We all remember how the last time I exercised went, right? Apparently enough time has gone by where I don’t recall that event clearly enough, and I decided to give it another try. My TMJ has deteriorated the last few years and more specifically the last few months. Some see me driving down Olympic Blvd. with my mouth open wide, drool streaming down one side of my face while holding a phone to the other side and attempting to make words come out that sound similar to “aaon. i eed ou. my aw.” These calls are not uncommon and fortunately he doesn’t work too far from home so he can zoom on by and relocate my jaw.
These bad developments in my jaw finally had me seek out some medical help. That and I finally have more than 3 minutes to myself in a day. In fact, I have about 2.5 hours 1 and sometimes 2 days a week where I can go to the doctor. I started seeing a chiropractor about a month ago. Upon reading the little forms you fill out in the waiting room he just kind of looked at me, back down at his paper, up again at me. Then began the questions, HOW OFTEN does this happen? And you haven’t been anywhere for help? You know people have surgery for this type of thing? This is not good. And so on. He’s also a very health conscious doctor and didn’t skip over the little box where I checked “not applicable” when it asked you how many times you exercise in a week.
Upon physical exam he noticed that my posture sucks and is not helping the tension in my neck and jaw. He was a little baffled at how many nightguards I go through and surprised that my jaw is pretty much where all my stress and anxiety go. No. Place. Else.
He prescribed me a bunch of exercises to do at home. Strange ones that I only can remember to do when I’m driving. Once a week I see him for an adjustment and these little zapping electrodes that are strangely calming. And the kicker. Yes, remember I’m old, thus I like to use words like kicker. The kicker is I have to do pilates. When he told me this I kind of made a face and he explained that my instructor would be a girl who herself is recovering from TMJ and attributes the positive changes in her life to pilates.
My sister was a little giddy upon the news that not only will I take pilates but that my insurance pays for it. She gets excited when things in our lives intersect and bond us closer. When I told her that my session was tomorrow I asked her if I can wear jeans. This was similar to the whole “you don’t own a sports bra” conversation that we had on the ride over to the Zumba class almost 2 years ago. She just looked at me, rolled her eyes, and it was Carl who told me no, no jeans. Good news is that I do in fact own a sports bra now, 2 to be exact. The morning of my appointment made me a little nervous. I have seen those torture looking machines on television, in magazines, and I wasn’t really sure what the word core meant.
I met my lovely instructor Kate (I will continue to refer to her as lovely Kate, it helps me with my issues) who immediately had me lay on my back with a small ball underneath me. Kind of uncomfortable but I was informed it was “opening me up”. I don’t really like the whole “open” idea. In fact, closed sounds nice to me. While laying on this strange little ball whilst opening some part of my body, lovely Kate and I discussed my TMJ. Then we discussed my core. Since the core of an apple is in the middle I assumed she was speaking of something in my middle and I acted like I knew exactly what she was referring to.
We then walked over to a larger ball, one that I recognized from labor. I sat on the ball and steadied myself. After about a minute lovely Kate told me that I should feel a pulling down sensation. And that if I could imagine my bladder had shrink wrap around it, it would help. Lovely Kate explained that I should wrap that shrink wrap all around my bladder and pull my belly button to my spine. Hmmmm. This is where I had to tell her that I didn’t feel a pulling down of anything and that I only know where my bladder is when I have to pee.
Apparently I am a challenge for lovely Kate. She likes to use little analogies to help me visualize what I am supposed to do. For instance there is a move called bridge that a lot of people other than me are familiar with. And I am supposed to envision straws in my thighs that are sucked right out the window. Elsewhere I get to imagine my kneecaps are sucked through straws right up my thighs. Yes, lots of straws going on. I have strings lifting my head like I’m a puppet and an imaginary towel behind my shoulders. I get to do things like hug trees and put molasses on my shoulder blades. As silly as all this sounds, it’s quite effective.
It almost feels like lamaze because I have to concentrate and focus so hard to do steps 1, 2, 3, and 79 all together. When I begin a particular move I have to find a focal point and I never take my eyes off. I have my little spot on the ceiling I use when I have to torture my inner thighs, then there’s the screw on the far pole when I am balancing on a piece of wood while lowering a bar up and down, the lint on the window screen is great for focusing when my hamstrings are getting sliced open and burned, and the “B” on the machine label for when my poor little weak arms must step up and do something. I always used to think pilates was such a calm and soothing experience. Then I tried it. Can I tell you how difficult it is(and this is coming from a mother of 3, dog owner, wife, esthetician, photographer, sister, daughter, housekeeper, launderer, problem solver, homework helper, butt wiper, sunblock applier, teethbrusher) to remember to keep your butt down, pull your belly button to your spine but never lift your spine, tighten your core, extend your leg, curl your arms, never ever ever move your hips, keep your shoulders down, keep your butt heavy, relax your neck, AND breathe at the same time? At our second session I had to stop and ask lovely Kate, “i’m confused, when do i exhale? and when I do exhale i can’t keep my core tight so what do i do?” Yes, these are the types of things that I am bewildered about, I don’t even know when I should breathe people!
Good news. Yes, there had to be a happy ending. It’s been a month so far and my jaw has not slipped out once, I found out that I do have inner thighs, my stomach is starting to look like a lined washboard, and my ham strings no longer want to suck themselves through straws up to my neck and strangle me.