closed his eyes to reach within for what
he could not see with his open eyes. They described how slow, sustained motion with no
focus transports them to a state of deep, visceral calm--a stillness that transcends the
physical and mostly difficult world around them. They describe the images they see and how
those images alter states of consciousness. The discovery of this native and visceral
state brings forth new and challenging perspectives of life and spirituality.
In limbic exercise, what begins as exercise for a chronic
disorder, fitness, or for losing weight, is transformed into ever changing images of
light, life and love. Once we know that such dimensions exist, we cannot unknown them.
MOTIVATION FOR LIMBIC EXERCISE
The subject of motivation fascinates me, and , I find
motivation "experts" to be fascinating people. Consider the following:
"The purpose of this article is to
examine movement on science research on personal and social-environmental motivational
influence in physical activity contexts. Motivation is defined as the process in which
internal and external factors direct and energize thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Motivation is described as a consequence of meaning, which is derived from a combination
of personal and social factors, including personal goals or incentives, expectations of
personal efficiency, movement-related perceptual and effective experience, and social and
physical features of the environment"
Physical Therapy, 70:808; 1990
When I read the above lines I squirmed.
The language of the motivational piece intimidated me as I imagine they would almost
anyone. I read the piece a second time. No relief. A time to escape, I told myself. I went
I wonder how many people will read such an article and become so
motivated that they will jump up and run out for some exercise.
The subject of exercise is not pleasant for many of us. It
conjures up images of boredom (endless running), lost time (too busy to exercise) and sore
legs. Running on the street, missing the step on the curb and spraining an ankle. How
often do street numbers wear those awful, tortured looks? Stooping down, ready to
collapse. Inhaling air rich in diesel exhaust. Who ordered this punishment an
self-flagellation? What are they running from anyway? Movement related perceptual and
effective experiences? No thanks, you say. Go ahead, call me a couch potato. At least I
like what I do.
If exercise is to successfully reverse catabolic maladaptation,
the exercise must be good enough to be desirable to do. Not only on an intellectual level,
but at a deeper limbic level. This is the essence of limbic exercise.
Most people who walk or run know how bad thoughts have the
ability to stop them in midstep. It happens to all of us. Most of us do not fully
appreciate this phenomenon unless we become aware of it.
The cortical monkey is a tenacious creature, it is a clever
inventor of excuses. Just at this monkey springs many traps for us when we are not
exercising, it does so while we exercise, the motivation to exercise, the ability to reach
the deep limbic level of enjoying motion thus becomes a battle.
WINNING THE BATTLE OF MOTIVATION!
The Battle of the Split-Second
The cortical monkey is an inventive
animal. It comes up with a million reasons why exercise must be delayed, postponed, or
stopped. For the beginner, the split-second it takes the cortical mind to think up such
thoughts, dooms to failure their exercise plans. During a trip to Newport, Rhode Island,
my brother-in-law, Major Ilyas Khan and I were walking on the beach, when he conveyed his
interest in my research work on limbic exercise. At one point he recalled a piece of
advice one of his foot soldiers gave him during a "forced march." In the
infantry, a forced march, he told me, is a very long march the soldiers do in full and
heavy battle gear. On one occasion the march was to be over fifty miles and would route
itself through dirt roads and hilly countryside. Understandably the young soldiers were
cortically preoccupied with the length of the march and the fear of sore legs and
blistered feet upon the march's completion. My brother-in-law the major didn't quite know
how to reassure and motivate his command to the completion of this task. An old soldier
sensed his plight, "Sahib, socho mutt" the soldier suggested to his commander.
The phrase means "Sir, don't think," in other words,
don't think, just walk. Going limbic is as old as human experience. It takes different
forms in different times in different cultures. The words change, the essence of being
limbic does not. The words of the foot soldier could have easily been understood
as, "Sir, don't engage the cortical monkey, he does not let up just because you
choose to exercise, he loves to debate and you cannot win."
THE BATTLE OF THE MINUTES
After the beginner realizes the challenge
of The Battle of The Split-Second, and thereby wins the confrontation with the cortical
monkey, he faces the second challenge. The Battle of the Minutes. This is the battle with
the cortical messages he receives from his leg muscles, usually within minutes of starting
limbic exercises. The legs become sore and the feet heavy. The cortical message is
simple: STOP THIS UNWANTED WORK. Sometimes the cortical messages are terse: PUT
AN END TO THIS MISERY. The beginner needs a strategy for this battle. Changing
the type and speed of the exercise has always been a reliable weapon. Such is the strategy
of the "sakari double."
This is another expression common in Pakistani military. The
soldiers learn to run limbically when they would not rather run at all. They call
it the "sankari double." In this running, the soldiers are purposefully not
given any commands, cues, or signals. They are told to run with no speed designation or
distance. When they run, they simply run, when they want to stop, they stop. They are free
to exercise, unburdened by any cortical commands. They are free to enjoy their
movement without worry or anxiety.