Man of his word/Andrew Rice
Prior to meeting my wife, I had never done yoga or Pilates, tried Qigong or other traditional Chinese medicine techniques, nor could I tell you what an osteopathic doctor did.
That has all since changed, but I’m hardly a pro on any of these subjects. I suppose the theory that people often fear what they don’t understand held true for me in the arenas of health and exercise. Give me a pair of hockey skates, and when I’m done, I’ll pop a few ibuprofen.
These days, while I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent convinced that these alternative methods should be written into scripture, I do know first-hand that they can make you feel good afterward, even if they make you extremely self-conscious while doing them.
Here are just some of the things that I’ve powered through, and have since gotten me thinking differently.
While I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done yoga, I’ll never forget the first. I was on a ski trip to Sugarloaf with my wife’s family, but it was only the first year or so we were a couple – meaning there was still plenty of room for uncomfortable situations. To me, “Hey, let’s do this yoga video” counted as one.
Just trying to watch the video and what the instructor was doing while trying to figure out what to do with my body was hard enough. Despite the anxiety, I settled in and made it through. I will say, after a full day of snowboarding, my body was thanking me for it.
I’ve had more experience with Pilates, and even made it part of my weekly workout routine last year. It helps when your wife is concurrently seeking a license to teach it.
For me, and as my wife explained it, Pilates is more focused on strengthening your core muscles. And while it is still confused with yoga and has a stigma of being for just women, it is also consistently cited by health magazines and personal trainers as being just as beneficial for men.
I play in an ice hockey men’s league, so for me, the concentration on core got my attention. My legs were strong, but they call it “beer league” hockey for a reason. According to many accounts of Joseph Pilates, who created the regimen, he enjoyed his beer, but also had six-pack muscles in his stomach. There’s still hope for both.
My few experiences with Qigong (pronounced chi-gong), which is a Chinese system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation, have also stemmed from my wife. The first was on yet another fateful skiing trip.
With roots in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts, Qigong is viewed as a practice to grow and balance your body’s qi (chi), which is translated as “life energy.”
Again, not on my comfort-level barometer, but I can be open-minded. The difficult part is learning the movements without having to look at someone else.
Each summer, my mother-in-law puts together a workshop on traditional Chinese medicine, hosted by a Western-trained M.D. who also learned traditional Chinese medicine in her home country.
Upon meeting her, it’s easy to see why Qigong and holistic medicine methods are attractive to many people. She is a healthy and vibrant woman, and seeing her in action made me think, “Should I be doing this?” My wife does Qigong almost every day.
As a side note, this past summer, when my wife was pregnant, by feeling the size and position of the baby, she accurately predicted the gender and general size and birth date of our baby.
During the same workshop, my wife convinced me that a session of acupressure may help me. I had been suffering from some abdominal pain from a combination of playing hockey and weightlifting, and my wife thought I had some blocked chi.
Going in, I had no idea what to expect. The doctor applied pressure to different points on my body, including in between my fingers and points on my feet. It doesn’t feel good. I began to sweat, and she told me it was a sign that my body’s chi had been blocked, and it was moving again. After the treatment, she told me to start each day by drinking warm water with lemon, which is meant to help cleanse your system.
Just last week, while discussing the treatment with my wife, I tried to argue that perhaps the reason I began sweating was because that was my body’s reaction to the pain, not a sign that my “life energy,” or chi, was now moving more freely. After that comment, I shut up and sipped my warm lemon water.