This 16 year journey of yoga, Pilates, and endless other healing practices has taught be so much about my body. It’s usual for me to focus on what’s missing, what needs repair. But lately, I’ve begun noticing all the near misses, i.e. all the sicknesses yoga has and probably will spare me as I age. For example, I can rest assured I will never need pelvic mesh.
Flashback to a plane trip I took last week: As if going through the “Rapiscan” (choose your pronunciation) at security hadn’t been enough, the flight was also bleak. I was forced to read the “in-flight” magazine, as a result of my having forgotten to remove my book from my checked bag, and now boycotting the $8.99 charge United has stuck passengers for watching T.V. (I’m a firm believer that my brainwashing should never be sponsored by… myself.) Anyway, inside said magazine I see marketers’ egregious presumptions about who will be flying in coach. Compared to my usual reading material there isn’t one ad for yoga clothes or any articles about quinoa. Visual flattery abounds for the middle-aged manager, overworked, and multi-tasked: a pen that can keep writing upside down, a coffee cup that refills itself. And on the darker side, ads for all types of newfangled surgical procedures. “Bumpy ride? Ask your Doctor if Pelvic Mesh is right for you!” Wtf is pelvic mesh? The ad doesn’t explain much – they never do. True to the usual formula: the problem is broadcasted, the “best” solution offered, the contact information provided. The smaller print says something about a bladder sling and lists more symptoms from incontinence to hernias to slack vagina.
My yoga teacher brain translates. In other words, pelvic mesh is a substitute for lack of “pelvic tone.” Pilates uses “pelvic tone” to describe the functionality of muscles inside our pelvis. As a society obsessed with externals, most people ignore these internal muscles. I’ve suffered more than my fair share of eye rolls when I do pelvic floor (the diaphragmatic sheath of muscle surrounding our genitals) work with students clamoring for six packs. However, anatomically, the closer something is to our core, the more we need it for survival and so should be paramount in our practice. If these muscles work correctly, external fitness come much easier – as a ripple effect. Furthermore, all muscles must relax and contract in order to have tone – much like elastic that still has its zing. Internal pelvic muscles “lift and separate” the organs therein. Sans pelvic floor, our guts would fall from between our legs.
So… why would people lose pelvic tone? Too much sitting! The mere act of walking engages the leg attachments, external and internal rotators, hip flexors, pelvic floor, in general, ensures pelvic tone. When we sit all day, and do not use the leg muscles, pelvic floor, or lower core, our guts avalanche down upon one another. Hours and hours of this could cause bladder compression, and a slack pelvic floor cannot control the flow of urine. This is incontinence. I can safely assume most of the people who have this procedure never learn the why or how it could have been prevented, they just want to stop peeing themselves, so they can get back to work.
The main disease of society is that somehow, the phrase “mind over matter” has some to mean, “mind over body.” We scramble to perform beneath the weight of overpacked heads and crumble beneath the ego’s desire to power through whatever the physical cost. The body is built to last if it’s used according to its instructions – and its instructions are revealed in the meticulous design of our anatomy. On my trip to Virginia I met many people with funny opinions about what I do and about what yoga is. But I don’t try to sell them anymore, what I do say is “do something, anything!” Walk, run, swim, but please, just take a look, see what’s there, and then – use it! Otherwise, you may be find yourself caught in a bladder sling. Such a shame that many of the new procedures I see popping up seem so easily prevented if people had just played more and worked less.
The kicker of this whole story happened on my return flight when I was privy to a fresh set of infomercials. “Pelvic mesh malfunction? Call the offices of Asshole and Asshole Jr. to find out what you could be owed in damages.” Too bad us yoga teachers don’t have the cash to take out another ad for these beleaguered travelers. “In pain? Come learn how to use your body again. No time? We can save you the expense of unnecessary medical procedures and their subsequent lawsuits.” Somehow, I just don’t see that happening yet…