Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sitting Correctly

"Sit up straight." " Relax." How is that possible? What does it feel like? How can it be done without a trainer observing you?

After almost a year of nearly daily classes, I am beginning to find answers. The complete answer comes when you can do this by yourself.

For decades I thought I was sitting up straight. Then I found the sitz, sitting,  bones. Then I became aware of where my shoulders should have been. And lastly, I learned to balance my head, relaxed.

None of this could be done until I could sense, feel, something related to the right and wrong way of positioning, one muscle at a time. This sensation can be the same or different from pain. Pain sets the 
limits for that day.

Pain is tricky. Where one feels pain can be far removed from the cause. Several causes can produce the same pain.

My experience with weigh training, chair yoga, and tai chi has provided three views of the same situation. “If it hurts, stop. Stay within your pain free zone. You can go further in the next session.”

The reason for caution is simple: Irritated nerves, muscles and joints may take several days to heal before progress can again be made in training these parts.

We cannot sense body parts and movements at the lower, quieter, level needed to experience training that is appropriate for seniors, if pain is present.

[I attended my first meditation class yesterday. This now provides a full set of experiences from feeling great to physical pain and to mental anguish.]

So, how to sense sitting up straight and relaxed? The answer borrows from all three [four] training methods.

Sit in a hard chair to make it easier to sense your sitz bones. Mine immediately hurt. I therefore use my vest as a cushion in class.

Roll back on your bottom to feel your tailbone. I don’t feel mine, but this is not sitting up straight. It is how I have been sitting for decades to avoid pain from my sitz bones.

Next to stack your backbone in the correct relaxed position. Start with sitting on the sitz bones. Then to find where “up straight” is.

Lean to the right. Center. Lean to the left. Center.

Lean forward. Center. Lean backwards. Center.

Repeat as needed to get all four centers at the same place.

Lift your shoulders as high as you can and then DROP them. Repeat 2-3 times.

If all goes well, you are now sitting up straight and relaxed, except for your head.

Relax your neck. Your head will probably fall forward. Repeat the above four centering motions with your head. Find the point where your head remains balanced on your backbone. This may require positioning your neck as if your head is being pulled up by a string.

Take a deep breath, fully expanding you chest. Sense how this alignment feels for several seconds. 
Repeat 2-3 times.

Now stand up as a proud owner of a properly aligned body. Practice walking this way. I back up to a wall for realignment in the hall when I feel I am loosing my proper balance.

The body and head centering motions are both stretching exercises and show you where your proper posture is. Practice establishes this position in your muscle memory. Pain related to improper posture may be eliminated or reduced for a period of time. Your attention is being diverted from pain to learning how to feel good.

The most frustrating part of this is to be totally pain free for minutes to hours and then have it return with such intensity as to almost take me off of my feet. Such a violent return generally takes place as I am walking down the hall in memory care. I have yet to fall, but my right knee can buckle.

Or the back pain starts as I lure my wife out of our apartment. That can take up to 15 minutes for her to touch and set everything in place, or a caregiver comes by and assists me.

Allergies, stress, improper posture? Plastering and painting? At any rate, the fitness classes are allowing me, in general, to fee good by the time each one ends. Each new set of exercises seem to make something snap in a new location in my back and then feel better.

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