I have always been a mover - whether it be gymnastics, athletics, boxing, dancing, or adventures in nature. If it meant being active (and competitive!) I was there.
What I didn’t realise, is that at some point, or points, throughout my movement history, which involved various stacks, crashes and goal-oriented training, my body started to develop faulty movement patterns, or 'compensation patterns'.
When we injure ourselves, affected muscles and joints can stop doing their job, forcing other muscles or joints (not intended for that movement) to take up the slack. This is fine temporarily, but when correct function is not reinstated, we may forever move sub-optimally. This can result in pain, restriction, poor posture and movement inefficiency - basically not maximising your body’s potential! Want to know how movement coaching can optimise your body’s potential?
Then one day when I was at university, I took a bus into the city to meet up with a study group and as I stepped off the bus I felt a sharp pain shooting down my leg. All of a sudden I couldn’t walk....at the ripe young age of 20!
At the time I did the “smart” thing and took the advice of a neurosurgeon (who’s job it is to cut open battered bodies), which was to ‘immobilise’ and take 6 months of uni. This meant me lying on my back in my Mum’s lounge room watching far too many episodes of Days of Our Lives….and it seemed even Dr Phil couldn’t help!
Oh the wisdom of hindsight – spines (and discs) NEED movement. Needless to say, 6 months later I was wheeled into the operating room to have part of one of my vertebral discs removed.
My back healed (or at least the incision did) and movement again become a big part of my life. In fact I had even stumbled into teaching movement after Pilates had proven useful to rehabilitate myself from various snow boarding injuries. Unfortunately however, I was still experiencing lower back pain in the same area as before the surgery 10 years earlier. It took me a few more years to figure out why.
The thing is, the surgery hadn’t addressed the faulty movement patterns that had caused my discs to be inflamed all those years earlier, and therefore the same issue was rearing its ugly head. After all, it's difficult to address something you don't realise is an issue. I had received treatment for back pain from various manual therapists, and whilst some offered corrective exercises, none suggested that the way I walked, played sport, slept, sat, stood, etc. could be the cause of the pain and restriction I was experiencing! In fact, I wasn't even aware that movement (re-)training was a thing. Pilates was great for keeping me physically fit, but without being aware of my faulty movement patterns, my condition only got worse!
Identifying these patterns required firstly for someone to point them out (thanks JP from Body Logic), and then that I ‘tune in’ to my body on a deeper level than I had before. I needed to step back from big explosive movements to listen to the subtleties. And what I heard was unexpected. Whilst my entire focus around my physical body had been on physique and fitness, I started to hear that my physical body was simply responding to how I was moving through life - rushed, short of breath and, well...wonky! This was my slap-in-the-face insight into the mind-body connection.
Then a few years ago, the penny well untruly dropped. I was in Bali and again I couldn’t walk. By now I theoretically understood that we have the ability to harness the power of our minds, but when pain and pressure were affecting my livelihood, sadly surgery seemed like my only option. This time though, I knew better. So, I decided to embody it. This was no easy decision, as many well-meaning friends and family just wanted to see me out of pain in the quickest possible way. But knowing a quick fix is just that, I decided to take the risk and elected not to have the surgery.
I did extensive study and moved in ways that resonated with my body. I learnt about fascia mostly via Slings Myofascial Training©, which is not only a physical training, but considers the body holistically via the fascial network. This network has physical qualities that we can enhance with movement, with massage, but it is also highly innervated, meaning sometimes we can make the biggest changes with the most subtle inputs. So I started working with the subtleties via a line of inquiry:
> How could I use the breath to create expansiveness in certain areas of the body while switching off “held” muscles around the injury and soften tension in tissues?
> How could I use what I knew about fascia being a highly sensory organ to bring about change in the way I sensed my body, including the pain I was experiencing?
> How could I sequence moves to access the parasympathetic nervous system and hence healthy fascial tone, in my case, by way of letting go.
> How could I regulate the intrinsic tone of my muscles when even walking hurt?
Insight gained was from many sources. I learnt from Gary Ward how our joints are meant to move through their ranges in walking (gait biomechanics, which underpins all movement) and how to ‘find centre’. Bruce Lipton inspired me with the science of epigenetics that confirms the lifestyle (environment) we chose influences our gene expression (our physical function and appearance) and I refined how to put this into action with the wisdom of the likes of Ph360 and Joe Dispenza. Ido Portal affirmed that movement is art, is inspired from within and enhanced with continual play, challenge and expression. Through Jon Kabat-Ziin’s work I embodied mindfulness, and was informed by Kelly McGonical of how our perception of stress affects the physical body. And so much more.
As my knowledge evolved, my lifestyle changed. I found ways to move, breathe, eat and think to nourish my joints, ward off muscle atrophy, wake up sleepy muscles (still asleep from previous injuries), improve fascial health and most of all, reduce inflammation and bring ease to my being. I could hardly believe that I had evaded surgery by tuning in to have pain-free movement freedom return.
I felt a sense of empowerment like never before. 6 months after that time in Bali, I competed in a multi-event adventure race and I am currently in training for my next race today.
By no way am I going to pretend that I my body is 100% where I want it to be. One thing about having a heightened awareness of your body is you are also highly aware of what’s possible, so there are still aspects that I’m working on to bring even more balance back into my body. And I’m quite content in knowing that I have the resources to make this happen.
If you feel like some feedback from a trained movement professional could help you to tune in, get in touch or check how we can help.
Annelise is a Holistic Lifestyle Coach specialised in helping her clients gain movement freedom in their bodies and vitality in their life.