Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Learning more about my body

I have always been by tight in the muscles. I've never been able to touch my toes. Never able to reach around my back with my arms in those contorted ways so many people can do. Absolutely never.

One time, a decade ago with lots of exercise and stretching I got to the point of finally being able to touch my toes like, just scraping by a teeny bit, but that was with a lot of work and persistence. Why is it so difficult for me? Well, I have now taken four yoga classes and i ink i have figured it out. And I've decided I like yoga and it will be a good additional my fitness regimen. I now do a combo of cardio, stretch/yoga and strength training. It's well rounded and will make me a healthier me. In strength training and cardio, I can pretty much do what the instructor shows me to do. But yoga, that will take a lot of time and practice.

What I am learning is that for as far as beginners go, I'm in pretty good shape for most poses. I can do the tree pose and the warrior poses and poses that involve stretching the back and arms and torso about as well as all the other beginners. We are all equally bad. But then we get to things with the legs, specifically the hamstrings and that is where I really see how unbelievably tight I am compared to all the other beginners.

Since I'm new to yoga, I don't know all the names of things yet, but there are a few exercises we have done I simply cannot do without modifications or I do them at a super baby level. The first is when you take a strap and put it under the sole of a foot and while lying on your back, extend that foot up with the knee straightened. The instructor has her foot all the way up at 90 degrees to her torso. Most people in class get their legs from 60-90 degrees. Me? I'm not sure I'm getting to 30 degrees off the ground.

Another pose we do is where you put your butt against the wall and hold your legs straight against the wall. This is supposed to be a comfortable pose. Huh! To keep my legs straight, my butt has to be about a foot away from the wall. I'm the only person in the entire beginners class who had to scoot out to do this pose. So, I got to wondering why? Why am I so darn tight in the hamstrings (and ankles).

I can see now that with most things I'm pretty typical for a beginner yoga person, but then with hamstring stretches (and some ankle dexterity moves), I'm way tighter than anyone else. And I think i know the answer as it is the same problem I get with my shins, so why wouldn't it be a problem with my other muscles in the legs?

It's those darn short toes again and it makes sense. I look at the other people in the classroom in their bare feet. And their toes can grab and spread out. They are functional. My foot can't do any of that because all my toes except my big toe are half the size of most people's toes. I used to have a waddle type walk because of this foot problem. I corrected it somewhat to look better, but the function of my feet are always off. If I can't roll off my foot onto my toes like everyone else can, I have to compensate everywhere else. And because if my walking motion for 42 years has been sub optimal, my ankle can't bend up well and my hamstrings have tightened. they are never asked to move in the full range of motion because my foot doesn't move in the full range of motion.

So, like a woman who wears high heels all the time, over time she shortens the ligaments in some parts of her leg, I get that too with my body because of my toes malformations. It doesn't mean I can't loosen these muscles or shouldn't bother to loosen these muscles and ligaments. To the contrary, I think it is imperative that I work on them because the problem probably gets worse and worse over time putting more strain on my body.

So, if nothing else, yoga is helping me learn more about my body, but I know it will help me get to a better place with range of movement in my legs too. It's like my own personal physical therapy.

Stats for 1/25/12:
Highest weight: 275. Now: 174.2 (3 more pounds to get to my pre-holiday weight)
Total hours worked out in 2012: 15/250

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I have a question and a comment.

    1) I have the same issue with my feet and am considering getting orthotics. Is this something you've had experience with?

    2) Have your tried a stretching tool? I just a 'ProStretch Plus' device from Medi-Dyne to help reduce shin splints and other lower-leg pains, and love it so far. If my shin splints exist for the same reason as yours, than I'm thinking this might help you out too!