I was sitting at a stop light on the drive home from Balance Class.
I often cross my hands one over the other at the top of the steering wheel when waiting at a light or otherwise hanging out in the car, so my pinky fingers (not my thumbs) are side by side. It’s relaxing; it seems to take any tension out of my shoulders and biceps. I don’t know why; it’s the easiest way for my hands to form hooks from which my arms just hang. And it creates a pleasing stretch across my upper back.
It’s nice. You should try it. (When stopped, of course.)
Of course, if you’re not exactly in the center, then one hand or the other is going to overwhelm the balance and not only does the steering wheel then turn, but so do the wheels themselves – so when the light changes, you might take off briskly and bang into the next lane of traffic…
… so achieving a truly neutral position is definitely worth the time!
Not ten minutes earlier, I’d been having a brief, sweating-after-class discussion with Lynn. She and I were partnered in one of Barbara’s nefarious exercises.
(What exercise? We started out about five feet from each other, both facing the mirror – the better to enjoy the ridiculous spectacle we were making of ourselves. We each had our inner foot (inner to each other) up on a Bosu, and stood on our outer foot. Then we flung back and forth a huge beanbag made of lead or something. “Don’t fall over,” called Barbara unnecessarily. Then, after we’d come to grips with the black-hole-heavy aspects of the beanbag, Barbara said “Okay – now you can try it standing on the bosu.” SO WE DID. We each fell off a few times until we got the hang of it, but then we were tossing fools, whipping that beanbag around like we were skillfully throwing pizza dough at the trendiest new Italian eatery, singing O Solo Mio with great gusto.)
Lynn and I were expressing our pride at accomplishing this utterly useless (but oddly satisfying) feat, and we discussed how challenging it is to force the body to use non-dominant muscles. Lynn is ripped; she’s got one of those bodies that make famine-proof people grit their teeth in silent envy – but she, too, is lordotic; she stands with her hips tilted forward and down. Like me, she tends to use her quads and her low back, even though she knows she’d be stronger and more able if she tilted her pelvis up and used her abs and glutes. Just like me.
We looked like Mutt and Jeff; her lean and strong, and me pillowy and soft – but we had the same challenges.
So I had that in the back of my mind as I hung my hands over the steering wheel. The word “neutral” began to echo across the vast, empty chasm of my brain.
Grace is always trying to get me to a neutral position with my pelvis. Barbara wants me to bring my ribs down since my thorax is tight and I compensate by sticking my chest out. They’re trying to get me to neutral…
…and suddenly I took a baby step over the huge earthquake fissure in my path. Oh. NEUTRAL.
If I can get my pelvis into neutral – balanced like my hands on the steering wheel – then I can just hang there. I just have to find the place where the front muscles are working exactly as hard as the back muscles, at which point balance is achieved and everything has to work much less hard to accomplish the same task.
And if I should make the back or front muscles stronger – say, by working out or flinging bean bags through space – then “neutral” is going to shift.
That was a pretty big epiphany (or maybe, depending on your viewpoint, a foolishly tiny one) to have at a stoplight. We take our blasts of understanding where we can get them!
This is exactly how I was NOT sitting. Sorry. Can’t find a photo of someone sitting with their hands crossed over the top of the steering wheel. By the way – did you know? So as to clear the path for the airbag in your steering wheel, you’re not supposed to drive with your hands at ten and two anymore (much less at 11:45 and 12:15, like me with my hands crossed over the top!) – you’re supposed to be at five and seven. Thank God my kid’s been through Driver’s Ed in the modern era, so I could learn this factoid! The more you know.