I am used to getting funny reactions from every physio I consult. They can’t equate the regularity of my yoga practice with what they see in my body. “Is that all you can do?” one of them once asked me, and another actually laughed at loud at the lack of depth I achieved in whatever movement it was that we were exploring. I bit back the lecture about yoga not being all about pretzel shapes… Given such experiences I was quite freaked out last week when a physio gasped at my forward fold, quickly asked me to come out of it, and said I should have told her I was hypermobile. Hmmm, I didn’t think I was! And I told her so!! But we were out of time in the consultation so I was sent off without time for any discussion.
I was left feeling confused. But of course there’s always Google (first port of call for any health-related question 😉 ) and I consulted my yoga teacher — and I reassured myself about 90% that the physio and I were talking at cross-purposes or there was some misunderstanding. But there was still a little nagging doubt in my mind. I have a long history of chronic illness which has left me with a rather interesting relationship with my body. I don’t trust it, basically. Although it’s stronger and healthier each year now, I still expect it to betray me at any moment. I knew this little nagging doubt would trouble me disproportionately.
So I made an appointment with my private physio, someone whose opinion I trust. He oozes professional care and is confidence-inspiring in his attention to detail and clarity of communication. He talked me through idiopathic vs congenital hypermobility — essentially that you can create increased mobility in joints through your activities (like a daily yoga practice) and this is very different to the medical condition which causes laxity in all the joints. Yes. Yes! We did the Beighton test and I didn’t score high enough, as I’d expected. I love failing this kind of test!
He also spent a lot of time looking at my spine because the other snap-diagnosis Physio no1 made was that I have a scoliosis and this is why I have the limited mobility she sees. I really needed to know more about this. I’ve heard of lots of people first getting this diagnosis when they began practising yoga, as imbalances and irregularities come to light that simply weren’t noticed during everyday life. So my physio walked his fingers up and down my spine several times, then straightened up my clothing, then poked into the flesh around my waist, and finally went up and down the vertebrae a few more times. Eventually after the physio equivalent of sucking his teeth he declared that the spine was straight. Hooray! But it was really interesting hearing why he’d taken so long considering this: I am more muscular on one side that the other and this created a bit of a shadow, a trick of the eye that the spine was mis-aligned. What he could feel and what he thought he saw gave different information.
Ah, big relief.
So instead of anything scary and significant, we just talked a little about how I might begin to address this muscular imbalance. And then, because he knows I’m getting a bit interested in learning more about anatomy as it relates to yoga practice, he wanted to compare notes on various books: David Coulter, Joanna Avison, Thomas Myers, David Keil…. “Did you know Thomas Myers is coming to the UK?” he asked me. “But it’s all booked up already” we both said at the same time! My physio told me he spends one afternoon a month in a cafe reading anatomy stuff and then gets onto the mat to explore it. Ha, funny — so do I!
So after my little musculo-skeletal storm in a teacup I’m left feeling pretty happy with how my body currently is and how I’m a tiny bit wiser at understanding it in the ways I need to. Maybe one day my body and I will be best friends rather than the slightly unhappy truce we’re currently working on.