Day 1,453 of my road trip. The stars have aligned and both children are sleeping. I have nothing cohesive to offer, but I do have some random thoughts.
Thought: I see the world in terms of alignment -- alignment being the term for how pieces relate to each other and the forces that these relationships create. Alignment can be between body parts, you can align your thoughts to your behaviors, and you can align your actions to the behaviors of others. I teach the alignment of body parts because that’s what I have studied extensively, but I believe (read: feel free to toss this aside) that if you are suffering in any way, any of the alignments mentioned can be off. I also believe that being out of spiritual alignment -- defined by me as when your actions do not match what you’d like your actions to be -- can create physical malalignments, which in turn can lead to musculoskeletal ailments.
This isn’t new or radical thinking. It’s thousands of years old and a lot of people smarter than me have figured out some of the mechanism. All I can do is offer some of the physical correctives part and point out how a lot of our habitual behaviors are out of alignment with our biology. Other than that, I’m good for nothing. Except for entertaining kids in the car for 3 weeks.
I now rock at that.
I posted this on Facebook yesterday:
"We know now that true conservation requires saving the habitat, not just the species." I ask you to consider this statement with respect to the body. Each of your parts is an "animal." How all parts interact with each other is the environment. If you're trying to spot-fix a knee or pelvic floor, without considering how every part relates to it, you will find yourself in the same situation as Wildlife Management in the 1990s: Trying to save the deer by limiting hunting. Only to find that too many deer eat too much grass, which reduces the number of snakes. Which starve out the condors. (Or whatever, I'm making these examples up because I don't know anything except biomechanics). The moral of this story is: short-term spot treatments create problems elsewhere. There is a whole-body solution for everything. This is what a wholistic approach means. Not that you're trying to do things drug or medicine free, but that you are considering the biggest picture possible. And, darnit, that big picture keeps getting bigger and bigger, doesn't it?”
People always ask me what they can do to fix something. They want to know which exercises they should do. They want to know when they're going to get better. These are tough questions and my blog is a confusing realm to live in (Hi! I live in a blog, which is weird, right?) because I tell people that as far as healing goes, the sky is the limit. But then I also have to say that there are not 5 exercises that will take you all the way. Ten exercises are better. And fifty exercises are better than ten. Two hundred hours of study in how alignment relates to disease is even more valuable than a bunch of exercises.
When I write -- Yes! You can entirely get better on your own but you’re going to have to prioritize getting better in terms of time and money -- most people say NO THANKS. And move on. Which I totally understand, but it still makes me sad when I let it. People have no idea how much knowing and working the bigger picture (which is still pretty small compared to the BIGGER PICTURE) of Whole Body Alignment can make them feel so much better.
After working on exercises and alignment through movement, people start to ask, “Now what?” I’m doing the exercises, and it’s getting better, but it’s still not perfect. To which I say, “It’s time to check your environment.”
A disease or injury is not just an issue with one part of your body. Your issue is created by the ways you move (or don’t), the food you eat (or don’t), the sleep you get (or don’t) the thoughts you think (or don’t), the work you do (or don’t) and the company you keep. Or don’t. It’s the whole thing. And, I bet if I asked you to write down 10 things you know you shouldn’t eat/watch/talk to/do/whatever but do anyway, and you eliminated them, your buggering whatchamacallit would get better.
Try it for 30 days and see how that goes.
But I’ll also say that maybe your issue has nothing to do with any your behaviors, but one: that you’ve put a list of behaviors down in your brain as “don’t do” but you do them anyway. Maybe it’s just that -- not acting in accordance with your own self. Out. of. alignment.
So, do your exercises. And while you are working at becoming a more mindful mover, also take stock in all other aspects of you. Evaluate your environment. Because I bet you can make teeny tiny adjustments to those as well -- just as you’ve changed your pelvic, foot or rib cage position. You’ll feel better.
New thought: I got these boots for Christmas, from the reservation by my house. They are awesome handmade moccasins, perfect for hiking or looking like a bad ass.
Another thought: I was hanging out at the local airport today, listening to some pilots.
Pilot #1: Hey, are you supposed to ground a plane that has flaps that don’t work?
Pilot #2: Well...uh, I don’t think so, necessarily. But I wouldn’t fly it.
Pilot #3: You only need flaps for short approaches and ... (some other thing I couldn’t hear.)
Pilot #4: My first plane didn’t even have flaps.
Pilot #1: Ok, thanks.
So it turns out that flying a plane without flaps would be a poor decision if you need to make a short approach or if you don’t have training in flying without them. Flying without flaps could be a perfectly good decision if you are aware that you’re sans flapage and adjust your landings accordingly.
I really like pilots. Always have, always will.
This made me think of people asking me questions about what to do in a situation.
The answer to almost every question is, “it depends.”
“It depends” might be the least sexy answer ever. Almost no successful business was built on offering “it depends” as an answer. Most people want to be told what to do. They have an issue and they want to know what 2 or 5 or 10 steps to take to fix it. And when it’s not better after these steps, they chalk up the solution as a loss and believe more and more that their issue is unfixable.
I’ll give you some steps on improving any ailment:
1. Do your corrective exercises every day, while slowly phasing out all of your (self-determined) bad habits -- even the ones that you love -- and make more time to move.
2. Once a week, give yourself a day off of everything (reading, writing, technology, driving, etc.) except food, water, and your family. Then slowly work your way to taking two years off from everything.
3. Get your gut aligned. Not with a politically-motivated diet, but with a real, whole foods. An I made this myself, I know where this all came from, there is more green on my plate than anything else kind of diet. Do it in steps. Start with eliminating soda and work your way down. Or up, depending on your internal compass.
4. Get real -- I mean really real -- with how you treat other people. Do you treat others the way you’d like to be treated? If yes, great. If no, adjust.
These are huge, endless steps. If you follow them, you will get better. And yes, I do know that the most difficult thing to do is change yourself. Which is why I don’t ever tell people to do this. I just give them 5 exercises, because learning 5 exercises in itself is a huge change. You’re doing something new. You’re thinking about the way you move. You’ve already chosen to get better. Keep choosing well. Choosing is the greatest action you can take.
Another new thought: We stopped by my brother’s house yesterday to stretch our legs before driving on. I suggested a hike. He suggested a couple of miles that would be “mostly downhill.” We arranged our cars and set off with our kids in arms.
I forgot to mention that my brother is a elite survival specialist professionally speaking. He's my (and a lot of other people's) hero. But this means our “walk” was five miles and three hours long. In the back country. With kids in arms. Wearing my Vibrams. Almost all down hill. All very rocky and slate-like. And gorgeous. Did I mention gorgeous?
Today, my left foot and ankle are killing me. There was just too big a gap between “road trip leg atrophy” and “natural rocky terrain in minimal shoes carrying 20-30 pounds in arms for three hours.”
I choose to not see myself as injured. I simply see that I made a poor decision with my body. I’m doing a lot of correctives and resting (HELP, I’M TRAPPED IN A CAR!) today, which is good. But what is even better is I am not stressing over my foot issue. I see where my pain comes from. My pain’s purpose has been served; it has alerted me to the fact my behavior exceeded my current physiological state.
You were not strong enough to handle the loads created by the interactions your body, gear and terrain.
Please do not freak out. Just make a better decision next time. We suggest training before jumping in.
Thanks, Body. I’m making a note that I need to work on my lower leg and foot alignment as well as integrating that into more strenuous training, should I wish hike like that again. Which I do.
Constant thought: "You can be my wingman any time."