Writer: SHAYNA CONDE | Outlet: Well and Good
Original Post: https://www.wellandgood.com/teaching-mom-to-stretch/
My mom has always been a runner. In the farmlands of Jamaica, she and her cousins grew up with little to do after school but outrun the trouble they got themselves into. When she moved to the United States at the start of her junior year of high school, she dreamed of being an Olympic sprinter. Even now, she is the fastest 55 year old I’ve ever met. My grandmother has always been a worker, for whom the idea of stillness does not come naturally. Despite dealing with back pain, to her, there is always something to do, and she believes that she is the one to do it. I inherited this from the women who came before me.Being in constant motion (I’m a volleyball player turned actor) kept me from thinking about—well—me. But that didn’t last very long. Six months after getting my Master’s degree, I found myself immobile. An autoimmune disease called Neuromyelitis Optica had severely damaged the nerves in my spine from T5 and down. No one ever talks about how painful and painfully long nerve regeneration takes, so I will: It hurts and it takes forever. Full stop.
Stretching helped to give me a bodily awareness and a groundedness that I didn’t have before.
Stretching was one daily action that my physical therapist recommended to improve my range of motion and ease the pain. Gradually, I began to feel my muscles and gain control of my body. Stretching helped to give me a bodily awareness and a groundedness that I didn’t have before. Now, it’s years later and I’m pretty much back to normal (save some numbness in my quads). During this extended period of COVID-19-necessitated social distancing, I have steadily been encouraging my mom to stretch with me. The only problem is that she thinks I’m trying to kill her.
And yet, after each stretching session she feels so much lighter and freer in her body.
Learning to sit with your body can be challenging, especially for people who are used to being on the go like my mother and grandmother. Stretching forces us to slow down and breathe deeply into uncomfortable spaces in our bodies for growth and healing. Being able to do that on my own has been very rewarding but there’s something very special about practicing stretching and mindfulness with family.