“I thought this was my strong leg, so why does it hurt? Why does it feel so weak?”
J, K, and S are three clients of mine. Each of them have a preferred leg to stand on. For J and K it is the right, and for S it is the left. We will call this their dominant leg. Their dominant legs are very good at being stood on, turned on, balanced on, jumped on, and these three have begun to label their dominant leg as being their “strong” leg.
But strong is not the correct word for this situation, and I will explain my thoughts on why.
One day, for J, K and S, something on their dominant side started to ache. For J it was her back. For K it was her SI joint, and for S it was her hip. From this experience, each got the idea that because things hurt, there must be something wrong with this leg. It must be weak! “But how is this possible? This is my STRONG side!”
But when we explore this more deeply, we discover that, in fact, neither of the three could shift their weight to the other leg. Neither of them even had a clear sense of where their non-dominant foot rested on the floor. It’s like the other foot wasn’t even there. Which is the “weak” leg? The one you can feel- the one in pain, or the one that gives you no problems, but that doesn’t exist in your mind map?
And then J, K, and S all explored an uncomplicated single leg weight-bearing position on their preferred leg- their “strong” leg, and it became nearly impossible to support themselves without bending, twisting, or contorting in some way or another.
So what is happening? Their preferred leg can go from being weak to strong in the blink of an eye. So which is it? What’s the truth?
You can be strong at your dominant pattern, strong at standing on a favourite leg, so strong that it is even getting you into trouble with your body. You are strong but at the same time you are weak. Weak in any other context other than the one you are stuck within. And even the context in which you are stuck is limited just by the fact that you are stuck in it. It is not your leg that is strong, but your favouritism. You were simply not aware.
A part of the process is to understand that “strong” and “weak” are not even the right words to describe what is happening. Stuck is a better word. Lacking variability. Lacking options. Patterned. These are better words than “weak” or “strong”.
Now meet H. For H, things were a little different. She had some trouble with her left knee, and so she for years considered her left leg to be the “weaker” side. But what we discovered was the same situation as J, K, and S: She could not shift her weight off of her “weak” leg. Her leg that gave her troubles, aches, and pains, was really her dominant side. She was simply not aware.
What if your pain was just a symptom of your “strength”?
Your strength brought to where you are now. Your inability to bring yourself to feel “weak” is what caused a system overload. Not that you are weak, but that you could not allow yourself to feel vulnerable.
Were it not for the judgments of “weak” or “strong”, “good” or “bad”, pain could be avoided. Weakness and strength are just two sides of the same coin. The right leg is not heads and left is not tails, but both legs are head/tails. We should avoid the desire to flip the coin and assign heads, tails, strong, or weak, but to help each leg feel as if they can both have the same experiences, the same quality in their feeling of movement, free from positive or negative judgements. This is the way suffering can be avoided. Each leg is a spinning coin, neither heads, not tails, until we stop the coin from spinning and make a call.
We don’t like to feel weak and vulnerable. We will avoid situations in which we feel weak unless we are aware of how we can grow from vulnerability. And this includes dropping our favouritism, dropping our labeling of good leg/bad leg, and to practice standing on our non-dominant leg.
More on the lateral biases in dance training: Lateral Bias in Dance Training