Thursday, May 16, 2013

Meditative Exercising

It’s been eight days now since I wrenched my back. I can't be sure what was going on, but because of how quickly it healed, I’m going with ‘lumbar muscle strain’ and accompanying sensitivity in the sacro-iliac joint. I’m glad it wasn’t something more serious.

Starting the day after the injury, I went on a dietary experiment wherein I will be testing my body’s sensitivity to certain foods, one by one. This experiment has brought me great peacefulness--an unexpected consequence, but certainly a welcome one.

Today I am feeling strong and decided to take my first trip into my exercise studio since I hurt myself.  But I’m bringing my experimental and sensitivity detection into the room with me. It was interesting to take a huge step back and really observe my slow and calculated movements. I was committed to doing as little as necessary.

I started by doing two sun salutations, holding each position for four or five breaths. I was intently focused on finding my comfort and allowing my body to be relaxed and settle into the ease and comfort of each pose. My tendency is to always use my exercise sessions as a time to ‘improve’ or to ‘break my record’ or ‘do my best’. But today I was only concerned with ease and pleasure. 

After two sun salutations I felt complete in that exercise and moved on to a side bend. I was focused completely on being properly aligned and supported and gave no importance to ‘how far’ I was going. I did one side bend to each side while free standing, and then went to the wall and did one to each side with my nose touching the wall and another to each side with the back of my head touching the wall. Again, I was totally focused on proper alignment and not paying attention to comparing or improving. I’m just being.

Those three felt like enough, so then I lied down on the floor for some twists. I put one heel up on the opposite knee and rotated my spine slowly and gently. Without pushing and without planning to go any further than this, I just simply relaxed and felt what was happening. My sensitivity of late has been heightened and it was nice to bring that sensitivity into my movement practice.

The next thing I did was grab a tennis ball from the closet and lie on it. I used it to massage my back; especially the erector spinae muscle group, which was feeling slightly tight and unwieldy in my twist. Then I put the ball just below the crest of my ilium and rolled slightly back and forth so that the ball would massage my glute attachments.
depress the scapulae entirely BEFORE pulling chest up toward bar

It had only been about fifteen minutes so far, and I was feeling very connected to my body. The next thing I wanted to do was to practice my scapular control. I learned from studying with the incredible Steve Atlas, that my scapula wasn’t exactly under my control as much as it should be; especially when it was loaded with my body weight.  So I hung from my pull up bar and without bending my elbows, shrugged myself up and down about five times, using only my scapulae. After that, I incorporated a full pull up. I did the full pull up twice with a wide grip and once with a more narrow grip, and then something told me that was enough for today.

I finished up with five perfect pushups. It wasn’t too challenging, but that wasn’t really my intention. I wanted to educate my body, and to let it know I was listening, rather than challenging it and stressing it out, like I usually do.

Afterward my body felt fantastic. I felt like I did something, but I don’t feel like I pushed myself. It felt perfect for my intention today. I feel like it was important to establish that musculo-neurological pathway for proper yoga positions and pull-up and pushup technique than it was to do as many as I could.

When I was younger, my modus operandi was to shrug at convention when it came to my dietary habits because I could exercise like a madman. I enjoyed it, and it kept me from paying the price for my dietary insubordination. But now that I’m over 40, I feel like I need to reverse my approach. My body can no longer withstand the abuse required to counteract a bad diet. I’m finding it much more economical to put the effort into watching my diet carefully. This makes me lean and gives me energy. Then I can do a little bit of exercise on top of that and it works wonders very quickly.

I guess I’m entering a new phase in my life; a new level of awareness.

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