Last night I decided to tackle the pile of washing that’s built up over the weekend. I always find it so interesting ironing out clothes. It’s not just a simple matter of removing the creases, which is easy enough. Have you noticed how getting the side seams to meet is so crazily difficult? I have to adjust all my tops several times before I can fold them symmetrically.
I’ve had a scoliosis since I was a teenager. It’s called an idiopathic scoliosis, assumed to have no real cause. It just popped up out of the blue. It’s a sideways (lateral) bending of the spine. A trained eye can see my curvature, but most people wouldn’t notice, since the curve is quite small. The main giveaway is that the Right side of my back is more indented than the Left, and the Left side of my back is quite tough. It basically feels as though I have more meat on one side than on the other.
One of the key features of a scoliosis is that as well as bending sideways, the spine rotates. It’s like the trunk of a tree bending and spiralling upwards. The interesting thing about ironing clothes, is that I can see that exact rotation in them. My whole pelvis twists around so that the Left hip sits further forward than the Right. Sure enough all my tops are slightly twisted in this way. I have to make a specific effort to untwist them so that I can fold them neatly.
My clothes, when new, are easily folded. There are no twists. They fold ‘naturally’ along the seams. The ‘bones’ of the t-shirts, ie: the seams and stitching that holds it in shape starts off being more or less symmetrical. But with wear it takes on my shape. What I’m looking at is the imprint of my own movement in my clothes. Movement that is both unconscious and repetitive so as to gradually pull the fibres of my clothes into a twist. When I iron them out and straighten them, they return to neutral.
I think that when I examined the twist in my clothes I realised that I was seeing a mirror of my form. But this was not the original form of the clothes. I ‘have’ a scoliosis, but my clothes do not. The form that you ultimately inhabit comes out of the repeated movement habits that you carry out and most of this is unconscious. The real problem isn’t the distortion that you “have” it’s your lack of awareness around this distortion. As Katy Bowman writes:
Having someone tell you that your frustrating, inconvenient, or painful condition is natural and that surgery or difficult (and barely effective) spot treatments are your only options is both disempowering and possibly untrue. So much of our physical experience is created by how we choose to live – it’s not the result of some unavoidable genetic fate. You can learn… how to use your body in a way that allows it to function better, the way it’s supposed to. – Katy Bowman
Now, most adjustments to boney alignment are quite complex. Hereditary elements do play a role. But more and more I’m tending to feel that the way we organise ourselves (unconsciously) plays a very key part in the degree of deviation that results. The more we bring ourselves back to neutral the less likely we are to have a large deviation in the first place. This, in turn, will reduce the strains that result from the adjustment on the rest of the body.
The good news is that once we develop awareness around our movement we can begin to make decisions about how we move that will have an “ironing out” effect on those distortions. How we organise ourselves depends on us.
You are how you move.