Use this Murdoch Minute to improve your overall symmetry and to rehabilitate old injuries. If you have one ankle that is stiff, mirror the other ankle and see what happens.
Do you have trouble using your right hand as well as your left? Do you have a ‘dumb’ side? Do you feel like your two legs are always different? Do you find that every horse you ride tells you that you have a ‘preferred’ side or that you can’t get your horse to go as well to the left as he does to the right? Here’s a quick tip using a simple mirror to improve your symmetry.
Next time you ride notice if you feel like one hand or arm is more cooperative that the other. Does one leg rest on the saddle more comfortably? Perhaps you have injured your ankle at some point and it doesn’t seem to have the flexibility of the other one. Or you just can’t feel your two seat bones even in the saddle.
Everyone has some degree of asymmetry. As an experiment look in the mirror and hold a something up so that you split the image of your face vertically along your nose. Observe how the two sides of your face are different. You might notice that one eye is higher than the other or that your nose really isn’t in the middle of your face. This is perfectly normal however asymmetry does have an influence on you and your horse’s balance.
To improve symmetry many of us have been told to brush our teeth with the opposite hand or muck the opposite way. And, while these techniques will work, we tend not to stick with the idea. Using a mirror you can trick your brain into thinking that the less capable side is just as handy as the other one. I will explain the technique using your legs as an example but you can do this with any part of your body.
Walk around the room and determine which leg moves better. For this example we will say it is your right leg. Find a mirror (a dressing mirror works great) and sit on the floor with the mirror between your legs. Have the mirror turned so right leg is reflected in the mirror. Hide your left leg behind the mirror.
Start to move your right leg while looking in the mirror. You are seeing the mirror image so if you are moving your right leg you will be seeing what appears to be your left leg in the mirror. Continue moving your right leg until your brain ‘sees’ your left leg. You will know when this happens believe me! Continue for a while longer looking in the mirror while moving your right leg in as many different ways as you can think of. Then stand up and go for a walk. Feel the difference in your left leg. It will now feel more like your right leg. Occasionally remind yourself to ‘look in the mirror’ at your left leg to maintain the new feeling.
What is happening is an effect that doctors and scientists are now taking advantage of to deal with all kinds of pain. By mirroring the ‘good’ side the brain gets the idea that the ‘bad’ side is also good. As your brain continues to see and feel your new image of yourself pain decreases and movement improves. This technique is being used for phantom pain and is 90% successful for treatment without drugs. I learned of this technique watching a clip on CNN one morning. Then I attended a workshop with David Butler, author of Explain Pain. David talks about how our brain perceives pain and how we can move out of pain using our brain.
For more information see the chapter on using the mirror in 50 Five-Minute Fixes to Improve Your Riding, available in the Shop.