Tuesday, December 27, 2011

No Leverage in Yoga

I’ve done spine twists, sitting sideways on a chair, using the back of the chair for leverage to increase the twist for over 30 years.  For over 30 years, I’ve enjoyed the warmth along my spine after a good twist.  Until my last yoga class.

We sat in our chairs.  We twisted.  Then it was time to put the chairs away and do floor work.  I couldn’t lift the chair. I couldn’t even stand straight.  I spent the rest of the class time, doing every relaxation (there really is no such thing as stretching – muscles don’t stretch, but they do elongate when relaxed) I could remember, trying to straighten my spine.

The teacher offered to call the fire department to carry me downstairs.  I was afraid that being lifted would hurt worse than anything I could do to myself. So, I continued to try relaxing my muscles in different positions.

Eventually, I was able to stand, and walk slowly, leaning to one side.  Two hands on the banister, and I got down the stairs, thinking NOT AGAIN.  This has be the worst year yet for accidents.

When I got home, I looked up yoga twists, hoping to find healing instructions.  Instead, I found this on Yoga Journal.   

A couple of tips for any twisting pose:

Elongate your spine by lengthening your torso as much as possible before coming into a twist. Think of reaching the crown of your head to the sky. Depending upon the twist, you may be able to press your hand into the ground to help with this action. A slumped over position limits your rotation.

Initiate the twist from the abdominal muscles rather than forcing a twist by using leverage. This will ensure you reach your edge safely.

Leverage is supposed to be useful in all areas of life.  But NOT in Yoga. NOW they tell me!  Okay, maybe yoga teachers have mentioned this throughout the years and maybe I didn’t hear it because I was having too much fun.  But, now I know, and I will protect myself in the future.

And on YouTube, I found http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wYM64_1heo which teaches two good exercises to do for injured discs. And I found instructions for how to use ice.  I didn’t know that ice works best if you leave it on for 15 minutes or until the area is numb.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Small Exercise is Wonderful

I’ve been taking Feldenkrais classes at my gym for about a year now. The teacher is always telling us, you don’t have to make the biggest motion you can. You can make it small. You can even imagine yourself doing it.

I thought this was for the less fit students, so they would at least try.  It never occurred to me, that these minimizations could help me.  I’m strong. I’m able to relax my muscles. I’m working on becoming more fit. Why go small?

This morning, I woke up with an ouchy low back ache.  I decided to try meditating with body relaxation. Translation – meditate lying on my back.  Breathe into parts of my body, starting with my toes, then the bottoms of my feet, then the tops of my feet, then my ankles, working all the way up to the top of my head.  I did this for about an hour.  I still hurt.

My husband woke, and he wanted to meditate lying in our bed.  I did not want to get out of bed. My low back still hurt, and it was only 5 AM.  I wanted to exercises my low back, but not disturb my husband’s meditation.

I decided to try very small motions with my low back, side to side, tilt and reverse. I decided to try making them smaller and smaller. The pain increased each time I tilted to the left.  I decided to play with that. Smaller and smaller.  

Suddenly, something went *pop* – just a very small adjustment. The pain level went way down. I continued doing small repeated movements, the kind that bore me in Feldenkrais class.  But this time I was curious – what was moving more easily? Where was I still stuck?  

I didn’t find anything, but when my husband finished meditating, I was able to get up with very little pain and by the time I’d gone for a walk, I was almost comfortable.  Small is powerful!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Men Think They Know Everything

Men think they know everything.

Boys, too.

I read once that a man will think he’s qualified for a job if he has 40% of the required skills.  A woman will think she’s not qualified if she has 90% of the required skills.

I wondered how young this discrepancy started.  Certainly the few boys who still talked to me in junior high and high school didn’t have that attitude.

But that’s the key – most men were boys who wouldn’t talk to me.

A next door neighbor boy had a major case of braggadocio when I was in elementary school. He had blue eyes and he insisted loudly that I was an inferior being because I have brown eyes. Only people like him were worthwhile.  He was better at aiming a snowball than I was, and that was proof. 

Somebody gave him litmus paper.  That’s the pale pink paper that turns pale purple when you touch it to a bar of wet soap or wet baking soda.  And it turns pink again if you pour vinegar on it.  He insisted it was dangerous.  He, the brave superior being, went into a room all by himself and made the paper change color.  I was so disgusted with him that I figured he had some purple paper in that little room and he had just walked in with the pink paper and walked out with the purple one.

I didn’t think of this neighbor boy as a typical boy. I thought of him as an irritating brat.

Then I had a conversation with my 6-year-old grandson.  I’d brought my jump rope to give to him and his sister.  My grandson greeted me, “I know all about jump rope.”

This sounded odd.  I’ve been jumping rope for years, I’ve witnessed jump rope competitions. I can do a few tricks (okay – not with my new hip) – correction, I could do a few tricks when I had my original equipment.  Anyway, I would not say that I know all about jump rope.  And here was a 6-year-old boy claiming that he knows all about jump rope.

I handed him the rope and asked him to show me what he could do.

He didn’t know how to spin it.  He moved his arms from the shoulders, instead of using his wrists and forearms. He couldn’t jump the rope even once.  

He gave his sister a turn. She quietly took the rope, spun it and jumped successfully.  No bragging. No talking.  Just jumping. 

I asked my husband, the alien, what would have happened to him as a child if he’d bragged about something he couldn’t do. He said the other kids would have teased him mercilessly, the coach would have lectured him. His father would have insisted that he speak modestly, rather than brag. But then, my husband is the sort of male who is willing to talk to me.

Something else is going on in our culture. Somehow – very young – boys are getting the idea that they know more than they do, and are more competent than they really are.  While girls are learning to do things, boys are learning to brag.

Now if girls can learn that boys are just bragging, maybe true communication can start.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Learning About Time

One of my grand twins lost her shoe in a pile of leaves.  The shoe hunt, accompanied by much arguing and complaining lasted about two minutes.

“That took at least an hour,” said one of the twins. 

“Do you have a watch?” I asked.

“I don’t want people to ask me what time it is,” she replied.

At this point I almost changed the subject from the value of estimating time to the value of helping others.  But my grand twins are experts at changing the subject, so I didn’t play along. 

Her mother cut in, “She has one. She just doesn’t wear it.”

“If you wear it, and look at it frequently, you’ll get a feel for time,” I said.  “Time does have a feel.”

“Time goes slower when you’re bored,” said my grand daughter.

“It may feel like it,” I said. “But it’s useful to have a feel for how much time is really passing.”

“It felt like more than an hour.”

“Do you think it was really more than an hour?”

“You just don’t get it!” insisted my 10-year-old grand daughter.

Where have I heard that before?  From my children. From my own mouth.  But never about time.

I used that line when I felt I was being treated like a younger child than I really was.  In this situation, I was treating my grand daughter as if she was more mature than she wants to be.  I wanted the responsibilities and freedoms of maturity from an early age.  I don’t know what she wants.

Having a sense of how much time is really required for a job, how much time is really passing when we’re bored and when we’re enjoying is one of the key tricks to getting work accomplished.  This is the gift I’d like to give my grand children – the ability to accomplish their projects.

I surfed the web and found this website:


The authors have several well-thought-out activities for helping children learn to estimate time passing and time anticipated.

Make a list of favorite activities and then place them in the appropriate category: one second, one minute, or one hour.

Compare lengths of time to driving distances: "We will stay at the party for one hour. That’s about as long as it takes us to drive to the zoo."

Make a chart with daily schedules: "At 12:00 we will have lunch.  At 3:00 we’ll leave for baseball practice."

Challenge your child to pick up his room within a certain amount of time. Get him thinking about time by asking him how many minutes he needs to get the blocks on the shelf.  "Could you fold all the shirts and put them in the drawer in ten seconds?"

Make paper chains to count down the days until an upcoming vacation or holiday.  Try to remove the link at the same time each day to illustrate the notion of a 24 hour day.

This is one of the problems with long-distance grandparenting.  Somebody told my daughter about this blog.  It is anonymous for several reasons. One of them was to be able to rant about my family without getting my family angry.  My daughter may read this.  I don’t know if she’ll try these suggestions because they look useful or if she’ll ignore them because I suggested them.

I know my daughter is good at organizing her time.  I’d like to think she learned it from her dad and me.  We both accomplish a great deal with our time.  People frequently ask us how we get so much done, manage to show up at agreed times, and finish our projects ahead of schedule. 

I think having a feel for how much time various activities take is key to effective use of time.  Neither of us can multi-task (unless you count running the washing machine, while writing my blog.)

I hate feeling like the stereotypical senior – worrying that today’s young people aren’t living up to my standards.  I live on the opposite coast from my grand twins.  I have no say in how they are raised.  I may as well worry about life on Mars. It is not a good use of my time to worry about them. But that’s what my blog is for – a place to rant and get it out of my system.

Exercises in telling time for grandparents:

Make a list of favorite activities and schedule them into the week.  Mean it – really make time for them, and really do them.
Compare lengths of time for various activities – shopping on the web, vs going to the mall.  Do I want to get out of the house, or do I want a specific item?

Make a chart of the day’s activities, and how long they will take.  Make sure to include time to exercise and to read, or do something I enjoy.

Challenge myself to get a chore I dislike done quickly.

Include doing something new in my schedule – trying a new recipe, a new exercise, visiting a new local exhibit.  Doing something different is a proven way to help keep track of time.  

And cut time-wasters out of my life – time wasters like worrying. If I can do something, great. If I can’t then worrying accomplishes nothing.