I really love my parents, so much so that I want to make sure that as they get older, they continue to enjoy the life and freedom they currently have. I just came back last night from visiting my little sister and parents in New York. Living out on the West Coast and having the opportunity to see them once or twice ever year, it shocks me at how much older they are getting. The periods of time that I do not see them, it is like time going fast forward; they get a little grayer, a little shorter and move a little slower.
Over the last six years or so, especially since my mom’s back surgery in 2007, I have been much more diligent in imparting some knowledge, doing some bodywork or sharing some exercises with my mom and dad. Knowing just how much my mom suffered before her surgery and some of the repercussions afterwards, I am determined not to see her in pain again.
However, they both face a huge stumbling block…for them it is work too hard and too much. They are always working and unfortunately it may not slow down for them for a few more years. The fact that they are both constantly working, means that my advice on spending some time walking or doing some of the stretching exercises gets put off until the weekend, when they actually have time and are not so tired. So, all that I can do is just to continue to encourage and support them and hope that the little they do is much better than doing nothing at all.
My mom has been great; whenever she can, she does some self massage with the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy balls and tries to wear the Happy Toe Socks so she can get more space in her toes as well as walking a few miles when she can. Compared to when we first started implementing some of these things, she was unable to kneel on the ground or even put weight on her knees because her quads were so tight. She can know easily go down onto the floor with much more ease. My dad on the other hand has been needing some work. He has been great about getting some physical movement since he has high blood pressure and he will go to the gym and do the treadmill and lift some weights, but he has completely bypassed stretching. I know the last time I visited home, I told him that implementing some stretching into his routine was crucial, especially as he got older, but as he would say, it went in one ear and out the other. I have provided a side profile pic of my dad below. I wish that I had also taken a frontal view as you would be able to also see how much tension is residing in his hips that in a way, it almost looks like he has scoliosis.
The clothes he is wearing are somewhat baggy, but hopefully you can see what is going on. Both of his feet are turned out, there is a huge amount of hyper-flexion in his hips which in turn is putting a lot of pressure on his back causing his upper torso to thrust forward and his chin to draw up slightly. I spoke with him about his walking stride and walking with both of his feet pointing forward and even as he attempted to do that, his left was still turned out slightly. So, I of course gave him his first set of exercises to work on, calf stretch, double calf stretch and top of the foot stretch. I truly think that by him being able to embody the stretches and feel how they affected his feet, calves, hamstrings and hips, he could already see the benefits.
In addition, we also addressed his left hip, applying any kind of pressure, I was able to feel the amount of tension present compared to the right hip. When we took a frontal look at his alignment, we could both see that his left hip was slightly higher than the other which caused his torso to push slightly to the right and then his head to tilt slightly to the left. I do not think he really ever took a good look at himself before and saw what we saw that until I pointed it out. He would notice the amount of pain when he woke up in the morning, but never attributed to the tension in his hips as well as his legs; my dad would have probably said it was because of old age.
I whipped out the Yoga Tune Up® massage therapy balls and was able to show him some massage points he could work on. He had the “balls to the wall”, as in he did the self massage standing and up against the wall as opposed to lying on the ground which may have been too much for him. My dad does a lot of sitting for work and as long as I can remember, he was always driving at least an hour or more driving back and forth to work. As he drove me to the airport, I noticed how obviously the right leg was stretched out to reach the gas and brakes, but the left foot was close in to the car seat. All of these postural habits have over time increased the amount of hyper-flexion in his hip. When he did the self massage on his gluteus medius, he found instant pain as well as relief.
I spoke with my dad this morning to let him know that I got back home safely and he told me that he woke up this morning and did not feel any pain that he had been used to feeling for so long. He is now a believer. I think he was amazed that the things I showed him worked and he stated that he would incorporate the work with the YTU massage therapy balls and the calf stretch during his breaks at work.
I am happy that I was able to empower him and show how he could provide some relief for his body. My work with him is not yet over. My intentions are to continue to slowly provide both him and my mom with more information about how full body movement, stretching, and some practice of meditation to ease their muscular tension will have a huge impact on their high blood pressure, but also to ease their way gracefully into aging.