Saturday, May 2, 2009

Feelin' Groovy (a sequel to Feeling Kinky)

It started last Tuesday night. Mieke and I planned to go for a run after work. We had missed a couple workouts due to some other constructive life-busyness, and Lion-in-a-Cage syndrome was setting in. I don't remember why, but we both ended up getting home later than expected that night. As darkness gained on us we struggled with to-run-or-not-to-run. Finally, fatigue and good sense prevailed and we decided to do a lighter workout in the apartment. (There is a lot you can do at home to make yourself feel good.)
After a few-minute yoga warm up of Sun-Salutations Mieke wanted to try some new exercises she had learned at a PT (physical therapy) course the previous weekend. Mieke was jazzed and excited about the new material, and I was too. There are these seven tests a PT can apply to an athlete or patient to assess muscle strength and balance throughout the body. (Imbalance and muscle weakness lead the cause list for sports-related injuries.)
Mieke had previously shown me a couple of the tests. Each one issued a challenge: Do me or have your weakness exposed! And let me tell you, some of them looked easy, but were frickin' hard. One of the moves is a kind of push-up variant, but instead of placing your hands at the level of your chest, you plant them up by your head. Now, I can do about 50-60 regular pushups in a row, but I could barely get off the ground in this new one, and it hurt like hell. (By the way, if it hurts, you fail.)
Humility gained.
Anyway, one exercise involved the lower abdomen and pelvis, and last Tuesday night we started with that. Mieke had me lie down on a yoga mat on my back and focus my attention on my two pelvic bones - the ones on the front - and my pubic bone. (Sorry to use the word pubic, but that's what its called.) The idea was to tilt my pelvis until the three points were in a horizontal plane, aka neutral spine position, and then contract the band of muscle between the two pelvic bones. I tried it, and it was not easy. There was no strain here, but the action required subtlety. My first attempt brought my back in to an arch with my chest out. In her amazing, gentle way Mieke placed a hand on my chest and instructed me to relax my torso back to the floor and try again. Eventually I felt what she was getting at. With chest at ease, I slowly tilted my pelvis to the horizontal. The forced muscle patterns of stress relinquished their grip, to be replaced by a soothing connectivity. The inward focus calmed my mind and kindled a deeper awareness. I do believe I began to glow. It was really nice. We then took this supported abdomen and we tried a balance exercise that involved being on your hands and knees and raising the hand and leg on the same side at the same time. This is really not easy. I lost my balance repeatedly, but the trying was good. It was an experience of my body that was not pushed or strained or exhausting. The funny failures surprised and tickled me. We finished with a few sets of raising the alternate arm and leg at the same time. Much easier, but by the end of a set you felt like you'd done something good.
So we finish this exercise and Mieke suggests we get on to cooking dinner (quinoa and refried black beans - super delish.) It hadn't seemed like much of a workout, but we both felt amazing. Clear headed, calm, balanced, relaxed and excited. That night we slept well. When I woke up the next day I noticed that I didn't have any particular aches or kinks anywhere. It was a little strange, and new. But it seems a shift has occurred and my body is back in line, back in its rhythm. The music has returned to the day. And I'm singing baby! Do do do do feelin' groovy.

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