Archive for May, 2012

Walking the Edge- Pushing the Limits of Mind over Matter

Comments Off on Walking the Edge- Pushing the Limits of Mind over Matter Written on May 10th, 2012 by
Categories: General

Recently, my husband contracted rhabdomyolysis, which is a disease that can from trauma like being in a car crash, stuck under rubble, or simply from too many pull-ups. The latter is what transpired in my husband’s case. Nobody enjoys pull-ups, but people don’t usually die from them. My husband’s mind was somehow able to push so far beyond his body’s limits that he essentially destroyed a rather large group of muscles. Their implosion posed a grave danger to his kidney and muscle function.  His body swelled up and poured the contents of his muscles into his system. Then he essentially started to pee out his biceps.  Aside from organ danger, there was also a danger of something called compartment syndrome that comes from the swelling. DON’T GOOGLE that shit. You’ll regret it. Just know it’s bad.

Why all the gory details?? So we can know the extent of what’s possible with the power of the mind. Cell death and destruction aren’t generally new age goals, but they do point to the terrifying capacity of the brain.  After running around in a panic trying to get him greens, coconut water, and apps for his ipad; I finally had a chance to sit down and marvel at this phenomenon from a larger place, rather than the “What the hell have you done to yourself, baby?” place. How can our brains totally override all physical alarm systems? Navy Seals and ultra marathon runners are the types to get this disease. It’s easy to write off people with such tendencies as thrill-seeking extremists who need mental help, but it’s not that simple.

To get good at anything physically, whether it is drumming or snow boarding, one has to be a little obsessive, because it’s all about practice.  I spent much of my life in the circus, and you can’t get anywhere by being a weekend acrobat. Pushing yourself beyond your own comfort levels is how you eventually get your butt over your head. In order to get really strong, you have to confront your own incredible weakness day after day. I mean stare it in the face and hold its limp little hand. In order to get limber, you have to really feel exactly how tight you are, how much you hold, how little you can actually move. It’s difficult physically, yes, but it is also emotionally challenging. We can no longer hide thinking we are the same people we were at 20 or in our heads. We have to confront our physical state just as it is right now.

Does this mean that every workout should be a slogfest sweating through your mat or bending your body to your will? No, because oddly enough, for many New Yorkers that IS our comfort zone. So how do you know if you are getting comfortable with discomfort or just habitually shoving yourself into your limits?

A huge part of my job as a yoga instructor is learning with each student what they avoid. I need to see who has a tendency to stop short when things get hard and who has a tendency to go full throttle without listening to their bodies. It’s hard to believe, but for some people the hardest post is corpse pose, the one where you lie on your back at the end of class. I had one long time client who could do full lotus in a handstand but quite literally couldn’t hold shivasana for more than a minute. For my parkinson’s clients, it can be simply focusing on the concentration it may take a normal step.

Most sane people probably wonder what the point is of doing something they hate and paying someone to make them do it.  I often wonder myself. However, I do see the benefits very clearly.  Getting good at something that is hard and doesn’t come naturally is incredibly rewarding. It creates self esteem that no amount of talking can. Getting comfortable with discomfort also gives a person an ability to be calmer in different areas of life, which is why this stuff works!

Sometimes, we go beyond discomfort into something else. Then we feel strain or hurt or we get rhabdo.  We kick ourselves and try to do whatever possible to prevent a repeat performance.  But it is an edge, a constantly evolving line that is never static. We learn, and we start over all the time. Sometimes we get lazy and sometimes we go too far, but we keep finding what that line. Getting comfortable with discomfort means simply having faith that we are capable of far more than we can really imagine.

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