There are many ways to help improve balance. During our time of training, Bernard has brought in many different exercises. As balance has been something cerebral palsy tends to make more complicated. The lateral step wasn’t an entirely new concept for me this week. We had worked on the movement just over a year ago. During that time of introduction to the lateral step we moved over hurdles. It was the last movement in a progression Bernard had me working through not long after our time together began. Last summer we started with stepping over the hurdles moving forward. Then, the pace was sped to a jogging forward over hurdles. We also spent time working through a floor ladder drill in different forms. The drills were meant to work on balance and coordinated movement. They were also used to become familiar with foot placement on a specific spot. Something cerebral palsy has seemed to hinder, reaching for or stepping to a target. These drills also began working on purposefully positioning my body in space. With all of the progression work being done a year in the past. Bernard decided to bring back a movement we hadn’t performed in some time.
At times, the intention of movement can be challenging. It seems something hampered by my disability. The challenge would involve looking at something with the intention of reaching out and grasping the object. But, finding the arm and hand becoming shaky at the point of reaching for the object. The same can be true of my lower limbs, thought seeming not as often. However, there are times when the intention of a step becomes shaky and unstable. There have been challenges walking along an intended line designated on the floor. Tripping over something not seen has been part of my life and even stumbling at times when an object has been visible. With all of this being said, the gift lies in the ability to improve those obstacles with repetition. We had worked for weeks on my foot placement intention. Moving at all kinds of different speeds to find the best speed of progression. One of the nice things about working on a lateral step has been speed adjustment. Beginning with the diligence of taking things slow, thinking through where my feet are required to land. Then, working up to gaining the trust of landing on the intended target. Once the trust of foot placement becomes established, speed of movement can be increased. But, it had been a long time since working this particular movement.
We dove directly into working my lateral movement. In the past, we might have begun with moving forward over hurdles. But, this would be slightly different without the quick refresher. There were square purple blocks used for my obstacles to move over. Two of them were set a short distance apart, lying flat on the ground. Bernard performed a quick demo, reminding me of the movement. The refresher helped me visualize the positions for my feet and body before stepping up to the block. Even with the demonstration from Bernard, there was apprehension moving through my emotions. It had been a while since moving laterally over any kind of object. The worry over continuing to keep my balance was running around the thought pattern. I’m always hoping to execute these exercises well, especially when we had spent time on them in the past. Almost sensing my apprehension while preparing to begin, Bernard reminded me to take it slow when beginning. With his reminder circulating through my thoughts, it was time to give the lateral step a shot. So, with the two blocks flat on the floor, it was time. My first time of moving over two of the blocks was done diligently. As time wore on and some comfort of movement set in, the speed could be escalated.
The beginning point of our lateral step exercise was done with the purple blocks placed flat on the yoga floor. The missing element for me was, the purple blocks weren’t going to remain flat on the floor. As comfort was being reached, I began moving over the blocks with some speed. As we took a break, moving to another exercise, Bernard moved the purple blocks up onto their side. The adjustment by Bernard caused the blocks to sit taller on the floor. The height would require my steps to be slightly higher when moving through my lateral steps. It could cause my speed to slow during the movement. Moving back to our lateral step exercise, I saw the blocks up on their side, and set them back down flat. Thinking Bernard might have been moving them out of the way of something. But, of course that wasn’t the case. The blocks were set upright to increase the challenge of the exercise. They were place back upright on their side and we began again. There was slight apprehension attempting the lateral step with the taller blocks. Balance would be more challenging with the block set higher. Like the first movements with the blocks flat on the floor, my slow diligence to start, turned into more speed after a couple attempts.
One of the most challenging aspects of the lateral step exercise was transition. Transitions during the lateral step exercise are a point where balance could likely be lost. The other point balance may be lost, would be attempting to navigate steps over the purple blocks. The steps have become less likely to trip me up. But, the transition from moving one way, then stopping to move back the other way have been challenging. In a position requiring the muscle to stop momentum and send the body into the opposite direction. The breaking action has been challenging in most exercises. Finding the slowing of my momentum, while maintaining balance often tripping me up. It happened during the lateral steps with these purple blocks. As my comfort with the steps increased, the pressure on my breaking during the transitions also went up. The trick when moving from one direction to the other seemed to be understanding weight distribution. Going into one side of the lateral step, my concentration was required to think about the weight on my foot when it landed. The transition seemed to work better by keeping my weight toward the inside part of my foot, leaving my body in position to push off into the opposite direction. Concentration also seemed required to attempt keeping my body square, on the inside of my leg position. All these skills seem geared toward helping increase the ease of an everyday activity, walking.
Any kind of balance exercise has been helpful with my cerebral palsy symptoms. They all seem to test and improve balance differently. The lateral steps involved a couple different things to concentrate on in accomplishing the movement. Getting over the purple blocks was the first obstacle. Raising my legs high enough to clear the block, whether they sat flat on the floor, or were set upright on their side. Coordinating the movement became another important aspect, by making sure my footwork was moving my body through the blocks. Then, we had the balance on either end. The effort of slowing momentum, centering my weight, while maintaining balance, and starting back the other direction. There were many things to be processing in the side to side movement. Stepping over objects seems to be good for people with cerebral palsy of any age. It has been an activity Bernard works on with his young son, who also has CP. There are many objects that can be set up of varying heights. The objects can also vary in their distance from one another. Making the activity of clearing the object easier or more challenging. Then, the speed at which the course is moved through could be sped up or slowed. We can also move through forward, backward, or laterally. Many of these exercises can be adapted to help improvement of the disability. The key seems to be remaining patient and continuing the journey toward improvement.