I spent a lot of time playing my flute over Easter weekend, and when I left work on Monday evening I unbent my elbows and caught my breath as the muscle that connects to my thumb screamed in discomfort. Laying down on my back that night, the pain radiated down to my hand and up to my shoulder. As a software developer, I immediately worried that I was coming down with a repetitive stress disorder.
What was worse was yoga on Wednesday night. The Bikram practice has poses that require pulling with bent elbows, and I just couldn’t execute them. By the time we reached tree pose, my right arm was dangling uselessly at my side. Worse, lying down for spine strengthening series with arms straight brought pain all the way from the hand up to my shoulder.
Obviously this was more than one muscle, and as I laid in bed trying to diagnose the phenomenon, I realized that it was a side-effect of the work I have been doing trying to pull my shoulders back. After two months, I’ve finally stretched my left pectoral enough that I can get that shoulder back behind my breastbone. When lying prone, then, my upper arms no longer descend from the shoulder to a bend where the forearms lie against the ground. My arm is perfectly flat, and the muscles in my arm are having to stretch to accommodate the new position. That I sit with my arms bent almost all day long doesn’t help any. Furthermore, with my shoulders back, I no longer use the muscles of the upper back to raise my arms laterally – the shoulders now do the work. This explains the pain there – I am asking for work from muscles that have been freeloading for most of my life.
As might be obvious from this analysis, my yoga is an intensely left-brain activity. Yes, it’s mind-body integration, but in any instructor-led activity, I am constantly comparing my activity to the ideal, and correlating defects with the underlying body structures as revealed by sensation.
This prevalence was first brought home to me when I attended a shamanic healing in Santa Monica ten years ago. The healer went around to take a look at all of us, and when he reached me, simply touched the right side of my head and pulled his hand away. I felt my mind expanding to fill the space he had created. It was an interested experience, but at that time I didn’t stop to consider why I had this imbalance in my mind. I assumed that it was a legacy of my intellectual discipline – that my left brain was stronger than my right brain, not that my right brain was weak.
Recently, Jeff Nash’s Awakening Process has forced me to reexamine this weakness. Jeff encourages us simply to feel, and to expand the depth of our sensation by surrendering into our exhales. With nothing in particular to think about, again and again I have found the right side of my mind turning on.
I assume that this is due in part to the work that I have done in Yoga balancing out my left and right musculature. This is still an intensely left-brain process. This week I am focusing (as I am able) on stacking the bones in my left leg, even when walking, ensuring that I am not using soft tissue to absorb stress. And I am still strengthening the muscles around the left shoulder blade and in the left side of my abdomen.
This morning, though, an unexpected side-effect came to light. My lady and I have been facing some blow-back, with her complaining (as others have in the past) that she just wanted to be a woman and here I am making her into a goddess. That left me exposed last night, and I woke up to sexual energy originating from another source. Noticing that this seemed to enter through the right side of my mind, I expanded my awareness back into the occupied part of my personality.
And found myself listening to women talking about me for the rest of the night.
Oh, well, I guess that I’ve been too much of a gentleman, trying to save space for a woman all my life. But it looks like if I want something done “right,” I’m going to have to do it myself.