Written By Lara Gillease
A current client just referred his friend, Jessica, to me.
I spoke with her on the phone to learn more about her and her situation. Jessica told me she had foot and knee pain. She was seeking me out because she felt out of “alignment” and wanted me to work with her “structurally”.
This is a common way people describe what they need or want in order to change something that is no longer working for them or is causing them pain or discomfort. They say that they are “out of alignment” or need “structural changes”. Interestingly, many professionals use this language as well when communicating.
Let me introduce a radical shift in thinking due to relatively recent research on how we function.
The “out of alignment” and “structural issues” ideas suppose or make the assumption that we and our body are mechanical – like a car. But brain research has proven this way of thinking is outdated and inaccurate.
We are not a mechanical system, but rather a system comprised of a body that is governed by our brain.
We are systems that take in information, and then do something with that information. In other words, we are systems of learning.
It is true that our structure has to be able to support what we are doing. But after that, it is the brain that is the key here.
Suppose you and I can bend and straighten our knee (assuming there are no structural limitations, meaning there is nothing stopping you from doing so in terms of the health of your nerves, bones, muscles, and surrounding tissue).
What part of us sends the signal to straighten and bend our leg?
It is our thinking.
That originates in an organ we don’t actually feel, but that is responsible for everything we think, do and sense.
It is our brain that initiates the signal and sends it through our nervous system to signal some muscles to contract and others to lengthen to move the bones of the lower leg and upper leg relative to one another.
Now back to my phone conversation with Jessica.
She was in the mindset of thinking of herself as purely mechanical in seeking relief for pain in her knee and foot, and improvement in her ability to use and move her leg.
After making sure she knew through medical testing that she still had cartilage in her knee and had no other concerns which required medical care, here is how I explained how Anat Baniel Method (ABM) NeuroMovement (also known as Movement Lessons) could help her. NeuroMovement stands for “neuro”, which means brain and movement; hence – brain movement.
I told her ABM NeuroMovement works with the habits of HOW she knows how to move. And how the brain stores and retrieves movement information.
I continued, “Your being able to sit here and speak with me on the phone requires you using habits that you have formed in your brain. They are well-established patterns like well-traveled hiking trails.
“Off-trail is brush, trees and foliage. What I do in a first Movement Lesson is help you experience a new way of doing something. I take you off your well-established trail and through the brush to start creating a new trail. This new trail becomes a bit more matted down, but is not yet established enough as something you can use or rely on.
“Then we do another Movement Lesson in close proximity of time, like maybe the next day. I take you on that new pathway again, but with some variation to start making it become a clearer pathway.
“After that, we do another few lessons, again in close time proximity, to help reinforce the pathway. And we could end up entering the pathway from different points along the way and even create additional pathways that connect to this pathway.
“So by the end of several lessons, you have a new thing or action you can do all on your own.
“A pathway in your brain that gives you new options.
“You’ll have another way of moving that you can re-create on your own. And you can start using that new pathway as a newly formed habit.
“In this way you will, by your brain sending different signals in how to move, be using your structure differently.
Or another way of saying this is – your perception of your body will be represented differently in your brain.
“Generally what happens then is that people feel that they start noticing changes in other activities like walking, reaching for something, twisting to see something behind them.
“In the end, you will have learned to use your structure differently and move with a different alignment.”
I knew Jessica had a light bulb moment when she said this:
“So the way to re-align and make structural changes for the long term involves a shift in my perception of how I think about it. And doing things that get me to explore new and different ways of moving which the Movement Lessons provide.
“Then I will no longer be putting undue stress and strain on my knee and foot by knowing how to move in a way that doesn’t create that.”
Lara Gillease is a NeuroMovement Teacher as well as a Trainer for NeuroMovement Teachers in international training programs. She has been teaching adults and children how to do new things and move with greater ease and freedom since 2000.
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