My wife has found yoga to help her in many ways, and I've always been interested in it. Already a fan of meditation, I finally stepped onto the mat today and put my body through a relaxing regimen of stretches. While my main complaints are usually lower back, calves and right foot pain, today I discovered my hips whispering "help me". During a five-minute stretch of that area, the new pain gave way to to a gradual relaxation and awareness of how this part of an operator's body is crucial to the mechanics of our job.
Driving "by the seat of your pants" isn't just a tired cliche. If you spend hours every day in a bus operator's seat, your hips are the lower body's command center. Hit the brake pedal, and the femur pushes against the hip socket. It takes a few hundred pounds of pressure to smoothly brake a bus. If you multiply this by the approximately 750 times we do this per shift, it seems likely you're going to develop some pain from all that pressure. Turn the steering wheel, and your body weight pivots with the directional force involved in the bus changing direction. Accelerate, and not only is your foot pushing away, the body is simultaneously settling backward. These conflicting pressures also cause stress on the lumbar portion of your spine and the associated muscles. A constant shifting in the seat is a natural part of a bus operator's day. Sometimes, unless sudden movements accentuate the common stress your body feels, you don't notice how tense the lower body becomes after a 90-minute workout in the seat. Until, that is, you reach the end of the line and you stand up from that seat. Then your body screams "Hey wait a minute, what's going on here?" As you return to an upright homo sapiens, new stresses are compounded by what your lower body has become accustomed to while driving, and those first few steps make me look like a drunk lurching home after several shots at the bar.
For me, the hip irritation is a silent pain, or one I've been able to ignore because there are other stress points my brain centers on. Silent until today's yoga class, that is. Thanks to the meditative state you enter during the stretches, you can concentrate on what parts of the body need attention. I sent warm, healing oxygenated waves toward my hips during two particular stretches. After the first few excruciating minutes and a few minor adjustments in the pose, I felt the tension melting away. It was a wonderful feeling, and I hate to use the term in fear of seeming vulgar, which was nearly orgasmic in nature.
Once upon a part timer's world, I had a daily workout regimen. Working a few hours in the morning with a six-hour stretch before my afternoon shift, I could fit in a full-body workout. Then I could enjoy a leisurely lunch and a nap afterward. Operating a bus was virtually pain-free. When I went full time and ended up on the Extra Board, all that changed. Even though there were long stretches of time when I wasn't driving, there was a short leash around my neck. I couldn't leave the report area or I'd be unavailable when my name was called. Now that I have regular work thanks to a seniority level earned by a few years of longevity, the luxury of taking care of myself isn't always available.
You've read how my mind and body have reacted to this job, and my soul has suffered at times as well. To have the opportunity to soothe all three in one hour of gentle physical therapy is one we should all make time for. Until they find a driver's seat design that adjusts adequately for every body type and size, it's up to us to take care of ourselves. If we don't, and the body breaks down, the mind and soul suffer from worry about how to pay the bills.
I've talked myself into it. Yeah, yoga helps. Now if I could only stretch my butt back into shape, I might feel as good as I did as a mini-runner. Ah, the good ol' days...