Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Baby Steps

Apparently, I need to learn how to walk again.

Two weekends ago, I had a painful hip "episode." I've had them very occasionally in the past, for years, and have always thought it was due to a pinched nerve, along the lines of sciataca. It mostly bothered me when I was trying to find a comfortable sleeping position, as any way I lay eventually put weight on something that made it hurt. It would generally go away after a day, and seemed to bother me less when I weighed less.

Well, two Saturdays ago, it felt kind of like a kink that needed to be worked out. So I forged on ahead, working in the garden with Miss Chef. (Note to Liz: plant tomato stakes first, then the plants.) As it turned out, that was the last thing my hip needed, and after repeated crouches, kneels, and bendovers, I ended up hobbling across the lawn to a patio chair, wincing as I told Miss Chef, "I have to quit."

It sucked. I wanted to transplant seedlings! But--OUCH! It really was painful. And it didn't go away the next day; I had pushed too hard, and it took me at least three days to be able to move normally.

Okay, I thought, you really do need to lose weight, if this is going to keep happening. By the end of the week, I felt better, resolved to cut down on the Cokes--yet again--and life went on.

Sunday morning, I mowed. I was fine, trying to be conscious of pushing the mower with my muscles, instead of my back. Something I had to figure out on my own, having never used a push lawn mower when there were Big People around to tell me these things.

Sunday afternoon, my hip started hurting again.

Uh oh.

Somehow, as Miss Chef and I made our rounds that afternoon to the grocery store, Home Depot, and the drugstore, I figured out the real problem: I have lousy posture. It wasn't until I finally tilted my pelvis forward, seeking relief from the sharp twinges, that it all went away. Pinched nerve? Maybe. Bad posture putting pressure on the wrong parts of my support structure? Most definitely.

Now, don't think this was news to me. I've always known my posture was lousy. As I was growing up, my parents frequently commented on it; how could I forget? As a teenager, of course, I discounted most everything they told me.

Over the years, however, I have occasionally tried to improve my posture. I'd ask friends to remind me if they saw me slouching--then either they'd forget, feel uncomfortable bringing it up, or I'd find it too annoying to continue. I took yoga classes for a year or two in grad school, which undoubtedly helped, without my realizing it. But outside of school, yoga got expensive, and I got out of the habit of using the videos I'd bought, or even using the breathing and standing techniques I'd learned. Leaving teaching for an office job was the final knell; sitting correctly is even harder for me than standing correctly.

But even during my posture-centric moments, I was never really sure of how to align my body. This feels right, I'd think, standing in yoga's mountain pose, and then the instructor would say "Lower your shoulders" or "Lift your chin," and I'd think, Oooo, no, THIS feels right. Every time I thought I felt the right balance, I'd forget to keep my shoulders back or my butt tucked in. I just couldn't get the whole thing to stay together.

I can't figure out why I never naturally learned good posture. I took ballet as a child, and rode horses for a couple of years as a teen. Both of these required attention to body position, and I credit them both for giving me very good balance. Slump on horseback, and you won't get far. But a decade later in yoga, while I found the balancing poses relatively easy, I still couldn't get it straight. My body, that is.

So now that my almost-40 skeleton is demanding better treatment, I have no choice but to figure it out. As I pace around the pond with Rosie, I concentrate on hips forward, rib cage up, shoulders back. Thirteen times a day at work, I haul myself up once again in my chair, pressing my butt back and stretching my spine upwards. And each time, I feel it: the opening of my chest that allows better breathing; the assured erectness of my back that exudes confidence, the easing of the waistband that's no longer trying to suck in abdominal muscles I've forgotten how to use.

And I wonder if this time, I'll see it through; if my good posture will finally feel natural someday, so that I can stop thinking about it. I sure hope so, because it's awfully hard to concentrate on pelvis position at the same time as judging whether Rosie's about to suck up that goose poop.

I'm not entirely sure why I felt this was a subject for a blog post. It's just that I feel so weird, not walking with my own stride. Instead, I feel like I'm waddling, or squeezing my ass together so tightly, people will think I'm trying to make diamonds. I feel so awkward, ungraceful. And I hope that it will become natural, that someday soon I'll be able to stretch out and walk easily, as I did as a child, running across grass in bare feet.

Of course, I was probably slumping when I did that.

Biscuit update: If you're interested in the recipes for any of those biscuits from Saturday's post, point your browser to the Matthews market website here...you'll also see a couple of photos by yours truly. Yee-haw, I'm famous!


  1. do you try to walk balancing a book on your head? or is that really recommended?

    I had what I call Secretary Syndrome, I'm right-handed and terrible aching in right shoulder and neck as i sat at my desk. My doctor shot me up with some cortisone, hurts like hell going in, but cured the horrible pain. That's been about 2 months ago and it is still working, I'm pain free.

  2. Thanks for the tip!

    My mom has hip and back problems. And while they look weird, she swears by these shoes that have these rounded soles- so they almost rock with your step. I've also seen spring oriented shoes like that. She really swears that the shoes make all the difference.

  3. I'm so glad you posted about this, Flar. Of course, I hate that you are suffering, but having been previously married to a man with poor posture and constantly nagging my current husband and daughter, I'm here to tell you aligning your spine is so important.

    Adrian slouches and it makes me crazy. When she used to ride her horse, her back was straight as an arrow and her shoulders were back - but once she got off, different story. Although it requires constant attention to correct poor posture at first, it will become second nature. Keep at it. Adrian's equestrian coach used to say "put your boobies on a shelf" and that seemed to work even though it was a silly image.

    Also, ever hear of Leslie Sansone? She puts out DVDs called Walk Away The Pounds and it's all posture based low impact exercises. I will be happy to share some of my DVDs with you if you're interested in trying them out. Just lemme know.

    PS: Goose poop? Oh my, dogs do love them some disgusting "delicacies."

  4. Interesting post. I've always had to focus on keeping better posture. I crack it up to the fact that I'm almost 6' tall, so there's a lot to keep balanced and lined up properly. lol!

    But I also have hip displasia, so for the past 15 yrs I've been taking both fish oil and Glucosamine Chondroiten. I started off with the fish oil because our vet recommended it for our German Shepherd, who had the same hip issues. And it worked well for her, giving her another 6 years pain free and easier to move around. I was pleased when Glucosamine C. came out as a good joint supplement, because the fish oil 'burpies' were getting a bit much to deal with. hehe!

    It does take a week to 10 days to notice any difference and get relief, though. So, if you miss a few days, you have to get caught up again for it to get you back to feeling the same relief and ease of movement.

    But I hope your hip pain is just caused from poor posture and that you get it under control so you can be pain free and as active as you want to be.

    Pain is frustrating, debilitating, and exhausting. No fun.
    Feel better soon, my friend!



Thanks for dropping by--please share your thoughts!

"Every time we get comment mail, Rosie wags her tail!" (Seriously, you should see that puffy thing go.)