Friday, May 6, 2011

Standardized exercise and pain

Yesterday I went to a T'ai Chi class. I'm very glad I went because it woke me up to how I haven't been moving. I've been in a lot of pain lately, and had gotten out of some very good habits I used to have.

The class was fine (I presume). I have trouble following movement directions. I also was in too much pain to do some things I was directed to do, but instead of doing nothing, I did my own thing. I left feeling good, and today I did three hours of movement. So, I'm most glad I went, even if I never do T'ai Chi again.

People who have chronic pain generally have trouble in classes. We mimic what the instructor does, and try to be "good students" by following directions carefully. Unfortunately, when it comes to the body, most of us leave our innate wisdom about our own conditions at the door, which is not good for our health.

Before I educated myself, I had terrible experiences with yoga. I would go to a class and leave in more pain than went I got there. I'm quite flexible, so I could do most of the postures, but were they appropriate for my body? Not always.

The one yoga DVD that I've practically worn out from use is Paul Grilley's "Yin Yoga: The Foundations of a Quiet Practice." Grilley also put out a DVD about anatomy for yoga, and he talks (sometimes too much for people's tastes) about how we all have different bones, and people trying to force themselves into postures that their bodies can't do can be harmful. Yes, we are unique!

Sadly, people who need physical movement the most may not do any because they go to a class, can't follow the directions, or can't do some of what's done, and aren't told it's okay. It's okay to hold back, to do it one's own way, and to be the unique individuals we are.

Indeed, embracing our inherent (but suppressed) ability to know what we need and how we're feeling is very, very good for us. I highly recommend Don Stapleton's "Self Awakening Yoga." The name rather says it all. I took an advanced teacher training class with Don, and discovered this old in-pain body can do amazing things. I was high as a kite during that week of training. I never felt so good in my life!

I wish I could afford the training to obtain a "real" yoga teacher certification. Unfortunately, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation would not approve of what is still considered an alternative therapy.

Image note: You can look at Vesalius' book,  De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) here, on the National Library of Medicine's site, "Turning the Pages." It's a fantastic site. Check it out!

Y'know, when we look at anatomical drawings of bones (or anything), we are seeing a standardized image. It's just like a field guide. Here's  Gray's Anatomy's introductory passage on the femur (thigh) bone:

"The femur, the longest and strongest bone in the skeleton, is almost perfectly cylindrical in the greater part of its extent. In the erect posture it is not vertical, being separated above from its fellow by a considerable interval, which corresponds to the breadth of the pelvis, but inclining gradually downward and medialward, so as to approach its fellow toward its lower part, for the purpose of bringing the knee-joint near the line of gravity of the body. The degree of this inclination varies in different persons, and is greater in the female than in the male, on account of the greater breadth of the pelvis. The femur, like other long bones, is divisible into a body and two extremities."

Did you need all that information? Probably not!

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