There were four stations of catching the small ball in the yoga studio at the gym. The four stages were done in the smaller of the two studios. The first point on the floor was about ten feet apart. Each time I had caught five tosses in a row. Bernard and I would take a couple steps backing away from one another. Creating a longer distance of playing catch with the small ball. The width of the small yoga studio provided for three opportunities to take steps in reverse. After the third time, we ended up close to the walls. Leaving us without further room to lengthen our game of catch. The first two stages of catch felt pretty good. The distance requiring less body movement. Being able to use mostly wrist when tossing the ball. Our close proximity also making it less challenging to throw the small ball to one area. Usually in the middle of the body. Somewhere just below the shoulder height. In the first two stages, it felt like we weren’t throwing the ball, as much as, we were lobbing the ball to one another. Moving outward from those first two stages, I couldn’t help but feel the added challenge. The requirement of movement to make a catch. The tosses were landing in a larger variety of areas. All of the factors providing cerebral palsy improvement.
Taking the two steps back to the 3rd spot changed my toss back. The distance was making it too difficult to throw from a relatively still body. My upper body was needing to rotate in order for the distance to be covered. Moving from working on the gentle flick of the wrist in the first stage. The second stage brought in more arm movement. Arriving at the third stage of the exercise brought more of the body into the throw. Still attempting to remain flat-footed. I was turning my upper body to generate speed. Tossing the ball from a fully wound up arm. The motion was working on the coordination of both fine and gross motor movements. The added distance brought in the need for larger muscles to participate. However, the fine movements of the wrist and hand were required to release the ball in a timely manner. These concepts became even more pronounced when we moved back another couple steps. The fourth and final stage in the smaller yoga studio would place us against the back walls. Stretching the toss out to cover the length of the studio. I tried making this throw while only using my upper body. But, my upper body couldn’t generate the force required. I had to step into the throw from our final length. Bringing even more coordination into the movement. Over time, I have gotten better at generating the force needed to cover the distance. As the coordination between the fine and gross movements improve. My ability to hit my target with the throw, elevates.
Catching the tosses from Bernard becomes more challenging. As we move further apart from one another, the distance requires higher focus. The ball remains in the air longer. Where the first two stages didn’t demand watching the ball for long. At those shorter stages, the spot at which the ball needed to be caught was more predictable. I had a small area to concentrate on, due to the narrower dispersion pattern. When the throwing distance gets longer, the variety of places the ball could land widen. The variety of where the ball might end up, along with the distance of the toss, require a longer focus time on the ball as it travels. This helps me work on my ability to fully concentrate for a longer period. In addition, the added distance means my brain has to take the input of information from the ball, and move my body accordingly. This has been one of the more difficult aspects of the added distance. In the third stage, my arms had to move a greater distance to make catches. Asking my body to react at greater speeds. Not only did my arms need to move, but my hands needed to be in position for the catch. Then, time it correctly to secure the ball with my hands. Going back to that combination of using large and small muscles together in a coordinated fashion. Which, for my type of cerebral palsy, has been such a difficult task.
Moving to the fourth stage of exercise was placing everything together. From our fourth stage, my back was about a foot from the wall of the studio. Bernard was around the same distance from his back wall. At that point, we were using the entire distance of the yoga studio. The dispersion on the tosses from Bernard became wider again. This time, involving even more movement from my body. Instead of using only my arms to reach for the tosses. Some throws from Bernard required movement in my feet. Taking a step to my left or right for my body to get into better position. Making the catch, still relied on the fine motor movement of my hands. Placing them open and in the correct position. Then, timing the long throw, in order to close my fingers around the ball when it hit the hands. The added challenge of moving my entire body made the fourth stage most challenging. The ball could be high to the right or left. It could be at chest height to the right or left. Any throw could also end up right on target, in the center of my chest. At the added distance, Bernard had the ability to vary the speed of his tosses. Forcing me to react more quickly if he chose. He also found me having trouble with the toss high and to the left. While, the ball coming to me lower than my midline, also caused difficulty. He could hit these areas with the tosses to ramp up the challenge.
I continue improving on my movement patterns. Tossing the ball from these varied positions has been excellent. Helping me combine the fine with the gross motor movement. The coordination of the two has often been challenging. While, the best advantage catching the small ball has been in the hands. Working with the small ball has eased the challenge of my everyday life. The improvement becomes a feeling, challenging to quantify. But, I know my ability to type out these posts has improved. Giving me the ability to often write more than one per week. Showing me, the practice in using my hands and fingers to catch the small ball has an impact. My brain develops an improved ability to connected with my fingers. Helping me manipulate them quicker. That ability to manipulate my fingers with more speed appeared in the grocery store. For the first time, I noticed working through the self-check was easier. The normal struggles of moving items and pressing buttons was smoother. I didn’t look back onto the experience until days later. The feeling came over me, the process was easier. That experience of checking out has only become more positive and less anxiety filled. Tossing the small ball back and forth has without doubt improved my hand function. We work on playing catch at least twice a week. The benefits for me can’t be overstated.