When I approach a body issue, like chronic tension in a shoulder, reoccurring pain, intermittent weakness, how do I begin? How do I think about it? What is happening in structure, the cause, etc? and what is the end goal? It may seem like a mote point. I just want my neck or shoulder to stop hurting. Yet when I can be open to the exploration and the possibility of the goal unfolding I can enter into a rich and more satisfying relationship to my body self.
When I think I want a muscle to relax it is probably been trying to take over for other muscles. Like the muscles in my neck and shoulder are working to raise my arm. Maybe I’m avoiding using the detoid or the stabilizing muscles of the scapula. But the names of the muscles don’t matter this is an opportunity to investigate and explore. Encouraging myself to say open and curious I begin to play with all the ways my arm, should, neck, scapula and ribs can move on one side. I can choose the side that is troubled or the side that is not, either way the investigation will inform the not so easy place.
I move with awareness. How does this place feel and respond when I’m lying on my back; on my side, standing, sitting, hanging over from my waist? Whats different when I’m moving with my core engaged, or while holding different images? Noticing the different effects of gravity on the range, on the fluidity. How does it feel when my arm is fully extended? Or with weight in my hand, or flexed with my hand on my shoulder.
This investigation is less about analyzing where and why movement is restricted and more about giving the brain/body the experience that helps it find its own pathway to ease. Of course, you can do the former, or have a professional help you with clarifying “the problem”. But that approach is only a part of information available. Conscious exploration enhances, enriches the resources that you bring to this part of you.
Move slowly, invite full breathing, notice emotion, visual your bones, Sense into. You are gathering input for your brains body maps, increasing the details. Changing your body map from a fuzzy one with only gross landmarks to one of great topographical detail. Elevation, rivers, streams, marshes, vegetation. You are reacquainting your body map with the lush and salient details of your body being.
Can you feel everything? Are there blank or numb spots? Are you getting spacy? Or thinking of all the other more important thing you should be doing? That’s all okay. Invite yourself to just come back to noticing/feeling your body. I have to do that all the time. Suddenly I want to pop up and do something I keep forgetting. It’s okay, distraction is just an opportunity to re connect.
As you explore does pain emerge? Slow down, take away the heavy load by having more parts be in contact with the floor or maybe increase flexion. Can you go slower, smaller, focusing on the inner landscape instead of the outer journey through space? Imagine, water flowing, a soft breeze or the air thick enough to hold and support you.
Pain is a protector, so it illicits fear. Good to notice. Is this pain telling me to stop? Or continue in a different manner? Pain not the best indication of amount of damage. If you are going slow and with exquisite awareness it is unlikely that you are injuring yourself. When we have a place of chronic distress we can become kinesophobic, we fear the movement will cause pain, associate movement with pain and fuse them together in our neurology. There are ways to break that cycle.
If using your creative mind by imaging the pathway, relaxing through flowing images, breathing more fully etc. doesn’t ease the pain, you can do the movement in your mind only, with great attention, visualize it while sensing into the body part that would be moving. New learning can begin with imagination. I am always pleased and a little surprised how increasing breath and flow can convince my body/mind to let go of pain. That is the moment to revel in. I can move my whatever pain free at this moment. I want to reinforce the neuropathway that associates this movement with no pain. Let your conscious mind know this is possible and you can experience it, movement without pain.
Irmagard Bartenieff who developed movement fundamentals that I study said “intent programs the neuromuscular system.” And what I am currently reading in neuroscience confirms she was right on. Here is where imagery, imagination and desire can enter to add richness, beauty and play to our functional goal. The saying a picture is worth a thousand words applies here. It may help when I tell you to let the movement flow through your limb but if you see in your mind, a rushing stream, noticing the moisture it produces, the sounds, colors and play of sunlight; you have multisensory input and your body/mind can’t resist.
Try it. First with your arm hanging at your side extend it into space in front of you. Let it go. Next extend your arm to the same place while saying or thinking flow. Finally imagine your arm embodying the stream, it is running through you and flowing out of you. How was it different? Did you notice if your breath changed or the movement continued? Anything at all that you notice is worth attention. It all holds value, your body/mind, your investigation, your experience your learning.