Usually I’m on the other side of the table, asking the questions, doing the testing, formulating the diagnosis and implementing a treatment plan. But on a beach in Ireland this summer, a slow slide and eventual strategized leap off a horse to keep me from under its hooves, put me on the physical therapist’s table.
It’s tough being the one with the injury, especially when I have enough information to know that my knee will eventually heal. The problem is, it’s not healing at the rate of a 20-year old. It’s healing at the rate of someone in the middle of her life and it’s keeping me from doing many of the basic activities that I have taken for granted. Stairs are still a challenge. It’s two-hands-on-the-rails-please, going down, and don’t even think about carrying anything in your arms. I keep reminding myself that there is a lesson in here somewhere. Even if we don’t want to see it, there’s always a lesson.
Being careful with every step, being mindful of not just where I place my foot, but which muscles I use, how the heel strikes the floor and the weight shifts forward across the foot to the toes is a lesson in mindfulness. This is forced walking meditation. Being aware of every second, every moment, being present for each transition is good for the mind and the soul.
My yoga practice has dramatically changed, too. I yearn to be able to sit cross-legged with ease, much less sit on my heels in virasana. With my hands on a chair I step mindfully forward from downward facing dog and gently place my foot at the front of the mat. With an inhale, I check to make sure that my knee is stable and will take the weight as I transition up to warrior I. I breathe in and out as I hold the pose, check my foundation, roll the thighs, lengthen the spine, and expand outwards. My first instinct is to relish the fact that I am holding myself up on my own. However, my practice is to focus on being in the moment, not lamenting what I can’t do or how far I’ve come during the past six weeks. It’s just about being present, being content with where I am right now.
When you have to think about every movement, you start to notice that most of us go throughout the day not thinking about how we got to a destination. We take the same routes, do the exact same movements and get into a pattern that requires little thinking. Everything becomes rote. There is a familiarity that comes with this patterning. In some respects this familiarity becomes comforting. Another perspective is that we are on autopilot—not being present to the subtle or even large changes around us.
Have you ever driven somewhere and not remembered how the time passed on your way there? Were you tuned into the radio or lost deep in thought as the world whizzed by outside? Do you have a favorite yoga sequence that you do over and over? How much of the time are you ‘checked out’? The challenge is to stay present with each breath and each movement.
Take this practice off the mat into the real world and you’ll start to notice more of the details of what is going on around you. You’ll hear the birds in the tree, see people who live in your neighborhood, notice the changes in the flowers in the garden down the street. When we become attuned with our environment, we gain a sense of peace.
This month is a great time to focus on transitions. Slow down, observe each movement, observe your environment, and relish each breath and each moment. When you find yourself checking out, just come back to your breath. I’ll be there right with you. Constantly learning.
~ Janet Carscadden PT, DPT, ERYT-200