Say What?!

One of my recent goals while walking is to practice “tai chi walking”. I try to totally relax while walking, which is much harder than it sounds. Certain muscles unnecessarily tighten up while walking, particularly when you’re trying to walk as fast as possible. You have to learn to distinguish which muscles are tight because they’re helping you to walk faster from those that are tightening up unnecessarily because they’re not directly involved with walking. Finally, you have to learn how to make those muscles relax.

That’s not easy to do. In fact, it’s only in the last few years, after a lifetime of walking, that I realized this was a problem. Of course, I’ve only been doing Tai Chi regularly for the last seven or eight years and only recently have been able to relax while executing the moves. Aging has undoubtedly played a part in the discovery, too. When I was younger I didn’t seem to have to worry about tiring while walking; I didn’t tire unless I was carrying a heavy pack, and I don’t thing any amount of relaxation was going to make that easier.

I seemed to be tighter than usual today, possibly because I have been spending a lot of time sitting at the computer. Tai Chi had also run longer than usual, and my hip had tightened up a little more than usual. I didn’t think I was going to manage to get in my usual 40 minute, two mile walk. In fact, at twenty minutes and a little over a mile, I began to think it was time to call it a morning. After all, I had been exercising for an hour already.

Instead of giving up, though, I focused on the pain and tightness, trying to make the muscles relax. As I tried to relax, I focused on the komuso music playing on my iPod and it seem to make it easier to relax.

Suddenly, I had a rush of old, unexpected memories. The next time I looked at my watch 20 minutes had passed and my pedometer showed I had walked a mile and a half. Equally amazing, the soreness had disappeared; I didn’t even feel the normal tightness when I returned home. I still don’t.

Did relaxing the muscles somehow cause the memories to arise? Did the combination of Reiki music and focus cause the memories to appear? Did the release of the memories cause the muscle tightness to disappear?

Nothing like that has ever happened to me before. The closest I’ve ever come to the feeling is being “in the zone” while playing basketball or meditating during yoga, but this was quite different than that. This felt an awful lot like a waking dream, and not the kind you get when you’re sleepy and drift off.

I wonder if spending the last few days copying comments from yearbooks somehow contributed to this phenomena, even though none of the memories had anything to do with high school.

Truthfully, the incident raised more questions than answers. I did remember reading about a theory that muscles can hold memories, a theory I dismissed out of hand when I read it. I ended up going online and finding “Precise touch to re-educate the muscles in the process of changing the tensions can re elicit memories from the past. It is as if the muscles actually held those memories.” I’m not ready to buy into that theory just yet, but I’m probably going to try to recreate the moment when I walk in the future.

6 thoughts on “Say What?!

  1. What an interesting theory Loren. As I get older and my knees get more arthritic I too have difficulty walking long distances. I aim at a certain distance down or up our lane with my dog every day after lunch. I try to think pleasant thoughts – often memories – and if I am lucky I forget I am walking and suddenly find I have gone quite a long way. When I return home I find that my muscles have loosened up considerably. I shall be interested to read what you say when you have had more time to look into it.

    • Not sure I’ll have a lot more to say, but it was a very interesting, and thought-provoking, moment for me.

      I do know that walking and thinking have often gone together for me. Most of the few poems I have written have been written while walking.

      Somehow walking frees up my thoughts, though that’s less true when I’m birding by myself and my focus is on seeing birds.

      It would be interesting to see what The Solitary Walker would have to say about walking and thoughts.

  2. I could be wrong, but my impression has always been that “muscle memory” means teaching one’s muscles by doing the same thing over and over — such as running down a flight of uneven stairs so many times that one eventually doesn’t have to consciously compensate for the unevenness, but “just does it” automatically.
    Interesting experience you had!

    • That’s generally what you get when you look it up on the internet but there’s another theory that refers to Reich. The brown word “finding” takes you to a short reference to the theory.

  3. An interesting post. l am going to try this relaxing muscles while walking thing and see what happens. However, Jerry and I walk the same route every day and it’s only a mile and a half, so it may take longer to produce your effect. How do you find the time to walk so far so often? If we walk more it takes up the whole day, and then we have to rest.

    • If you relax your muscles you can walk further. Also, if you walk everyday it seems to come easier.

      Probably helps if you’re a little younger, too. You and Jerry seem to get around awfully well; hope I am doing as well at your age. My walking partner is 83, though, and he keeps up quite well.

      A mile and half should be plenty long. Hopefully if you practice that you won’t be tired the rest of the day.

What do you think?