For about 20 years, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy trying to notice and change the mental/emotional patterns that I know don’t serve me. However, yoga therapy training and my own physical issues of late have made me start to look more closely at the habitual patterns in my body and in the way I move.
I wrote in a prior blog about a few of these, and as the weeks have gone by, I’ve found many more! For example, after helping a client figure out how to more safely get in and out of his car to avoid straining his back, I noticed that my own way of entering and exiting my vehicle was terrible! (We teach what we need to learn, right?!)
Here’s what I noticed. Whenever I went to leave my car, I’d start by swinging my left leg to the ground. I’d leave my right leg where it was, then twist my upper body to reach whatever was resting on my passenger seat that I needed to take with me (purse, books, etc.) . Then I’d put all my weight on my left leg, and swing my right side (with the extra weight of whatever I was carrying) toward the door, placing my right foot on the ground. If you can imagine this, I’m pretty much doing a twisted split! Ouch. Since I’ve had a recurrence of pain in my sacrum (and right hip) lately, this really struck me as being an unhelpful pattern of physical movement for my body. Given how many times a day I get in and out of my car, it’s amazing I’m not in more pain.
The first few times I tried to address this, it became clear how habitual the pattern of movement was. I’d catch myself after it was too late. But over a day or two, I’d start to catch myself a little earlier. Now I’m using the technique I taught my client: put legs together (as if wearing a skirt), swing both legs out, then stand. Walk around to passenger side to get bag, books, etc. This definitely takes more conscious effort (and time) as I’m still not enough in the new pattern to do it automatically. But I do believe it’s ensuring my pain isn’t getting worse.
Another interesting pattern: putting on pants. Yes, seriously. Most of the time I’m in yoga pants. Sometimes they’re loose, sometimes they’re stretchy, like tights. Guess what happened when I tried to put pants onto my left side first? I nearly fell on my caboose! I had NO IDEA that I’d been so right-leg dominant.
Last one, back to the car. Guess which side of my body I’m always using to close the trunk of my car? Yup, you guessed it, the right. I reach up with my right hand, stretching up through my right side (I’m short you know), and then use the right side of my body to pull the trunk down. Hmmm…in side stretches my right side is always tighter, and my right QL has been known to have issues. I wonder why! I haven’t gotten to the point with this one where I start using my left side (yet). But I know that the awareness will get me there, and will help me even out some of these imbalances in my body. At the very least, these changes will keep my pain from getting worse, and they may even help resolve it.
Yoga is great in terms of alleviating pain, stretching, and strengthening weak areas. But, if one continues to put stresses on the body in an imbalanced way multiple times a day, a yoga practice a few times a week (or even one a day) isn’t going to be as effective as it would be if one’s habitual patterns were also identified and modified.
I’m continuing to explore this in my own body, and I hope that this post encourages you to pay closer attention to how you move in your daily life. Just notice for example how you enter/exit your car. Are there things you might change? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you.