Relearning balance

Photo: a woman with her forearms placed on the mat, legs in a deep lunge
Opening the hips

I went to my standard weekend yoga sessions: a kick-ass vinyasa 2/3 class with Susan Bowen and a remedial hatha class with Marylou McNamara, both at Thrive Yoga. The first pushes me aerobically until I have to fall into child’s pose and makes me tackle poses that are at or beyond my edge, while the second allows me to slow down, feel the nuances of  basic poses, identify more clearly which muscles I need to release and which ones I should flex. In the first classes, I am usually moving through poses so quickly that I don’t think too much about what I’m doing, while in the second I notice in which poses I start to feel resistance and to hold back. It certainly means that I don’t fall into a rut with my yoga routines.

As I am breaking through the ossified restrictions of my hips and lower back (mentioned in a post last week), I can tell that my muscles have to relearn the poses. Balancing poses are especially hard because I was doing them in an impaired way in the past. Balance requires a lot of micro-adjustments all along the skeletal frame, from the soles of the feet to the ankles, to the knees, up to the hips, and finally the torso. In the past, my hips were locked down, immobile, frozen in muscular tension. That means that my balance had to come from either the play in my legs or my torso, which was really handicapping my equilibrium.

For the first time in tree pose (Vrksasana), I am able to place my foot on my thigh, instead of lower down on my leg, on my calf or ankle. But my butt seems to be swimming around all over the place. I just don’t have the micro-adjustments to keep me balanced.

Another issue with my balance is that I am developing peripheral neuropathy, meaning that I have numbness on the soles of my feet and also feel pin pricks on my feet, especially when my shoes are off. Although I can’t say it prevents me from balancing, it probably does impair my balance because I can make the subtle, almost instinctive micro-movements to keep me in equilibrium.

I suspect that I am lagging in strength and endurance by taking the softer classes, but I want to relearn the poses. Looking back, I feel that by emphasizing an upbeat practice, I was “locking in” my stiffness, which may have been one of the issues that led to my knee injury.