The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

[Rehab] Kinesthesia, or walking and chewing gum at the same time


After a lot of practice, it just 'feels' right, without looking.
The next time you find yourself walking and chewing gum at the same time, think of Plainfield Today. Well, not PT, but Dan and rehab and the marvel of how our brain/bodies function in our milieus.

The chewing gum metaphor came to mind (you do remember President Gerald Ford's issues with walking and chewing gum at the same time, right?) on Monday, the first day of my rehab. Physical therapist Dane and I got to talking about using our legs and sensing them as part of us without watching them all the time.

Turns out he, too, plays the organ. So I said, well it's just like learning to play the pedal keyboard. You can't be looking down at your feet while you're doing it -- after all, you're playing maybe two keyboards, following the music and coordinating the stops to affect the sound of the organ. A whole lot to juggle at the same time.

And he said that he has never learned to play the pedals and that it looks very daunting.

To which I said, 'kinesthesia', sort of a shorthand term for training the body-brain instrument to 'know' where things are in space, without actually looking at them. Which is really just an extension of your hands knowing where they are on the keyboard and the fingering of the notes -- which becomes 'automatic' after thousands of repetitions of scales and training exercises.

That, he said, is what learning to walk on and live with a prosthetic leg is like.

You can't be watching it all the time because you have many other things to coordinate (which may also include chewing gum). So, you practice -- the equivalent of scales and finger exercises -- until eventually you can sense the position, direction and force of your prosthetic's movement kinesthetically, without seeming to give it a thought (though of course your brain/body is hard at work).

And it will feel -- and look to observers -- 'just right'.

So, today I go from two hours on the prosthesis to four hours and tomorrow to eight, thence to all waking hours. Like practicing scales all day long.

But, just like the piano teacher said, it's good for you.

For more on playing the organ pedal keyboard see here; on kinesthesia see here; and a great YouTube video of a solo pedal piece called 'Playing Footsie' based on Yankee Doodle, see here.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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