The Myth of Aging

If you're not getting better as you get older, you're doing  something wrong. –Thomas Hanna

I have a client who came in with severe shoulder pain that had been plaguing him for years. He told me about his many car accidents, hours at computer work, and caring for a newborn baby. He told me that his doctor first asked, "So how old are you?" and then told him that nothing was wrong. My client was, understandably, annoyed that his doctors would insinuate that age would have anything to do with his pain.

Chronic muscular pain is not age-related.

It builds up over time as we respond to stress - accidents, injuries, surgeries, ongoing emotional or occupational stresses. It also results from not paying attention to the sensations of your own body. That feeling of muscular tightness, restricted movement and bad posture can not only be avoided, it can be reversed.

Modern industrial cultures encourage people to pay attention to things outside themselves: computers, spreadsheets, phones. Such cultures also produce people who don't pay attention to what it feels like to be in their own bodies. That sense of one's body in movement and space is called "proprioception." When you are "proprioceptively intelligent," meaning aware of the way in which you respond to stresses, you are more likely to be able to relax those muscles. If you are unaware of what you're doing, and unaware of the way in which your muscles are supposed to move, you are more likely to accumulate muscular tension.

Thomas Hanna, in his book Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health, wrote about teaching a group of osteopaths, chiropractors, doctors and physical therapists in Australia. He taught them some of the procedures he used to teach people to reverse what is believed to be the inevitable breakdown of the human body as we age. He spoke about proprioception and Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). One cardiologist wrote in a paper that, what Hanna taught "has as much potential for understanding the mind-body relationship as Einstein's theory of relativity had for physics."

So next time you get to work and see 100 emails in your inbox, notice what your muscles do. Or when someone calls your name or tells you to "hurry up!" or your cell phone rings, notice what your back muscles do. Notice if you hunch your shoulders in traffic, or slumping over your computer. When you walk, notice whether or not your shoulders and hips move. These are first steps toward reversing the "myth of aging."