When my personal training students ask me for a Pilates exercise to help strengthen a particular muscle area, or a stretch to help with a muscle restriction, they might be surprised when we begin our session with movements that seem to be for a completely different part of the body. The same when someone comes for Bowen treatment with chronic neck pain, they wonder why I start their treatment on the back of their legs. But here’s the thing: our body is interconnected by mean of the entire muscular and fascial system. The skin, and the layer of fat or adipose tissue beneath, are part of a whole bodily network. What goes on in one part of the body will have an impact throughout our system.
For instance, it could be that something to do with gait – the position of the feet when you walk or run – is causing a ‘head forward’ posture which is setting off that neck pain. In that case, an adjustment to the lower leg will help get rid of troublesome neck posture. Or perhaps the pelvis rotates more than it needs to when you walk and that makes your shoulders lift up in an attempt to stabilise your spine. Rather than fix the shoulders, the problem is to do with pelvic stability.
Making small changes in the body will have a big impact. Changes to the postural system take time, focussed concentration is needed to establish the re-programming of the nervous system and neural pathways which position and move our muscles and joints. To begin with you might not even be able to feel the small movements that I might ask you to make in class. For example, think about your feet: you know you have five toes on each foot but can you feel all five? Do you feel the space between the toes and underneath them? Move each toe individually without looking at them? In a similar way, being able to find the sensation of small postural muscles, like the ones close to the spine around the back of the neck and between the shoulders, feels like an impossible job and the harder you try, the less you seem to feel! But relax, try less, and don’t too many repetitions. Allow the brain to process the information. Once you can sense it, you can feel it. Once you can feel it, you can change it.