People walking with me tend to end up looking at me kinda funny.
It’s justified – I admit. I hit a stretch of flat travel more than four or five feet in length (a hallway, a parking lot, whatever) and I start thinking about my alignment. How do I walk right??
So my conversation trails off and my eyes get glassy. I’m focusing so hard on the internal (on the position of my pelvis, if you must know) that the outside world mists over. I could easily walk in front of a car and not realize it.
So while small children in my path are forced to scuttle left and right, I tuck my tailbone, and envision cross garters going from my low hips to cross just below the belly button and connect to the bottom of the opposite ribs. I ensure my shoulders are down and my butt is flexing. I extend through the top of my femur.
It’s most definitely not natural, and my muttering “ribs – keep the ribs down” doesn’t help. But all of this put together means my low back does NOT hurt when I walk. My low back stays happily out of the whole thing, and really: I’ll take that benefit.
Both Barbara and Grace (my trainers at Body Dynamics) have walked a careful line between encouraging my determination and wincing whenever I interpret their instructions as a command to GRIP my muscles as tightly as humanly possible. Barbara, the more cerebral of the two, says “I’m not comfortable with the word grip. Can you tone that down?”
(The answer is – No. My muscles are on a regular light switch. You can have them on or off; take your pick. I am not yet equipped with muscle dimmer switches; I can’t ease back.)
Grace, a person of movement and sensation, says “No – don’t grip. SOFTEN your muscles.”
(This is Grace-speak that I, frankly, have not yet fully interpreted. How do I soften something that requires gripping at max force if you still want the effect that the clench provides? To soften something is to let it go slack – right? Apparently not. Grace sees some alternative; I don’t understand it. This will take still more time to figure out…)
Yesterday, Grace paid me a compliment. “When you started, we helped you to build up the muscles you needed. But now you have them – and now you have to trust them.”
I was immediately filled with foreboding. Trusting my musculature does not come naturally to me.
She went on. “Instead of thinking about tucking your tailbone or cross-bracing your obliques, I just want you to think about being TAAAAAAAAHHHHHL.”
“TAAAAAAAAHHHHHL.” She made an effortlessly graceful gesture with her ballet dancer hand to indicate the stretch of a spine. “Forget about the rest. If you think about being TAAAAAAAHHHL, then your body will be in the proper alignment.”
I had one of those “Whachoo talkin’ bout, Willis?” moments. I have walked for blocks in the wrong direction because I’m focused so hard on the muscles I’m using to walk down the street and now she says just thinking about being tall will take the place of all that??
Between you and me, I already have a petty complaint about height. Now, I know that Grace isn’t saying that I should feel tall because I AM tall; she could and would say the same to anyone, of any height. If you walk around envisioning a string coming out of the top of your head being pulled to the ceiling, you’ll have better alignment – theoretically.
But I actually happen to be tall; I’m 5’10”. I’m PROUD of being 5’10” because on actuarial tables, you get to weigh a few more pounds than women who are 5’9”. (Yes. THAT is why I like being tall. Having a perpetual problem with obesity has dyed my personality THAT thoroughly.)
But when I went to my new doctor the other day, the nurse measured me and announced with heartless disregard that I was five feet and 9.41 inches.
That’s not even nine and a half! According to statistical norms, we have to round my height DOWN to five-nine! GIVE ME MY HALF AN INCH BACK!
I almost demanded a re-measure; I was stressed that morning! Shrunken! I wasn’t standing as bitterly tall as I could possibly stretch! Get those brokers back in here – I want to reopen trading!
I didn’t. But I was already feeling aggrieved about my height, so being told to think TAAAAAAHHHHL hit me weird.
Anyway, that’s what I’m doing now. I’m walking around being TAAAAAAHHHHHL. Except for being tough to keep up over longer distances, it feels deceptively easy. I don’t trust it.
This is the only photo I have of Grace; I took it last year. She’s gotten an adorable haircut since; with bangs. So cute. If she told you to think TAAAAAHHHL, you’d do it just from the swanlike example she sets.