It’s been almost 2 years since I started out at BodyTree GST back in Jan 2015. As I look back I can see how far I’ve come since.
I was diagnosed with scoliosis (lateral curvature of the spine – X ray photo) when I was a teenager and I had to wear a body brace for 23 hours a day for 3 years. After I was discharged, I could carry on life quite normally with not much back pain.
However, when I reached my mid-thirties, things progressively got worse. Simple things like putting on my shoes would be a slow thing and carrying anything just remotely heavy would put pain on my back. A few years ago, just before a major dance event, my back gave me excruciating pain and had to be on medical leave for many days and have multiple treatments (e.g. acupuncture, shockwave, traction, massage, medication etc). Only after two months did it stabilise with all the rest and treatment.
Around that time, I met a fellow dance competitor from Hong Kong. He suggested I try Yoga. So, I signed up for personal training with a yoga teacher specialising in treating scoliosis. It did help a lot and once I got better, I started looking for something even more hard core, to bullet proof my body against scoliosis related back pain. I was looking for Gymnastics training, I came across an article talking about how BodyTree GST was going to be starting classes soon. I was concerned at first about joining a group class, as I had been under yoga private classes for a year or so and was afraid that I may not be able to cope with a group class, given my condition.
Nevertheless, I took the plunge with caution. I briefed them BodyTree GST instructors on what I could and could not do. So, a few of the exercises were modified for me or I would skip them. I was actually advised by my doctors, physical therapists and yoga teachers never to do back bending exercise, so bridges were supposed to be out of the question for me.
After a few months at BodyTree GST, I decided to give the bridge a try, but immediately I felt my back go into spasm, so I thought I really cannot do bridge or back bends. Nevertheless, I continued with all the various basic foundation exercise and I also decided to do some very controlled back stretching at home on my bed (by bending gentle over the edge of the bed. After about 6 months, I decided to try the bridge again, and to my surprise, not only could do the raised bridge (simpler form of the bridge), I could also do the full bridge. Now I’ve progressed to doing bridge walkovers with two stacks of mats. Goes to show that given systematic training, your body can do things you never thought possible. Needless to say, I don’t have problems wearing my shoes now.
I think I managed to make much progress due to my consistency in going for classes, strict attention to proper form and body awareness.
Initially, my schedule was to take 8 group classes a week in the evenings. Now I am taking 4 group classes and 1 personal training class per week in the morning which enables better recovery for me. I also make it a point to stretch my body every morning and evening as my muscles get tight very easily. Personal training class is much worse than GST 2 and I like to joke that I have to train for 4 group classes a week to prepare for my ‘bructal’ (reference Coach Bruce whose nickname is brutal bruce!) personal training class.
In classes, I always make it a point to understand exactly how to do a movement and would ask the instructor to help check my form. Body awareness is what I try to feel in my body when I do an exercise, rather than just copying the shape / movement of the instructor. The internal body awareness is something that may not be very visible to someone else, but it’s something you can feel when you actively push the last few milli meters. It’s through this attention to form and body awareness that I think help me progress well.
As I look towards my next year at BodyTree GST, I’m aiming for my unassisted handstand, press to handstand, planche, pullover, muscle up. Very interesting and challenging journey ahead but I love it! Many thanks to all the great and attentive instructors and staff at BodyTree GST and my fellow class mates, Facebook and Instagram friends for support and inspiration. Be committed, consistent and attentive and we can all make great progress.
By Robin Chee