Last week "Michelle" came to me with severe sciatica. Sciatica is a full body pattern of muscle contraction that causes the sciatic nerve to become pinched, sending pain down the leg in most cases. Her back muscles on one side were like steel rods and her pelvis was slightly twisted, causing one buttock to contract while the other one was soft. Michelle had participated in one of my workshops and found many of the Somatic Exercises to be challenging. No matter how she moved, everything hurt. As she left the class I wasn't sure if she'd gotten anything out of it. Two days later I received a call from her; she wanted to come in for clinical sessions to continue to learn how to relieve her sciatic pain once and for all. Here's what she told me:
I went home after the workshop and sat at my desk. I suddenly realized that I'd been twisting my upper body one way and my lower body the other way to sit and work at the computer. The light bulb went off for me as I remembered your explanation of the Trauma Reflex and how it contributes to back and hip pain. Twisting my pelvis had become a habit!
Before we could even start to work, she put her hands on her head and showed me what her mother used to do every day when Michelle was growing up. She looked like a hula or belly dancer, rotating her hips in large circles and letting her belly be soft as it moved.
She told me she would ask her mother why she did those movement, and her mother would tell her, "because it makes my back feel really good!"
She asked me, "should I do stuff like this? It feels really good when I do it!" My answer was an unequivocal "yes!"
You may find out that you're smarter than you think.
Michelle's mother's brain was telling her that it’s GOOD to move her hips that way. Finding movements that feel comfortable and relaxing can be just what you need to keep your muscles supple and relaxed. By doing this you can figure out for yourself what helps and what doesn't help.
Many people do exercises only because they're told to do them. Blind adherence to what the teacher is telling you to do without being present and involved in the process yields few positive results, whether it's in life itself or with your body. It deadens the channels of awareness rather than opening them and letting learning flow in.
I often need to remind my clients to FEEL the movement rather than to DO the movement. The feeling will guide and inform the movement. If a movement is uncomfortable - back off and go more slowly in a smaller range of motion. Forcing a movement just for the sake of doing the movement can cause injury.
People like Michelle's mother, figured out that putting her hands on her head and gyrating like a belly dancer several times a day would keep her back feeling good.
The possibilities for healthy movement are endless, and the awareness we can gain about ourselves, our bodies and the way in which we interact in our own lives through Somatic Exercises and movement exploration helps relieve pain, and improve muscle control.
If you're like Michelle's mother and have already made up some fun Somatic Exercises or fun movements that you find helpful - whether they're done lying on the floor or standing up - I'd love to have you share them with me.