Before yoga, I had taken up running in 1991 when I was living in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I would take my dogs to Red Hook Park and run on the track. It took a couple of months to build up to three miles and that became my distance for the next couple of years until my knees began to ache.
At the time I had no idea what to do for the pain, and the thought that I could change my running pattern to alleviate the injury never occurred to me. So I stopped running but the pain didn’t go away.
A couple of weeks after I stopped running I was in the Open Center Bookstore in Soho where my friend Paul worked. We were chatting about my knee pain when a stranger interrupted and asked if he could show me a book.
He took to the Chi Qong section and showed me a picture of the horse stance, explaining to me that if I stood this way for a half an hour a day my pain would go away. So I bought a book that I never read and went home and started standing like a horse.
The horse stance is very basic—stand with the knees slightly bent and the arms raised to the height of the shoulders forming and open diamond where the fingers never touch. As far as I can figure it, the basic idea is that keeping the arms and knees bent makes the body work even though you are standing still.
When our elbows and knees bend it sends information to the brain that we are moving and the muscles work as if we are walking or running. The heart starts pumping to accommodate movement and blood starts to flow faster. As least this is what I think is happening. The body standing still thinks it is running and all of the internal actions that accompany running start to apply.
It is some wild stuff. Within minutes I would begin to sweat profusely and occasionally tremble, even sway a lot even though I was standing still. It took a couple of months to build up to half an hour but I got there and my knee pain went away long before .
I did the horse stance like that for more than six months. It is another one of those things that I loved and forget why I don’t do it anymore. Life is a mystery.