Change Your Environment or Change Your Body?

So much good stuff percolating in my mind right now, having just returned from staff training with Nutritious Movement. Have I mentioned I get to soak in a whole new deeper level of learning and pass that on not just to YOU but to new students who are certifying in this whole-body approach to movement and alignment?! I'm super excited and privileged and can't wait to keep going deeper with this work!

Here's what staff training looks like, by the way:

Photo on the left is of Petra Fisher and me. Photo on the bottom right is of Katy Bowman teaching and Nancy Burns balancing.

Photo on the left is of Petra Fisher and me. Photo on the bottom right is of Katy Bowman teaching and Nancy Burns balancing.

Anywho...it's given me lots of ideas about what I can offer you to take your own experience to the next level. More on that in time. :)

Today, though, I want to talk about safety. And adaptation. And efficiency. And health.

When my mother was sick with brain cancer, she lost a lot of physical function. Her first symptom was weakness on one side, weakness that increasingly made it difficult for her to walk, until she was bound to a wheelchair and unable to use one arm.

This was extraordinarily difficult for her, an active woman who lived alone in a foreign country by herself, a person - like most all able-bodied among us - who highly valued being able to use her body to do the things she loved, things like visiting with friends, planting flowers, building things, traveling the world, cooking meals for people she loved, watching the sun rise over the ocean after an early walk on the beach, painting with watercolors.

And the commonly-expected things, like going to the bathroom by yourself, being able to take a shower, drive a car, walk down the street to get a cup of coffee, write a letter.
 

Here I am with my mom (and Nerri, our driver) visiting Mayan ruins in Honduras a few years before she died.

Here I am with my mom (and Nerri, our driver) visiting Mayan ruins in Honduras a few years before she died.

When my mom was planning to return home from her rehab center, her house was retrofitted to accommodate her change in abilities. Ramps were installed to replace steps, bars were put in place to hold onto for support, a higher commode was purchased to minimize the effort to get on and off the toilet.

This is something you've probably witnessed. Someone You know and love has gotten sick or frail, their abilities have greatly diminished and so the environment is changed to better support them in this state.

It's smart. It's necessary. It's loving.

But what if it isn't always these things? What about those times when accommodating a lack of ability through changing the environment isn't smart and necessary and loving? What if changing the environment sometimes serves as away to stay physically limited and actually perpetuates a deeper state of disability?

Here are some examples:

  • You get plantar fasciitis, so you permanently use an orthodic
  • Your knees hurt when you squat, so you get a higher toilet
  • You have trouble balancing, so you only walk on paved surfaces
  • You can't get up and down from the floor so you keep a chair in every room
  • You wake up with neck and back pain, so you get a softer bed and more pillows
  • You can't get out of bed easily, so you buy a higher bed
  • You can 't carry heavy things so you find someone else to do it for you

Have you responded any of these ways to issues in your body? I know I have. I know I still do. 

The thing is, humans get sick. And often, when we get near the end of our lives, we experience of marked increase in disability. We need to give ourselves the supports that are smart and necessary and loving. It's great that we can have access to paved surfaces, and higher commodes and ramps in these circumstances.

But for most of us, for most of the time, for much of our lives, we opt to change the environment instead of dealing with a totally resolvable physical limitation. It might seem REALLY efficient at the time to add in an orthodic or a higher bed or a few more chairs. However, when you pan out a bit, when you look at the length of your life, when you look at what you want to be doing IN YOUR BODY in 2 years, 10 years, 50 years, what is efficient in the moment (an environmental change) becomes a whole lot less efficient in the long term (a body change, a skill set change). 

This is especially true because when we meet our limitations with environmental changes, so often those limitations INCREASE in size. They become bigger, more substantial, more difficult to overcome.

Then they lead to different, more debilitating limitations. We stop being able to tie our own shoes. We develop pelvic floor dysfunction. We break our hips when the step down wasn't exactly as we expected it to be. 

And then we experience the heartbreak. We can't get to the grocery store. Or play with plants. Or enjoy the solitude of an ocean sunrise. Or leave the house to visit friends.

My mother had brain cancer. And yet she worked SO hard to rehab her body to regain whatever movement she could, knowing the amazing gift it is to be able to move, knowing that every ounce of movement she could rediscover would open up her world. 

Her rehab efforts mattered to her - and to those who love her - in the months she lived following her diagnosis. It made a huge difference in the way she felt about herself, diminished her limitations and also supported what would have been possible had she lived. But the disease was swift and unrelenting and, in the end, her body could no longer support her life.

If you're reading this, your body is still supporting your life. It is still calling out for more health, more ability, more movement. It doesn't matter whether you are 25 or 85, whether you are super fit or super fatigued, whether you have lots of limitations in your body or just a few.

I know you want to feel better. I know you want life to be easier. And I know you want that today. We all do.

Truthfully, the fastest way to that is probably through environmental changes: more furniture, different furniture, avoidance of difficult movements, taking the smoothest path.

But if what you want is to feel better for as much of your life as possible, if what you want is to INCREASE your ability and function, then the way to reach the goal changes. It becomes time to tend to the body, to help the body increase in strength and range of motion. To become MORE able bodied.  

It's not just today we need to be looking out for when we are choosing between the floor and a chair, when we are choosing between corrective exercises and stiffer shoe, when we are choosing between sitting on the sacrum or rolling the pelvis forward, when we are choosing between a walk and mindless time on the internet.

It's tomorrow, too. 

 

~~~

Would you love to stop perpetuating your physical limitations and instead start taking steps on behalf of your tomorrow self?

Join Launch Your Resilient Life to get access to the information, tools, motivation and skills needed to begin restoring whole-body function. It's my essential 4-week course that lays the groundwork for a more resilient life through lifestyle challenges, corrective exercises, alignment lessons and more. I so hope you'll join me today!