While walking to the Fitness Center for one of my sessions, I passed a pickup truck. The driver is getting ready to pull out of the parking lot. The truck smoothly shifted into 1st, 2nd, and then 3rd gear, and proceeds to drive out.
When a person moves, one muscle shortens and another lengthens. A pattern exists. For most, the act of walking is automatic and fluid. When I walk, my movements are not fluid. My body does not easily stretch.
Walking for me is often just like the truck I saw shifting into gear. You simply can’t go to 2nd gear if you can’t get out of 1st. My walking program and exercise sessions are designed to introduce and change patterns to make my movements more automatic and fluid so I will not get stuck in 1st or 2nd gear.
Forms of yoga are part of my workouts to develop improvements in my posture, flexibility, and breathing techniques. One of the yoga poses that I practice is the “Rock Pose.” This pose is done by sitting on the heels, keeping the spine straight. I take my place on the mat and attempt to perform the pose. As I work, I am reminded of the pickup truck and how the driver smoothly put her vehicle into 1st gear. 1st gear for the driver is the acceleration step. For me, 1st gear is to sit on my heels.
At a certain point, my legs will not bend further. It feels like I am stuck in my 1st gear somewhere between start-up and acceleration. I feel my face getting hot and I know that I am turning multiple shades of red. I have forgotten to breathe.
I have to be reminded to take a breath. I cannot get my legs to respond. In that specific moment, I think about a truck getting stuck. An inexperienced driver can panic and try to increase his or her speed to get unstuck. The probable result from accelerating while being stuck is that the wheels will spin and the vehicle will get more entrenched.
Similar to a truck tire spinning, my body can get stuck and not perform movements beyond a certain level, due to spasticity (resistance to stretch) from my Cerebral Palsy. I get stuck. In my attempts to master the yoga poses, I have come to understand that, as much as I may want to hurry up and move, yoga can enhance my control of muscles and improve coordination. Better coordination means improved mobility.
During this particular session, I was not successful at sitting on my heels or even coming remotely into contact with my heels. So, I will continue to practice my “Rock Pose” and other forms of yoga with the hope that my body will learn how to move seamlessly from 1st to 2nd to 3rd gear.
This article were originally published in the “Endless CapABILITIES Blog”, and National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, sponsored by The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (www.nchpad.org). NCHPAD is part of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative and supported by Grant/Cooperative Agreement Number U59DD000906 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).