Updated: Oct 31, 2018
Have you ever wondered: Why do I get that annoying pain in my arm when I turn my head to one side, or why do I aggravate that old muscle injury in my back when I tie my shoelaces, or why do my feet hurt when I have been sitting all day?
Random pains are a pain in the backside, they come out of the blue, unexpected and uninvited and remind us that we are growing older and becoming more uncomfortable.
Often we seek to solve the random pain by putting it to sleep with pain killers, and that solves the issue for a while until that or another pain return to restrict your movement, stop you from you going running or swimming, stop you from lifting shopping, or reaching up to a high shelf.
And while those pain killers provide welcome relief they unfortunately don't hit the spot that really needs it.
The real spot that really needs help is our self understanding. Imagine if we could know ourselves so well that we would not have random pain, we could feel and trace it within our own bodies and change our behaviour accordingly to stop it developing in the future.
The real problem with pain is that we don't know ourselves well enough to be able to help ourselves stop producing it.
I am talking about the parts of you that feel unruly, that don't coordinate with your intentions. Parts of us that are not included in our self image and therefore we don't feel them early enough in the stress-strain-pain process to adjust our activities.
I have an example of this from my own life, that I have uncovered through my practice of Feldenkrais. When I was four I fell over backwards and cracked the back of my skull on hard concrete. This injury was of course very traumatic and it took me a while to recover.
What I didn't know was that injuries like that can effect the way we interact with life in a way that changes our self use past the initial recovery period.
For me this was expressed in not knowing the space behind my back. I had curled my shoulders forwards over the course of my life to avoid the possibility of falling backwards again.
Now that is a relatively sensible conclusion to come to, but the consequence of that habit was that I was completely orientated to the space to the front of myself and didn't know that there was anything behind me or even that I had a back. So how could I take care of it if I didn't know it was there?
How that expressed itself in my life was in a continued sense of tension in my back and shoulders, which would often became painful.
To me this all became relevant and remembering it was like a huge revelation as I began to explore myself and my movement patterns through the practise of Feldenkrais.
The lessons which are called awareness through movement, as in 'how we can gain self awareness through movement' are designed to help you access yourself in new ways which allows you to expand your movement potential and therefore your sense of self.
As I continued to practice these lessons my back began to wake up, becoming more responsive and flexible, I began to experience movements that had previously been difficult for me in a completely new way. I could do movements that I couldn't dream of doing before. I gained articulation of my head through having a better sense of its support through the spine. I felt springy and alive again to the point I could take risks in movement, whereas before I'd have to be considered and controlled so that I didn't hurt this place or cause more strain in an already tight area.
Now I am not saying that I have complete awareness of my back now, it was and still is a work in progress and each time I explore new movements that are designed to include more parts of myself in each movement I begin to get continuity through my system. To the point that no one part does more work or takes more strain that the others, the effort is spread and I live a more pain free life than I used to.
I am also not suggesting that painkillers are a bad solution, they are a great short term solution. But in the long term knowing yourself better will allow you to listen to signals of strain faster and adjust habits earlier so that pain and discomfort don't get the opportunity to develop.
Below I have included a short free Feldenkrais lesson taught by Sabine Schmid Blackaby to help you feel yourself more clearly and begin to develop / improve your self awareness.
Please give it a try and drop a comment below about what you felt before and after doing the exercise.