Thursday, March 13, 2008

Loving your body: The Physical

I swear I'll get to the music posts... but for now, something a little different: taking care of your body.

This week, for the first time ever, I had to cancel a workshop and performance because of an injury. My iliotibial band in my right leg (shown in the illustration to the right; click for a larger image) has "gone on strike", so to speak. Since Monday, I haven't been able to walk up stairs, sometimes just walk, without being in pain, particularly where the tendon attaches to the iliac crest, at the top.

I am, like many of us, a "can do" kind of person. If I commit to something, I want to follow through. I hate backing out of previous arrangements, particularly when lots of people are relying on me to be there, for them. So for me to admit that I can't be there is very hard.

The experience, however, got me thinking about how my body is my dance career. If I don't take care of it, nurture it, take the time to heal injuries, and rehabilitate myself, I'm doing a greater disservice not only to myself but to those who want to learn from me.

I also started thinking about how many of us approach this dance... like it's easy and always good for us. And, if we practice properly, listening to our body when it needs care, and pushing it to our limits, and not beyond, this dance can bring us great emotional and physical joy.

But I also treat this dance like a sport. I want to sweat. I want to feel "the burn". If I'm not sore the next day after a practice, then I think the practice was too easy. In pushing myself, however, I risk injury, as I often don't have the time to properly rehabilitate my muscles after a hard workout. I'll teach for two hours straight, and instead of taking 30 minutes to an hour to cool down, relax, and recuperate, I take a hurried shower and jump into bed, because it's late, and I have to get up early in the mornings. I think that my body can take it. I am a "can do" person, so I think my body can handle this repetitive physical stress... but this week my body decided that enough was enough. So, I had no choice but to listen to it.

It's important to know our physical boundaries. We need to know when to say, "I'd love to prove to myself that I can do this, but my body won't be healthy if I do." Many of us are self-competitive, and we always want to do better, more, be stronger than we were yesterday. Sometimes our body gives us these little reminders that it needs some love, and it's our responsibility to realize that sometimes proving to ourselves that we're strong might actually be a sign of mental weakness. It takes more strength to be humble and admit that we're on the wrong path than it does to stay stubborn and push ourselves beyond our limits.

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