Sometimes I see clients whose spines are in good order, without any diagnosis of a spinal disorder and yet they suffer from occasionally immobilizing back pain or severe restrictions of movement. Moreover, they are often just at too young an age to have to cope with a lack of ability to function. I also regularly see clients, who have spinal difficulties and medical diagnoses as well as visible postural problems, but who have retained good flexibility and high levels of ability to practice various disciplines, even though their condition would seem to make this impossible for them. How can these two phenomena be accounted for?
Many years ago, I saw a film of an older gentleman, who was asked to perform different movements testing his flexibility and range of motion. After this demonstration, he was put under general anesthesia and an attendant now performed the same movements on him. Astonishingly, without using any force or effort, the attendant was able to move him in ways that had seemed completely unattainable to the person just moments before!
The anesthesia eliminated the interference of the person’s muscular habits, which can lead to greatly restricted motion. Generally we attribute these restrictions to our problems with our tissues. It’s very difficult to realize how much our brain holds on to our muscles after any sort of injury or trauma to the body that occurred in the distant past. Unless an image of an action is available to our brain, it is unlikely for the action to be possible.
Our neuro-muscular self-image contains all of our past responses and lays the foundation for future possible actions. Our self-image is blended with our emotional self, our posture, frequently reoccurring thoughts and gestures, and even our way of breathing. We are as skilled or as limited by our self-image as we are by the structure of our body. The self-image can determine how fast we heal from injuries and shocks to the body.
Fortunately, we can learn to alter our self-image. In fact, learning that affects our physical and social self-confidence will develop a more expanded and complete self-image. Developing our self-image through actions and interactions is the fundamental way that people create their own future; otherwise we would stay simple biological mechanisms.
If you feel you have to stretch hard every day because your muscles feel tight, it’s important to try the Feldenkrais Method. You might realize how much of your tightness is the result of thought habits in your brain, ideas about limitations you have that can be partly overcome by finding a different approach to the use of your mind in motion.
The central idea in a Change Your Age movement lesson is not to achieve a particular goal, but to learn how you do familiar activities in new ways, and how to generate new ways of moving. This will contribute to a more complete self-image, far more effectively than repetitive exercise routines.
Try it out: Turn your head slowly left and right without effort, then bring it back to the center and only imagine with your eyes closed, that you are turning your head a little further - but only to the left. Do not move your head, while you imagine this movement, but imagine it so vividly as though you were actually performing it. After doing this imaginary movement of your head 3 or 4 times slowly and clearly, actually perform the movement keeping your eyes closed. Then turn your head to the right and feel if there is a difference after imagining it on one side. (Interestingly, if someone feels pain turning to the left side, he will avoid even imagining the movement.)
For this reason in the activation of the imagination is of critical importance. If you can clearly imagine a movement that is just a little beyond your physical capacities, you will have an easier time to actually perform the movement. Each of the many lessons in the Change Your Age Method will expand your self-image.