Coincidentally, we are coming up on Thanksgiving. Why coincidentally? Because I hadn’t thought about that fact until I had nearly finished writing this post. The inspiration for this week’s post came from my visit to Arizona last week. I spent a full week at Miraval resort and Spa in Tucson. Miraval is famous for promoting mindfulness, restoration of the body, soul and spirit, and pushing (or gently pulling) you out of your comfort zone.
I am not really a spa kind of guy. I’m not big on massages and yoga, and am skeptical of too much foofy foo touchy feely stuff. But, I went with an “open mind and heart,” as I was advised by an old college buddy who practices yoga regularly. My wife and I were invited by our friends who had been there before. We are slowly recovering from a family tragedy, and they thought it might help us. It did, but I won’t delve into that here.
One of the many exercises and activities was a yoga hike. This involves getting up very early in the morning, hiking up into the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, and doing 30 minutes of yoga on the rocks as the sun crests over the peak of the mountain, then hiking back in silence. Sounds serene, doesn’t it?
“Doing 30 minutes of yoga on the rocks” isn’t as easy as it sounds, because the rocks are: (1) hard, (2) sloped, and (3) not far from a ravine full of cacti. Falling over is fairly common for me when doing yoga, so add in a little fear and anxiety. It was difficult. I could not hold several of the poses, and I was sweating and making noises that didn’t fit with the beautiful surroundings. At the end of the session, I was a little frustrated that I had not been able to keep up with the instructor. Then, as we wrapped up, the instructor said to us, “Be thankful for a body that allows you to do this.” That stopped me in my tracks, and on the silent one-hour hike back, I started thinking about the people that come into my office every day. Very few of them have bodies that would allow them to do what I had just done (even if I wasn’t very graceful).
Balance and walking require harmonious integration of information received from the eyes, the ears, and the proprioceptive system involving touch and joint sense. As a vestibular specialist, my job is to figure out what is wrong when this system breaks down. Is it an ear problem, or a brain problem? Is it medication, or nerve damage? The list of possibilities goes on and on. But for many of us, this system works beautifully, and when it does, we should be thankful for a body that allows us to do this.