Thursday, June 9, 2011

[Karate] Yoga and the Severely Inflexible

My body doesn't particularly like to stretch or twist. I suspect part of this may just be how I'm built - I've never been very flexible, even when I was much younger. I know I have a deformity in my wrist bones (specifically the ulna bone in my left forearm, and probably my right) that caused me to need surgery about 20 years ago. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the source of my hip pain and general leg inflexibility is of a similar nature. My mother pointed out to me after my last post that when I was very young, I'd needed corrective shoes to address a misalignment in my hips that was affecting my walk (making me pigeon-toed). So now I'm left to wonder - is my hip pain and my inability to gain significant flexibility in my upper legs caused by that same defect? Or did the process of correcting my walk cause my hips to twist into a position that ultimately causes me other problems? I may have to talk to my doctor about it at some point soon. My hip pain isn't constant, but it's bad enough that, for instance, I have to play my electric guitar standing up, because having it rest on my leg hurts now.

Meanwhile, I'm addressing my flexibility issues as directly as I know how - through Yoga. Suami Michael Smith recently started offering Yoga classes at Five Star Martial Arts and I've attended them all. Mike's approach is pretty cool. He's very comfortable with beginners, taking time with each new student to show them the details of the poses and techniques, and then continuing to offer tips and encouragement as we progress. He also teaches a class that's a great blend of stretching, breathing, and strength-building. For instance, he taught us a plank modification the other day that involved a push-up, and we did an ab-building exercise that left me sore for days. Finally, I like the way Suami Michael blends hints of karate into his Yoga. From stances to movement, his background in the martial arts makes the class very relevant to me.

It wouldn't be accurate to say that I've seen no improvement in my flexibility in the year that I've been studying the martial arts. It's just that it's not enough, and in particular my kicks suffer quite a bit because I can't get them up where they need to be. I'm not significantly closer to doing a split than I was a year ago, which means my side kicks, hook kicks, and roundhouse kicks just don't get up where I want them. But in just a handful of Yoga classes, I've seem some flexibility improvement already. I figured if anything could help, it would be Yoga.

So I'm now addressing my breathing through Aikido and Yoga classes. I'm working on my balance through Iaido and Yoga. And I'm working on my flexibility through Karate and Yoga. Hey, I see a common thread there! I admit, I went into Yoga as a fairly blank slate and as open a mind as I could manage, but I wasn't necessarily sure I was going to stick with it. Now, I'm sold. I'm in for the long haul, I think. And I look forward to using good balance and proper breathing... as I kick people in the head!!!

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