How we walk is our postural signature. Handwriting can be cramped, graceful or shaky depending on what kind of document we’re signing, the quality of pen, etc. Similarly, how we walk—our rhythm, pace, mobility, stability, energy—reflects and expresses our whole being in the present moment. Physically it’s constrained by the body’s structural organization—how bones and soft tissues interact. But our alignment and mobility is affected by our moods, our stress levels and even what we eat.
Walking like my mother.
The room where I attend yoga classes has wall-to-wall mirrors at one end. They’re usually covered with curtains, but the other day they were drawn away. I had just returned my yoga blocks to the closet and was walking down the long room to get my jacket when I noticed how lopsided my gait was.
I practice yoga to keep my fascia silky enough and my joints adaptable enough that my coordination can stay smooth even as the aging process diminishes my stamina. Yet, here I was, post yoga class, walking in this awkward way.
It was demoralizing to observe myself bobbing from side to side. My torso was tipping from hip to hip as if I had no pelvis. In the mirror I seemed to see my mother and all my aunts walking this way long ago. Applying what I know about gait biomechanics, I saw no play between my sacroiliac joints, no nutation of the innominate bones, and very little contralateral motion (rotary activity) in my spine. My feet were shuffling along, without dynamic relationship to the floor.
I teach movement, for heaven’s sake. How had I slid into this familial pattern?
Decision fatigue, compression and instability
I found could change my walking pattern by putting attention into my feet and lightly engaging some support through my core. And smiling. I haven’t been smiling enough lately. I’ve been stressed by setbacks in the production of my new book. And, I’ll admit, when overwhelmed by decision fatigue, I resort to the refrigerator.
That last share—more than you wanted to know—might be the key, not only to my own, but to the posture and movement issues of many aging women. When we feel burdened by our responsibilities, our midlines compress. Then, if we eat more than we need, it becomes uncomfortable to engage abdominal support. At this point our spines are both compressed and unstable. Our sentient bodies, recognizing a hazard, avoid moving through the unstable areas. In my case—and I’m not alone in this—my lopsided gait was a way of walking around my pelvis, avoiding movement through the unsupported sacroiliac joints. Not to mention avoiding uncomfortable sensations through bloated intestines.
So often, the facing of a problem grants a hint of the solution. I enjoy moving much too much to let this situation persist for long. So I’ve been practicing making fewer decisions, grateful that none of them are earth shaking ones.
© 2018 Mary Bond