The Camel’s Back, the Straw, and the Long Desert Trek

bray copyThere are times when I arrive at my chiropractor’s office with my tail between my legs and my head hanging down. “What did you DO?” he asks, his arms theatrical. His name is Adam Benjamin and he’s a genius. I wrack my memory. His question is a good one, and the answer should educate both of us. But I’m mystified.

“Nothing out of the ordinary?” I mumble under the weight of heat and ice.

Humpph. True enough, but nothing-out-of-the-ordinary for a Pilates instructor of a certain age who lives in her work loft can include such feats as disassembling, reassembling and moving heavy equipment as well as studio “improvements” performed on ladders and high ledges. I have been known to push the limits of my 5’3” frame. But I have a business to run and I can’t always wait for tall friends to come along. I’ve tried, and I have very good friends, but it’s dodgy. Bribes have gone down.

Besides, I’m suspecting human nature. I’ve seen dozens of clients who have failed to notice prior events. And even had they noticed, would it be a glimmer or would it be the whole sobering lot? What kind of bandwidth do we need to not hurt ourselves?

Take Cecily for instance. She didn’t know anything was wrong until about twenty minutes into her session with me. Her husband was with us working out too. His name is Chazzy (see Loose Limbed, Well Oiled and Ready to Pounce).

Pilates Abs. From supine position on the Reformers, our heads nodding toward the chests then lifting off the floor. C-curve part one. The TA girding the lower backs, the obliques sucking in the thoracic cages, and rectus sheaths rippling our spines into that capital letter C. Cecily yelps. She has pain in each of her letter Cs. She’s serious.

Hmm. Could a gentle hip flexor stretch be considered? We try. No, that actually hurts a lot too. I slowly circle the room.

“Did you do anything out of the ordinary?” I ask. (I’m asking because that’s what Adam Benjamin does and I want to copy him.) Her husband looks on with concern. Soon there will be two people in my studio in pain.

“No, nothing,” Cecily considers. She shakes her head. “I’m pretty sure not.”

I can see her wondering – Is it my spleen – is it my heart – do I have fill-in-the-deadly-blank? My hunch is no. It’s gotta be musculoskeletal. I should really offer some relief though.

Chazzy is mentally reviewing their previous movements. It’s the weekend so they’ve already been out. Who did what errands? Was gardening involved? I tell him to do door-frame arms. He does, using the only doorframe in the loft – the bathroom.

Cecily is still frowning and whimpering a little bit, but we’ve put the silver ball under her belly and are rolling around on the floor. I’m doing it too. She’s definitely finding stuff in there to work with is beginning to ground.

“Wait, Cici – I remember!” Chazzy says. “Last night!”

“What about last night?” Cecily says.

“At the bar. Dancing. You were dancing!”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right. I WAS dancing last night!”

“You were dancing crazy!”

“She was dancing CRAZY?” I pipe up, anxious for information.

“Oh my God, yeah, I was. I totally remember now. That’s probably how I did it, do you think?”

“What were you doing exactly?” I ask, sterner now.

They’re laughing, remembering what a fun night they had. Plus relieved. If sheepish. The mood has certainly changed.

“Yeah, we were celebrating our friends’ CD release!”

Cecily is nodding in agreement, big smile. Now she knows it is not the first sign of a dread disease characterized by horrible ab pain. She also realizes she brought it on herself (or at least that’s what this author imagines).

“Oh, like arching my back – you know, backwards — and lowering down to the floor? Kind of like the limbo.” She starts to demonstrate but of course strains the strained muscle as she tries to show me.

“The limbo? Are you crazy? You were dancing the limbo and you forgot about it?”

“And it was just a few hours ago, too,” Chazzy shares.

And I guess that’s how we roll; even those of us who self identify as “mind-body aware.” I for one know I need a lot more structure around changing a behavior. A movement pattern that needs to change for safety and longevity – I’m thinking I need a village worth of help.

Our bodies constantly surprise us, my clients remind me. They do bring joy, that’s true. But there’s a lot of straw out there and we need to schlep our loads with an eye to balance. We need to regulate our journeys over the long haul. We need to check in with ourselves and with our professionals who we’ve elected to help us. Whether you’re a caravan kind of camel or the lone beast of the desert pounding it out by yourself – grab the support you need and let’s make this work!