We typically feel we are at the mercy of what our bodies are feeling and experiencing. Often, I hear a common story from my patients of ‘I didn’t do anything different, and I just woke up with this pain!’ We feel that we are blindsided by pain. Especially as New Yorkers, we are very focused on our productivity. We try to get more done at work. We push ourselves to get further benefit out of our workout. We try to maximize our quality time with our loved ones. Our mind stays focused on our productivity, which mutes the negative feedback our body is giving us. We don’t notice how we are slumped in our chairs after a few hours. We ignore the twinges we get with a certain exercise at the gym, and we shrug off the poor night’s sleep thinking we’ll make it up later. We stay focused on our hectic routine and we continue to miss the messages that our bodies are sending. Eventually these subtle messages and signs that our body was giving us turns into a shout, and that’s pain. That phrase of “I didn’t do anything different, and I just woke up with the pain”, takes on a new meaning. I didn’t do anything different. I kept sitting poorly for hours. I kept pushing through the twinge. I kept trying to operate on a few hours of sleep. Were there clues from our body that we should STOP doing the same unhealthy behavior? Were there messages to us that we should try to DO something different? Yes. The problem is our minds are too focused on our productivity to pay attention to these messages from our body. Unfortunately, the only time we are mindful of our movement is when we have pain. When we have pain is the only time we typically turn our focus to our body’s health. What if we flipped that concept and were able to be mindful of our movement or switch our focus to our body’s health, before we had pain? What if we learned to quiet the productivity messages constantly running in our heads? What if we learned to preemptively move our bodies to stay healthy both physically and mentally? There is a way and it’s been practiced for thousands of years and it’s called yoga. It’s preemptive ancient physical medicine for the body and the mind. As a physical therapist, I believe there is a benefit in yoga for everyone. One of the easiest components of yoga to utilize is controlled breathing. It’s a foundational exercise component of a yoga which continues to get attention for its various health benefits. In physical therapy treatments, I try to remind my patients to breathe through the stretches and therapeutic exercises we perform, which sends a calming message to the nervous system and helps the muscles relax. Breath control is a simple tool that is accessible to everyone. Here’s an article from the New York Times that talks more about the benefits of breath control and some exercises that are easy to integrate into your daily routine.
Dr. Ben Musselman is a physical therapist at Sutton Place Physical Therapy. Ben has training in manual physical therapy and practices Ashtanga yoga. He is able to be reached at email@example.com