So on a personal note, I did a headstand this Friday, for the first time in a decade. It was easy and effortless, and I could have stayed up in the air for a while.
On Wednesday it was an utter impossibility.
With my laundry list of injuries, I had grown flexed through the spine, and had forgotten how to go into extension through a significant part of my back. I knew intellectually how to do it — and quietly railed against the loss of capacity, since I used to have complete individuation of my entire spine and could wiggle around any vertebrae you put a finger on. Those of you who’ve had me teach fencing who have heard me say that I’m a pale shadow of my former self….I’m not blowing smoke. There’s a lot that I used to be able to do that’s still “nope (not yet).” Fortunately, there’s also a lot of stuff I couldn’t do that I’ve learned since then, too!
But intellectualizing my way back to extension so that I could balance my body over my head without a resounding THUMP …. didn’t work. Just having an abstract intellectual idea of “Thoracic 4 does this” doesn’t give you a felt sense of what the vertebrae should be doing in order to choose where the feet should go to maintain your balance. That goes double if you don’t have a felt sense of what said vertebrae can be doing. That meant that I had to do the work to (re)gain it.
Unfortunately, for those of us who have been injured and want to claw back your fundamental capacity, just putting the blocks together intellectually isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to have to work from the patterns that you have now. That means a lot less abstraction from what it felt like to be an athlete or “mover” twenty years ago, and a lot more “what does this feel like, now?”
It’s just going to take some careful paying-attention, diligence, and willingness to slow down and stop to take care of yourself along the way rather than “forcing it” through willpower.. The good news, however, is that we’re lifelong learners. You can get that function back, and keep it well into old age.
If you’re where I was and want it back — you can get it back. If you know somebody else in that position… please let me know. Helping other people rediscover the joy of “I can do the thing!” is a huge part of why I run this practice, rather than something else valid and entertaining like a fusion Hungaro-Texan taco truck. 🙂