Practice Makes Permanent

Practice Makes Permanent

“Watch your habits, for they become your posture. Watch your posture, for it creates your boundaries. Watch your boundaries, for they restrict your growth. Watch your restrictions, for they create immobility. Watch your immobility, for it becomes your illness.” - Katy Bowman, Alignment Matters.

It is often said that practice makes perfect, and that an individual must devote 10,000 hours to achieve expert level skill in any endeavour.

It is true, that we can’t assume to suddenly enact what we read or hear without a conscious effort. We often have years of practice, programming our habits. Unconsciously, we have all devoted 10,000 hours and more to becoming an expert version of being ourselves.

But if practice makes perfect, why do we all have so many things that we would like to change? I meet new patients daily who tell me about the chronic pain and discomfort they’ve been experiencing. The things they’d like to change, and the habits they just can’t break. I’m no stranger to it myself. So it seems that practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent.

The little actions and choices you make every day, are strongly entrenched in your thoughts, values, and beliefs. And for the sake of survival, our bodies are primed to value the conservation of energy and movement. We have no shortage of tools to help use with this endeavor. Chairs replace the effort of squatting. Prepared foods replace the effort of harvesting, chopping, and cooking. Even overnight delivery replaces the effort of meandering and walking to select and purchase what we need (which is already a far cry from the movement required to make clothing and other goods for ourselves). We are expert level at conserving energy, and our bodies show it.

The good news is that you have proven time after time that you have already achieved expert status. Which means, you can mindfully choose your next expert skill.

For example, choosing to sit up straight on a bar stool requires core strength to hold you upright. This might feel challenging after years of slumping forward (where your belly doesn’t engage well) and you might fatigue after just moments. Stick with it. Build strength with new, deliberate habits. It’s easier to train your core with gravity helping you out. So lay down on your back, bend your knees and plant your feet to give your stomach muscles the best chance to pull in (not out) and hold while you can breathe. When that feels easy, try it seated and standing.

Perhaps the knowledge that you are building a new habit, to replace an old one, will be helpful to keep you going. Perhaps it’s knowing that it takes 6-8 weeks to build muscle strength that motivates you. Or perhaps it’s the knowledge that change doesn’t happen overnight, but with consistent, deliberate effort.

If practice makes permanent, what are you perfecting today?

Always in Service,

Dr. Carly

The Challenge

The Challenge

Don’t get lost in your pain, know that one day your pain will become your cure. - Rumi

This month, I have been diving deep into a lifelong goal of mine: to become a certified yoga teacher! I have been practicing yoga since I was 10 years old, and it has always been a dream of mine to embody the practice in a way that I can share its deep history and powerful conditioning with clients and patients.

For a long time, this was to be a dream I carried, but couldn’t conceive. From childhood, I carried the symptoms of my fight with spinal meningitis. Most days I had a feeling as if the left and right halves of my body could not coordinate. My left side kept lagging behind and the exhaustion I felt trying to force graceful movement became overwhelming. I knew there was no way I could complete a yoga teacher training, let alone demonstrate postures when I couldn’t depend on how my body would act. So I put this dream on the shelf and moved on.

While I was still in the first year of my chiropractic training, I developed a new symptom called motor apraxia, a condition where you find yourself unable to complete a motion, despite having the muscle strength to do so. The communication pathway from brain to body simply doesn’t fire. In my case, I couldn’t control my left arm and leg with any speed and coordination - a real problem with everyday movement and balance. 

A poignant moment came at my “White Coat” ceremony. A joyfully observed occasion when we signify our educational shift to clinical care by ceremonially receiving our white doctor’s coats from faculty and advisors. Simple as the ceremony was: walk up a set of stairs, cross the auditorium stage, get coat, walk down stairs, I was incredibly nervous. For months now, I had a tendency to weave back and forth like I had had a few too many to drink. I had been so uncertain of my steps that I had not been able to walk up and down stairs without holding tight to the handrail. While my classmates were bounding up and down the stairs and striding across the stage, I was terrified of tripping, falling, running smack into the Dean of Clinic Studies.

I lay awake at night haunted by the thought “If this was me at 28, what on Earth would my life look like at 82? How fast will I keep deteriorating?”

The good news is: You can make the story change. 

Six months later, I was finally in the care of a doctor who could help balance both sides of my brain. He taught me my weak spots and how to fix them, but I had to do the work. I had to slow down and fundamentally change the way I moved my body, undoing nearly three decades of movement patterns and clever compensations.

The very challenge that pushed me to work so hard, is what taught me I can make it through anything. The challenge is the gift. The challenge taught me that movement is freedom, relentless determination pays off, and that I must own my journey.

Now, at 33 I am no longer afraid of how my body will age. I am too busy taking back all the movement I had outsourced. I am learning to sequence and cue yoga postures, and more importantly, strengthening my legs and my core so I can walk up and down a flight of stairs holding my two-year-old instead of the handrail.

Always in service,

Dr. Carly