Practicing predictable yoga shapes or conventional strength-building exercises certainly has its benefits. But have you noticed that sometimes life throws you less-than-typical physical challenges? Such as oddly shaped things to move? Or atypical places you’ve got to reach? As I mentioned in my previous post, this is what recently happened while my partner and I packed up our house for a cross-country move.
During our two week moving period, I was forced to wake up dormant parts of my body. While moving furniture, packing heavy items and trying to carry as much as my arms could bear, I was confronted with quick, awkward and varied movements demands. Which meant I needed to stray beyond my regular practice and condition my muscles to effectively execute these uncommon tasks. This supplemental training helped me avoid pain, strain and injury.
Even if moving physical locations is not in your foreseeable future, the following three practices are ways of preparing your body for those unexpected (and sometimes awkward) movements we humans make on the fly. Each of these addresses the three most vulnerable body parts I mentioned last week. Practicing these slowly and mindfully now will allow for integration. So later when your long list of things to-do is rushing through your mind the body will recall how you trained it and utilize its muscle memory for the most effective movements.
The most beneficial habit I found when moving was being able to actively recruit my core muscles with my breath. Weaving in bracing concepts like Tubular Core will further enhance the effectiveness of the following practices.
1. Protecting Your Back While Moving
When it comes to preserving your back you may have to call on surrounding support from the shoulders, gluteal muscles and even the legs. When lifting those big bulky items, moving through a hip-hinge pattern and bending deep into the knees may be necessary for keeping back pain away. However, I found that stationary objects like cabinets and walls required side bending as the only way to reach or move certain things.
When you’re moving fast and thinking slow, the core’s ability to support your back in many ranges is your best defense against that elusive back pain. Whether my back was neutral, curling or bending, being able to contract and release the core in an organized fashion was beyond beneficial: it was critical.
Find your “Core Stability Exerise” here:
2. Powering Up the Grip and Strength of Your Hands
Grasping and moving different shaped objects showed me a common phenomena amongst aging adults; our grip can become more dominant in certain digits than others. To my surprise carrying those full moving boxes, heavy mirrors and furniture pieces caused my hands to cramp up — particularly from my ring and pinky fingers up toward my wrists. If I ignored my hands, my shoulders and neck paid the price in compensation.
This is because we develop muscles closest to our midline first, then expand our muscle control laterally (outward) as we begin manipulating objects with precision in our world. What develops first commonly diminishes as we integrate the other parts.
Try this: open your hand and outstretch your fingers. Try to touch ONLY the pinky finger towards you palm. You’ll notice that the other digits can’t help but assist it. Whereas most of us can successfully isolate the index finger in the same task. Again, the body knows what it is exposed to the most.
Get your baby ninja grip back with this tutorial, “Wrist Strengthening Exercise”.
3. Fix Your Achy Feet
As one would imagine, the bottoms of my feet echoed the work I’d put them through. Regularly rolling my feet in the evening addressed my tired soles, but I noticed the source of my feet stiffness was especially stemming from my toes.
Akin to the sensation of finally letting go of the heavy grocery bag handle, by the end of the first moving day I knew I was over-compensating, oddly with my toes. Gripping here and gripping there, trying to help my body find a little extra “oomph” I had exhausted the tiny musculature of my toes.
I sometimes see this come up when our balance is being tested…a telltale sign that the feet are compensating for something…maybe in the legs, the pelvis or the core. If you see white knuckles in your toes when you pose, try simply lifting the toes and seeing if you can instead find stability up the chain.
To strengthen and stretch your own toes in preparation for the unexpected, try this simple exercise I call “Rocking Seza”
Having this body awareness and the tools to train for those awkward physical tasks allowed me to reserve my thought process for all of the other taxing motions of moving. It allowed me to savor the last few days in our home, relish our memories that had been unburied and organize boxed items without being bogged down with the stresses of pain. Moving is a symbol of transformation and it is our conscious participation in that transformation which writes the quality of the chapters that are both closing and opening.