Thursday, March 4, 2010

Work with the Trestler

My Iyengar yoga teacher saw me struggling to get my feet far enough apart to do triangle pose. “You need to work with the trestler.”

“What is a trestler?” It sounded like a really rough version of a physical therapist. One who wrestles. Maybe on a trestle. It sounded expensive, too. And time consuming. And where was I going to find one?

My teacher showed me to a wooden contraption that looks like a large carpenter’s horse. It’s about 7 feet long, about a meter high, has a metal bar at mid-height, and instead of triangular legs, it has vertical legs held in place with horizontal wings.

You can line up wooden blocks against the base supports until the space is narrow enough to support your widest stance. The end blocks are curved quarter rounds, so you can put your feet on them comfortably.

I needed a lot of blocks. Right after the accident, I found it difficult to get my feet 2 feet apart. Now, after nearly 8 months, I can get them 3 feet apart. With the help of the trestler, I can support part of my weight on my arms, and I don’t have to worry about balance. In about 10 minutes, I gained another 3 inches in stance.

I had tried to show my physical therapist my problems with triangle pose. He does yoga. He understands how the body does these things. He noticed that I was curving my ribcage to the side in an attempt to balance. “You’re supposed to hinge from the hip.” He suggested I narrow my stance and concentrate on correct form. With the trestler, I can work on widening my stance and on correct form at the same time.

Yes, the stretching hurts. But since I can control how much weight is on my legs and how much is on my arms, I can minimize the pain. There is a difference between good pain and bad pain. The pain of stretch and the pain of breaking past what is currently impossible.

As my yoga teacher pointed out – there is nothing we do in our normal lives that requires a wide stance. But the ability to balance in a wide stance strengthens the muscles and joints we use to make turns in other sports. The hip hinge behaves differently at different angles. It’s easier to get the feet farther apart if I lean forward. Or if I bend my knees. Triangle requires straight legs and a straight trunk.

The restriction in my hips does not interfere with sex. It interferes with triangle pose and warrior poses. And sitting crosslegged. If I didn’t do yoga, it would be possible to have this injury and not even know what I’d lost.

Here’s a website with photos showing somebody working with a Trestler.

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