Similarly to the Tackling Depression series I've been writing for Mental Health Mondays, on Tuesdays I'll be posting personal ways I'm addressing my physical health in relationship to playing my instrument.
I’ve been continuing to struggle with back seizures and spasms although they seem to be maintainable with the help of my new best friend: Yin Yoga.
Maybe because it isn’t a “work out” friendly type of yoga, but Yin Yoga doesn’t seem to have the same level of mainstream attention that Hatha, or physical practice flow yogas, enjoy in western culture. If you practice at a studio regularly, look into whether or not they have a Restorative Yoga class as Yin Yoga will often be described with this name.
I’ve been enjoying Yin Yoga for exactly that reason; it is incredibly restorative! Each pose is held for an average of two minutes although it could range anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes. I’ve been doing online courses on YouTube at “Do Yoga With Me” where I can choose a targeted course on areas where I’m noticing problems.
Over the last week I’ve been working from the floor up beginning with yoga for the feet, moving through my ankles and calves, legs, hips, low back, back, upper back and shoulders, arms and shoulders and, lastly, the neck. Participating in this focused routine allows me to undo bad habits in one part of my body that create a chain reaction up my spine.
I’m not going to say I’ve been healed immediately because that’s not true. Alleviating imbalances in one area can create further imbalances in another. Here are a few things I’ve noticed so far:
- I have zero core strength so it’s not surprising I often tweak my upper back. If I can’t move smoothly from my core I’m going to rely on joints improperly.
- I have a lot of tightness in my right psoas (the muscle that attaches the pelvic region to the lumbar spine) which is throwing off the balance of my back and the alignment of my right hip/leg.
- The tightness in my left shoulder from holding my hand up to the cello neck and the forwardness of my right shoulder from a tight pec which is in constant flex from bowing pulls my shoulder blades out of alignment.
- I need to work on my neck pretty much every day.
So now I have new physical elements to add into my practice time if I want to play pain free and they take an additional 25-45 minutes every day.
I’ve added this time in every morning, first thing, when I get out of bed so that I’m set up for success and less pain the rest of the day. When I miss more than one day, my body can tell.
In addition to committing to my daily 45 minutes of Yin Yoga practice, this week I’m introducing planks back into my workout routine. Because I have very little core strength, I’ve set up a plan for the month to increase my strength and stamina little be little. If you do a plan, incorrectly, it can send extra stress into your shoulders and low back where it is most definitely not wanted.
Week 1 - 30 second forearm planks every day
Week 2 - 30 second hand planks every day
Week 3 - 1 minute forearm planks every day
Week 4 - 1 minute hand planks every day
I’ll continue building through May until I can safely do a two minute plank on my forearms. Then I’ll up the amount of times each day I perform the activity until I’m up to three a day. I center my planks around a meal time so that I’m sure to get it done. Adding in a singular, small element like this is often referred to as a "keystone habit" or a small activity you do that makes further good habits easier decisions to make and keep.
Lastly, I’m finally getting in for massage therapy again. While there is some contention as to whether or not massages actually help (I fall into the “they do” category), if they help you to relax, then they’re already working.
I’m excited to be sharing my weekly progress with you as I commit to a year of transforming my body and physical stamina so that I can play pain free and help encourage you to also.
Less pain and more music!