Monday, September 16, 2013

(Re)released into the wild

Several weeks ago I had my final PT appointment of this go-round. I've definitely made significant progress since I started a few months ago, but at the same time it feels as if I was given a brand new user's guide to how to run my own body. Everything I do feels awkward right now, especially running. I will have to continue to do my homework and remain cognizant of my posture, but I can handle that. I know I was asked to share the exercises I've been doing quite some time ago, but I'm reticent to share all of them. Frankly, I don't want anyone finding them, self-diagnosing themselves with the same problem I have and then following my exercises blindly. My routine is designed for me and my problems, not you and yours!

That being said, I will happily share two of the most important (and easy) ones that everyone could do without harming themselves. The absolute most important do-not-skip "exercise" that my PT has had me doing the entire time is breathing. Yup, breathing.

Belly Breathing a.k.a Diaphragmatic Breathing
Want to know whether you're a chest-breather or a belly-breather? It's pretty easy to test. Lie down on the floor with your knees comfortably bent and feet flat on the floor. Gently rest your hand on your tummy and just take a deep breath without giving it any thought. If the hand on your tummy doesn't move, then you're a chest-breather just like me.

Since I'm a habitual chest-breather, I struggled with the mental aspect of redirecting my breath
into my belly. It felt awkward and unnatural at first. I yawned a lot while doing it (still do) and never felt like I could get good deep breath in. Part of that problem was attributed to my inability to exhale correctly (yup, totally failed on all accounts of breathing here). I asked my PT about it and he directed me to take one quick full deep breath into my belly and then slowly (like a leaky tire) exhale until I felt a tiny "crunch" sensation in my abdominal muscles. That also felt uncomfortable and counter intuitive. However, I've persisted and worked on this every single day since my first appointment. I'm finally seeing the fruits of my labor as I catch myself unconsciously breathing into my belly, but there are also points throughout the day where I catch myself shallowly breathing into my chest.

Kneeling Rock Back
I love this exercise. I don't know why exactly; I can't explain it. It's extremely simple but so effective, useful and it's great between squat sets. The best way to explain this is with a video (courtesy Reg Bourcier via YouTube):

I've been doing the first and most simple variant of this exercise with a half-full water bottle on my lower back. The water bottle acts as a level, providing feedback regarding the stability of my pelvis throughout the range of motion. I've never done the second variant that is shown but now that I've seen it, I'm probably going to try it.