I went to the amazing Port Eliot festival this weekend.
One of the lovely surprises I happened upon, as one does at festivals, was a talk by the physiotherapist Clare Fone. This was after a very idyllic yoga practice next to big clumps of pampas grass, while looking out onto the banks of a river and the silhouettes of gorgeous thriving trees in the distance. Such a welcome contrast to London!
Anyway so Clare Fone gave a very vivicious and uplifting talk about exercising at work (subtext: be holistic – aka sensible – in how you approach your health. Keep your cells healthy: give them enough oxygen, nourishment and hydration. If you are emotionally well, it’s easier to be physically well. If you eat healthily and get enough sleep, that will support your effort. Don’t sit down for long amounts of time). There was nothing extremist about her message – although sometimes these days being sensible can sound extremist!
However, Clare said one sentence that really made an impression on me. It was this:
TAKE OWNERSHIP OF YOUR CONDITION
This is a powerful statement because it’s telling us, as yoga practitioners (and human beings) to be informed, to learn, to experiment and to take responsibility.
During my yoga journey, I’ve suffered a slipped disc, discovered I’ve got mild scoliosis (resulting in a left scapula that sticks out), hyperextension of the knee joints and what I think is a posterior pelvic tilt. And this information has been communicated to me in different terminologies by various people, in various different ways.
My confusion over whether it is a posterior or anterior pelvic tilt is the crux of the matter when it comes to my own yoga practice….One thing I know for sure is that if I’d been trying to design a muscle imbalance I couldn’t have done much better than what I’ve ended up with – I know my glutes are weak, my hamstrings are weak, my psoas is tight and weak, my IT band is tight and weak, my lats are weak, my chin juts out….and this is all compounded by a fairly sedentary job.
However, even with all the anatomy training I’ve done during Pilates and Yoga Teacher Training, my big confession is that I’ve never really understood what it all means in terms of my own body. I learnt the information academically but never applied it practically. What would have been a smarter, more experiential way of learning would have been to consolidate what I was learning by applying it to my own physical situation and experimenting until I’d understood – in my body – what muscles to strengthen in order to counteract my condition.
Instead, I relied on my teachers/chiropracter/acupuncturist/massage therapist to sort it all out.
Clare’s words this weekend really struck home. I have been learning about the body since 2008. And yet, in many ways, I might not have bothered for all I’ve done with the information.
Sukha/Sthira – ease and effort. My body needs me to put in a bit more physical and mental effort – sthira. My tendency – physically and emotionally – is to favour too much sthira.
In order to achieve balance means that I’ll need to take ownership of my condition. This means doing the asana/pilates exercises that will strengthen and balance out the muscles that need strengthening and balancing. I’m going to have to do more research to understand the full anatomical implications of my tilt and then apply the knowledge that’s out there to counteract them.
There is no magic bullet.
But the second action step I can take is to ‘take ownership of my condition”. The first one is practicing awareness around it.
And the third action step is to practice…practice … practice.
And Clare’s words also made me realise that any condition, be it mental, physical, emotional, is only one aspect of the human condition. And everyone “suffers” from that!