There was a time in my life when all I wanted to do was yoga. I was an advanced student taking teaching training and I was in pretty fine shape, physically and mentally, right up to the moment when I got an injury during a yoga class. After that almost everything changed; there were a lot of times when I walked with a limp and could barely navigate a set of stairs. I seriously wondered whether I would end up in a wheelchair.
Everything I did aggravated the injury because I didn’t understand that my large range of motion was hurting me. Even if I did understand how being hyper-flexible contributed to the instability and overuse of my joints, it’s not like I could just turn it off, and there weren’t any teachers or tools that I knew of at that time to educate me. There was potential for that in Yoga – in workshops I took when I was given a glimpse into biomechanics even if I didn’t know that’s what it was then. My all time favourite moment was when our teacher had two students stand back to back and asked us to observe who was taller and who had longer legs. The shorter person had longer legs. And we were asked how that would change the way they did asana. Whoa!
I did find things to do after my injury: I tried Tai Chi and did some Pilates too, and although I wasn’t using my joints in the same way as I was in yoga class, I was still doing movement with my hyper-flexible body. The Nia Technique® was and still is the most successful movement modality I’ve found. For starters it got me out of a cycle of being afraid to move, and remembering how wonderful it is to move to music.
Nia also began showing me where my structural weaknesses are in my strength. In my White Belt training, I got the feedback that I didn’t use my ankles very much. That’s valuable feedback, put into the right context. It wasn’t, as I thought at the time, that consciously I was avoiding my ankles. I now know it is because that range of motion wasn’t available to my body, but the questions is still, why was that so? It made me want to learn more about how my body functions for me, and become better able to serve the people who come to my classes.
Enter Restorative Exercise™ a program developed by Biochemist Katy Bowman. I wasn’t smitten right away but I was intrigued enough to start following her blog ‘Katy Says’ and at some point it clicked that this was a program that could actually teach me how to correctly align my body. If you are a regular reader of this blog you’ll probably know I am in the process of becoming an RES (Restorative Exercise Specialist), taking the last part of my training in August. Right now I’m doing a lot of studying, but also re-educating my body. One of the things I’ve learned is that wearing a heel with any elevation at all is more of an issue because I’m short and my feet are small: I don’t need much of a lever to pitch my body forward, so an inch high heel on me does a lot more damage than it would on my husband who is closer to 6′. You can read more about this here.
The funny thing is that now, all I want to do is restorative exercise. Why? Because a) it feels good, b) it is fun and c) among other things because I’ve finally learned how to relax my hamstrings (which is connected with my really tight psoas/SI joint/hip pain). That’s huge! I’m talking about a signal that was activated more than 20 years ago (working yoga legs = rigid hamstrings) and never got turned off because I thought that was the way I was supposed to move. For some people it is realizing one day they can’t stop sucking their stomach in, or clenching their butt muscles, or discovering that not only is it not normal to pee your pants when you laugh or sneeze, but that you can learn to turn that response off. It is finally understanding that osteoarthritis isn’t an inevitable outcome of getting older. And you know one of the coolest things ever? Your muscles don’t age!
I knew I was hooked when I found myself drooling over a class plan for twists, and excited that my afternoon plans are about doing rhomboid push-ups.
Like, seriously, this is ALL I want to do now. I am really excited about taking my practicum in August and setting up classes in the so that I can share my new passion! I feel like I am really stepping more fully into my tag line of Healing Movement and my number one rule for wellness. But enough now, I have to go play.