“Sit tall, stand tall, walk tall.” Those were the words of Taylor Isaacs, the kinesiology professor/exercise therapist/all around SCI and body movement master who has helped a number of people achieve significant recovery from devastating injuries. I was honored to spend a few days last week at CORE Center working and learning from someone who takes a different approach to recovery than the traditional methods I’ve become accustomed to. It’s not easy to sum up Taylor’s approach but if I had to start with one word, it would be holistic.
Upon arriving to Southern California and creating an instantaneous bond with Taylor, Aaron Baker, Laquita and the CORE Center family (see my last post for a background of these amazing people), Taylor asked me questions. LOTS of questions. He wanted to know every detail about my accident, every detail of my regimen since then, my diet, my sleep patterns, my energy levels, my specific progress and how I had measured it, my psychological state, and as I conjured up the answers to the many questions, he took meticulous notes and responded in his easing South African accent, “brilliant, excellent, brilliant.”
I didn’t know what to expect from Taylor but within seconds of meeting him, I knew I could trust him, and that I would. After all, this guy was an expert among experts about how the body moves and had spent years applying his previous knowledge and varied experience with everyone from high level athletes to everyday people to those of us suffering from injuries like SCI. What I saw in Taylor and what made me so excited to work with him was an attitude of possibility and capability. These are words not commonly spoken to someone who has suffered a SCI; after all, we’re always being reminded of our disability and told to adapt to the circumstances, instead of trying to tackle the circumstances head on and bring about change.
The time I spent with Taylor was incredibly fruitful. After a couple days of meticulously testing different muscles and assessing my current condition, I was a bit surprised that the exercise regimen he sent me home with didn’t involve standing or leg exercises or weights or really anything complicated. It was a 20 minute daily regimen that he called Postural Reprogramming, meant to correct my posture, strengthen my abdominal and back muscles and get me sitting taller, which would lead to standing and walking taller.
Of course there are no guarantees from any therapist or practitioner and Taylor did not prognosticate anything. But what I learned from his approach was to look at the body as a whole, and understand that before I could take a step or stand up on my own, I would need to get my body into the right position for it to do what it wants to do: to move as efficiently as possible or put another way, to use the least amount of effort and energy to perform a movement. According to Taylor, “by doing this, we’re going to take those blocked neural pathways, we’re going to flood them with neural energy and turn them into neural superhighways!”
I’m including a couple of quick videos that are examples of the simple, yet challenging movements that are a part of my Postural Reprogramming regimen:
As I wrote about in my last post, the other main reason I was excited for this trip was to meet Aaron Baker, a true hero in my eyes and someone who consistently inspires me. I felt a kinship with Aaron the moment I met him. Of course, he has been through this injury and achieved outstanding recovery but it went beyond that. Through many hours of conversation, we were able to share our perspectives on our injuries, our lives and the world as a whole. Aaron’s mindfulness, focus and intention emanated from him and inspired me further. It was clear to me that despite his astounding recovery, this injury was still a huge part of him, and it always would be, but he had found peace, something I still have trouble doing. It was an honor to share this time with these amazing people and I’m already looking forward to my next visit to CORE Center. Until then, I’ll be reprogramming my posture…