Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bodywork sessions and what happens when you take away the yoga

There's a lot swirling around in my head right now and I feel like I need to write about it.  Normally, this would be one of the things that I keep to myself, but not this time. 

First, a little background: I've hardly practiced during the last couple of weeks.  Partly because I've started seeing a body worker/postural-therapist type person and it was recommended to not practice what I usually practice so that the work she is doing has a chance to integrate itself into my body.  When I went to see her last Tuesday, my left shoulder was higher than my right and the shoulder muscles were super tight/tense.  I also hold my head too far forward and down, which can strain the erector muscles which run all the way from your neck to your lower back.  I was very tight across the "front line of the chest," meaning all the pectoral muscles, and the external muscles of the shoulder were weak. We discovered that my left hip is about a 1/4 of an inch higher than my right one and that the right side of my body is compressed.  We also discovered that my pelvis sits in an anterior tilt (meaning there is too much of an arch in my lower back) which is probably contributing to the pain I feel in my low back.  In short, for all the yoga that I do, my upper body (from pelvis to head) is far from relaxed (which makes sense given that most of my yoga is very intense on the upper body) and there's a lot of issues in my body that have not really been addressed. 

So, this last week, I did one Forrest yoga class on Thursday morning that was a "classic" Forrest yoga class: lots of standing poses, abs, and very few chaturangas and downward dogs.  It was a good Forrest class, and probably very beneficial for shoulder rehab, but I didn't leave with that feeling of being relaxed & refreshed that I usually get from a vinyasa-type class.  Sunday I practiced the sequence that I had to write for my teacher training.  Monday I took a 2-hour "workshop" (a.k.a, regular class that is 30 minutes longer than normal) at my yoga studio.  I hadn't really planned on taking it, but they needed sign-in help--when I help sign-in a workshop like this, that also means I get to take it for free.  It was a really good class that actually did work on a lot of the things the body worker I'm seeing wants me working on.  But other than those three practices--that was it, between last Tuesday and today.  Which is very odd for me--much less than I usually practice.  It doesn't seem like so little when I put it down on paper, but it sure felt like a long time, lol.  Other than that, all I did were the exercises (a.k.a "homework") that she gave me and near 2 mile-walks every day with my friend's dog that I was taking care of.

When I saw her yesterday, she said that I looked "lighter."  Not as in weight, but as in my shoulders didn't look as heavy.  Which is a good thing, I guess.  I looked in the mirror and they definitely didn't look as tight as they did during the first time that I saw her.  The exercises she gave me to do definitely feel like they were working on the correct muscles in my shoulder.  There's still some pain in there and the muscles feel kind of knotted up, but it also feels like there's more mobility than usually.  You know the classic triceps stretch where you raise your arm above your head, bend at the elbow and let your hand fall behind your head?  Lately, that one has felt painfully difficult.  Since lessening the yoga and working with the body worker, I can now get my arm in that position and actually stretch the triceps muscle.  So something is definitely working.  Yesterday she focused less on my shoulder and more on the issues in the lower half of my body.  She also took a lot of pictures and video so I could see the imbalances in my body--which is actually really cool.  It looks like most of the imbalances are in my hips--which makes sense given that one is higher than the other.  She also worked on "releasing the foot," a.k.a, standing with a small, hard ball under your foot directly on that tight area between your arch and your heel.  Ouch.  But afterwards, there was less rolling to the outside of my foot when I walked.  The big thing yesterday was the work in the psoas.  Oh boy.  She literally dug--gently, lol--into my abdomen, under the ab muscles to "release" the psoas muscle.  The psoas is a major hip flexor muscle.  Basically, it literally connects your torso to your leg.  It connects the 5 vertebrae of the lumbar spine (low back) to the upper head of your thigh bone (femur).  So: after many years of running and with walking as my primary mode of transportation, it was pretty tight, the right more than the left (which makes sense given that I had to use it to hold up my right leg when I was on crutches).  It was mildly painful when she found it (again, she had to dig a little, it's buried beneath the ab muscles) but when she was just holding pressure on it, it was it wasn't quite as painful as I expected (which means she's good at what she does, lol).  However, afterwards, it didn't feel like there was a huge difference, but it definitely felt different--in a good way.  It felt like there was more space in that area and, surprisingly, a little less pain in my low back.  All the usual muscles around the area of my low back that hurts were still tight, but there was significantly less pain that usual. 

I'll be seeing her at least one more time and she's going to attempt to help me strengthen my "core" without my legs or my back muscles taking over.  This should be interesting.  It's something I've been trying to figure out for a while.  I can get the upper abs to work no problem...the lower ones, I swear half the time I can't even feel if they're working.  She was telling me to try to "tuck" my tailbone, so that there is less of an arch in my spine, and she said that I was doing it, but I didn't feel it, lol.  So, next week should be interesting.  She also mentioned something about working the glute muscles, because the right one is stronger than the left, lol.  Oh boy.  I did laugh a bit during the photo session when she asked me to do a standing forward bend: "bend forward with your arms raised in front of you and try to touch the floor."  After a year of practicing the Ashtanga Primary Series I "have no problem with tension in the hamstrings," lol.  Sometimes when the hamstrings are really tight, they can pull on the low back and create pain (the hamstrings attach at the sitting bone to the back of the knee).  Nope, no tension there, lol; I don't just touch the floor, I rest my whole hand on it.  It's the little things that make me happy :)

Anyways, with all this work being done on my body and not as much physical activity as I'm used to, my head's in kind of a weird place.  What's odd is that I thought I would miss the yoga more than I am.  Surprisingly, there's no restless urge to run out and go to a class.  It's not necessarily feeling content, I just don't feel like moving.  Partly because I am almost afraid to move because I don't want to undo all the work that she's doing, lol.  But I also don't feel like going out or like socializing.  I've mentioned it in previous posts, that there's a "hermit" part of me that is kind anti-social that tends to come out more when I don't practice as much yoga.  I don't really feel like engaging with the world and am fine just sitting at home and watching shows on Hulu.  Which I know is no better for the tightness in my body than going out and walking for hours.  But I am kind of surprised that I don't miss the yoga more.  Maybe the rest was really needed. 

But it feels like there's something else kind of stirring beneath the surface...similar to what I felt when I was still working at Saks, just not as intense.  And this has been growing since I started the training, not just since the start of the bodywork.  It's kind of a general dissatisfaction for the way things are going in my life.  I didn't know entirely what to expect from the yoga teacher training, but, based on the experiences of my friends who have taken this and other trainings, I expected...more.  I don't know exactly what more, just, I don't know, "more," lol.  Maybe it's because there's so much time in between the training weekends right now, so it doesn't feel as immersive as I thought it would be.  But there's only 4 weekends left, and then I'm done.  I'm sure there's still a lot to learn, but part of me is really starting to wonder, was it all worth it?  I said in one of the posts that I wrote just before the training that I was ready for whatever needed to come from this training, even if it meant "losing my practice."  I guess I just didn't really think that it would; because that's what it feels like right now.  There's not a whole lot of desire to practice anymore and I kind of didn't expect that. 

Actually, now that I think about how it feels, I know exactly what it feels like: "burn-out."  Actually, that's kind of how life feels in general lately, "burn-out."  I thought it would fade after I switched jobs.  But even in this extremely low-stress, can-hardly-call-what-I-do-work "job," I still feel it.  I watched a clip recently of Kino MacGregor (senior Ashtanga teacher) talking about yoga as a "spiritual practice," (which is what it is "meant" to be) and there was a story that she told about the first time she went to India.  A friend of her's there decided that she "needed to run away from her life and get away from everything 'physical' and go live in an ashram," which I can definitely relate to (though more living in some remote nature location and less ashram, lol).  And Kino said that it got her wondering how many times someone can pull a "geographic," moving from one place to another, before you realize that "you carry your problems with you."  I made a pretty dramatic job change.  Granted it's not a huge "geographic," but I think the same idea still applies because I still have the same feelings stirring beneath the surface (though less intense). 

Makes me wonder, what is it that I really need to change in my life?  It kind of feels like there's always something I'm trying to distract myself from so that I don't have to feel/address it--either through movement, television, books, whatever.  Stop moving long enough and it's there.  I obviously have no answers right now, but that is what is stirring around in my head.


  1. Very strong post!
    I like all the anatomy details, and also the notes you are making between your practice and therapy. Good stuff! The rest to practice ratio is still something I struggle with as well.

    Knowing as much about your "inner life" as I do these days, there is indeed something bubbling up below the surface. Everything is related.

    You end at a very brave spot, and then you run away from it.
    Something I noticed.

  2. That's because I don't have the answer yet, it's something mulling around in my head. It's hard to put clear words to it right now...I think it needs more time in the oven :)