I had an unusual experience today – I got a chance to work with a mobile, well-organised spine. This is rare in my practice, and actually it happened because I was a bit pushy. I am blessed with wonderful neighbours, and was touched to be asked for support when one experienced back pain while he was away on holiday. Delighted as I was to hear that it was already greatly improved before he even got home – and without any specialist intervention – I took a chance and suggested that I might have some ideas that could keep further problems at bay.
Once he was in my kitchen I immediately noticed how at ease and “tall” he looked in sitting, and when I gave him some Awareness Through Movement suggestions to play with he had no trouble bending his spine in the ways I was suggesting and quickly began to experiment , trying out new ways of wriggling on his seat with little prompting from me*.
You might argue that his experience of pain indicated that his back was not so healthy after all, and you would have a point. However, I would counter that to live a life completely free of pain is a somewhat unrealistic goal. Pain gives us vital feedback, and the few unlucky people who are born unable to feel pain tend to do themselves a lot of damage as a result of their missing alarm system. As Moshe Feldenkrais put it:
“The usual way of life thus becomes the criterion of health. Sleep, food, breathing, changes of weather, cold, heat, work should all be capable of large variations–sudden shocks. The healthier the person, the more easily he will regain the conduct of his life after considerable sudden shocks by changes in all the necessities of life”.
On Health, Embodied Wisdom, the Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais. 2010
– Consequently I am basing my claim on how quickly my neighbour recovered from both the original injury and the recurrence of pain he experience while away on his trip.
As you may know I have written a couple of articles on the purpose of pain; current research is focused on understanding how pain functions as a warning sign, rather than simply an indicator of damage. It is natural to assume that the site and the severity of the pain are proportional to the injury suffered, but actually the situation is much more complicated, and – according to Lorimer Moseley – once people with chronic pain understand pain in this new way they experience multiple benefits:
Watch this fascinating and helpful lecture – I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone with any kind of chronic pain. I can personally testify to how much difference it makes to experience pain with less fear and anxiety – the positive effect is immediate.
Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement is certainly not the only way to improve the way you move. It is however one of the few ways out there that is designed specifically to help you learn to help yourself. Once the ideas and practices of this Method have become second nature, finding ways to get yourself out of pain and back doing whatever you want, whenever you want, will become one of your areas of expertise.
Here is a fine example of just how mobile a normal (meaning not hypermobile) spine can be – even in a rather unusual dancer!
*I was rewarded with one of the best unsolicited testimonials ever:
“A big thank you to Maggy Burrowes for her expert help and guidance with my back through working techniques with The Feldekrais Method, small movements, big gains.”