Big thrill this morning! After running up a series of hills, and feeling no pain in knee or foot, I ran on level grade for 2 blocks!! I resumed walking when I had the vaguest protest from my knee (end-gaining will do me no good, as evidenced by all my experience since injury). It has been 20 months and 12 days since I could run on level grade, a very long time for a person whose main speed is “go”.
And, I have a much more even gait in running up hill, instead of the rather lurching non-integrated gait of previous months. This indicates a more balanced elastic response through my whole self.
The condition of self improves in increments that add up, with time, patience and attention to overall use. Hope resumes that I can run on the beach in Kauai in December, at least a little distance, just for the overwhelming joy of running in the surf as the sun rises and stars begin to fade into dawn, with stars reflected in the black volcanic sands of Kauai and the ocean licking my happy feet.
So, the good news: bipedal mobility proceeds joyfully, 20 months after injury! Although running on flat surfaces is still too much impact for my injured (patella fracture) knee, my morning hill runs go along with incrementally increasing ease.
I am also able to pursue vigorous exploration of Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis exercise on a continuously challenging basis. Although I require knee pads for kneeling, I can now do most of a Gyrokinesis class without fear of knee pain.
The formerly inflamed metatarsal area has also quieted, and only signals when I am pushing beyond current elastic condition of self. Between my knee and my foot, I now have an excellent cueing system for end-gaining!
I have worked hard to get to this state of recovery, and with the assistance of wise experts in other modalities. 20 months after injury, I remain dedicated to achieving full function and mobility, and very happy to be making good progress!
Now, you would think after all the pain and frustration I have experienced that I would get a reprieve. But no, there is yet more to learn about pain and response to pain! Now my left thumb joint is hugely painful from an as yet undiagnosed cause. This means that even the simplest opposable digit action in my left hand causes a great wince of pain. Hand use being rather essential to being an upright primate, and especially for an Alexander teacher, this is both a concern and an opportunity for learning.
Pain in my hand/thumb causes me to narrow and shorten in an unproductive attempt to guard and protect. In activities other than teaching, I am having to quiet a fixed attention on a part, and instead expand to a larger view. As previously stated in this blog, I am not suggesting a repression of pain signals, but an expansion of attention to the wider, larger self.
I notice that while teaching, when my attention is large and my intention is global, my thumb joint rarely hurts. So, according to F.M. Alexander’s described experience of his own challenges with voicing, this indicates there is something I am not doing while teaching that diminishes cause of pain, and something I am doing that increases pain otherwise. Whether this is a structural imbalance, an arthritic condition or a perceptual inaccuracy is as yet unclear. The choice I have as a student and a teacher of the Alexander Technique is to apply principles of dynamic non-interference, and seek expert assistance beyond my skill set. I can refuse to narrow or shorten in response to pain. There are physical rules over which I have no control, but I can choose my response.
After a year and nearly 8 months since patella fracture, I am now experiencing the joyous resumption of vigorous activity, following numerous set backs, many delays, further injuries and a test of patience that nearly made me insane with frustration. Without the tools and principles of the Alexander Technique, my insanity may well have been confirmed!
My recovery has also relied upon the necessary assistance of experts in other disciplines that are compatible with Alexander thinking, most notably intelligent whole-person Physical Therapy, Osteopathy, and the comprehensive strengthening of Gyrotonic exercise. As an Alexander teacher, I have been able to bring a skill of intention and attention to the use of my self in the process of recovery. However, the experience of patella fracture and the requirements for full recovery in function have needed expert guidance far beyond my own skills.
Currently, I am thrilled to be able to run up hills every morning with some degree of ease. Running on level ground or running down even a slight grade is more impact than my injured knee can handle. There is no point in going beyond my current condition of self! Since running up hills is a bit easier every day, my hope is that my use of self and balance of strength will allow running on any grade with ease before too very long. My intention and hope is to be able to run on the pre-dawn beach in Kauai in December, with the stars reflected in the sand under my feet and the ocean licking my heels in a rhythm that spells utter delight.
Gyrotonic exercise explorations have also expanded in possibility. Many movements that previously challenged my injured knee can now be accomplished, as long as I continue to attend to my entire elastic self in response to movement stimulus. In other words, allowing the dynamic pause between stimulus and response so that the activity can do itself. Another way that I express this to my students is “going from undoing to doing without doing too much”.
I love my morning hill runs. I know all the locations where I can hear and observe various birds, and how the air shifts so that the scent of Puget Sound informs me. End gaining, as in pushing myself to run, is fruitless, and only results in pain and inflammation. Every morning hill run is unique and requires a willingness for new experience, for allowing the current condition of self to indicate appropriate vigor. If I hurry myself, I use myself poorly and suffer later. If I allow internal time and quiet the hurry-urgency, my use improves and I can accelerate with ease. There is a large difference between hurrying and moving quickly with good use.
And this all speaks, of course, to the long journey of recovery, of which I know far more than I ever wanted to know, and during which I learned more than I had previously believed possible. I am grateful for the learning, deeply appreciative of the very refined help I received, and ultimately hopeful that my challenging experience will somehow benefit others.