Not every body is created equal.
That is something that I remind myself of every time I step on my yoga mat. I am not perfect. We are not perfect. Hell, humans are not perfect.
Every anatomy book – however – thinks and claims we are with those perfect pictures of symmetrical bodies. Perfect bodies that can do any pose in yoga (or anything else physically) – if only – and now for the societal interject – we worked hard enough, took enough classes, practiced for hours, put our mind to it, not let negative thoughts get in the way of the task at hand.
This all could be true – to a certain degree – the old adage: you never know until you try. But if you have been practicing for a long time and your body still can’t do something, it very well may be – nature vs nurture (practice) – that nature has not given you the body that is able to do these things.
If you look and study anatomy from books, you’ll get a false sense of how each of us are in our bodies. It clearly insists that we are all symmetrical and that each part is formed perfectly in vitro so that it is the mechanism of muscles and ligaments that holds you back from achieving the perfect posture – or that perfect running speed, or swim stroke, or tennis stroke, etc., and all you have to do is practice and push yourself until you become the perfect human. Do you ever wonder what it is that stops one athlete from being great and another reaching heights of achievement. I don’t mean to say that work has nothing to do with it – or sometimes equipment, but that has been disproven by those who can’t afford the best still achieving great goals – what I mean to say is that we are not perfect beings and our bodies are all different – and therefore, what one person can do and another person can’t, does not solely rest on whether one is working harder than the other or not.
As I practiced and studied yoga, and practiced and studied, I realized that there was something that I wasn’t understanding about my body that was keeping me from fully realizing some postures and made it possible for me to perform others.
I studied with a lot of different teachers teaching different styles of yoga – while I am a traditionalist, the more contemporary approach helped me understand what it was that was getting in my way so that I could further my traditional style with more ease and understanding. Yin yoga taught this idea that bodies are not created equal and that our bone structure: size of certain attachment points, length of bones or shape of the bone which does not adhere to what it is “supposed” to look like – in a perfect anatomy book body, would drastically affect the outcome of practice (in any sport) while trying to reach a goal.
Recently, I broke my ankle and sprained it severely that I was off it for weeks and it took a good year to recover. But what I found out from my x-ray about my right foot put my whole life’s body experience into perspective. I actually let out a sigh of relief. You see – when I was young, I experienced sharp pain in my right knee whenever I ran or walked upstairs which kept me from most sports, I also had frequent headaches and once had a head ache after a small mishap in an exercise class that lasted for two years.
I always knew that I had some scoliosis – not much – it was minor compared to what some people have, but when I started seeing a visible twist in my lower spine that when you looked at me I looked like I was attempting to stand sideways, I got curious about what was going on. That and when years later, my x-ray of my hips showed that the crack of my ass was two inches off centre – my belly button was facing forward – but I was certainly twisted.
I was discovering all this through going to really amazing chiropractic practitioners who were so happy to work with me because I was so curious as to how to understand and “fix” this that we worked together in cracking the code of my body. I was practicing yoga very strenuously. I was tired and discouraged when I found that because of me trying to remedy one thing, it put stress on my mid-spine and my vertebrae were twisting up there which caused me to create a hole between the bones. I slowed down. And for years, my practice – a combination of traditional and therapeutic – which I developed for myself that was more about discovery and curiosity rather than rest and recovery although there were aspects of that, helped me discover my physical body and my mind and everything else, that it was the most exhilarating thing I was doing in my life.
I improved leaps and bounds while doing this. My method became investigative and I was able to dive deep within my body and start being able to move bones individually. Yoga practice and the chiropractic methods helped to make and keep my muscles limber, long and strong while honing in on the minutiae of the movement of individual bones and muscles that no book would have been able to instruct me on. I can move my ass crack into alignment now while I practice so that my body is more symmetrical – which allows for both sides to be equally open. Why is this important? Because in my every day life – as I sit, walk, drive, stand, carry, fall – I can safely realign my body each day with each practice to keep myself limber, and injury free.
However – jumping off that fence was not a good thing to do – at first.
But breaking my foot made everything make sense. The x-ray showed that I had an anomaly on the right heel that restricts the movement of pointing the toe. Finally an answer to why I have excruciating pain if I wear high heels. Since the foot is the foundation of the body and if there is anything that affects the foot: wearing high heels, tight shoes, etc., can affect the body, then this must have something to do with the twist in my hips and the pain in my knee (and why I break the right foot and not the left… this is the second break).
My focus after finding that out was stretching out the top of my right foot especially and keeping an eye to the left foot to not let it get ahead of the right. Since the left was still open and flexible and functional – I had to restrict it in such a way that the right foot could catch up. But I would never have known to do this if it wasn’t for the break. It was a difficult recovery – losing the ability to walk around on my own was strangely disturbing to me. I changed my practice to being one of doing things lying down and I had to build the strength of my legs again. All doing yoga.
The reason I am writing this, is to encourage anyone who has had an injury – whether it is from breaking or it’s something like say sciatica) or who is struggling with their physicality – to not give up. Hone your ability to listen to your body. Throw away the books and traditional methods that don’t understand an asymmetrical structure. Find a way to practice that speaks to investigating and developing a greater understanding and nurturing style for your body. My investigation was relentless – but it was nurturing because I strove to find a way to release the pain and to practice with mindfulness and purpose.
This practice has other benefits as well – namely, going deeper into what drives you as a human being – but that’s for another post.