Karen's Blog


Getting out of the Way.

My personal circumstances have altered in the last few of years.

Children all grown and having left home, independently enjoying their lives. After many years of managing my workplace and several other therapists within my own clinic, I relished the idea and opportunity to work on my own in a practise and teaching space. My husband chose retirement, and that resulted in an eventual exchange of roles in the "homescape."
The roles that were historically mine, became his.
Lots of changes to adapt our world around.

I was thinking about the process the other day, when talking with a friend who is going through similar changes in the home. She asked me how I came to accept what was, often, a different way of things being done in the home, garden, laundry etc....
I answered that I simply just "got out of the way." Physically and emotionally. Mostly emotionally, the physical move was easier, it just followed really. I noticed that my attachment to certain ways of doing things, to historically achieve certain expected outcomes, was often the problem, not the new "way of doing things." Releasing attachment to expected outcomes is an Ortho-Bionomy principle that allows a therapist to work in a way that allows a wonderful range of unknown possibilities to arise, rather than directing actions based on an expected outcome.
I explained to her that when I felt an emotion of discomfort or displeasure, I let myself feel it. I experience the emotion and any of the sensations it created in my body. Then I made myself yawn to trigger the relaxation processes in my nervous system. With practice I found the sensations and the emotions of displeasure just lost their potency as my attention turned inward. The nervous system "metabolised" the chemicals that created those sudden emotions.
If I couldn't diffuse my feelings in this gentle way, I would tell my husband what I was feeling about any change. Using another Ortho-Bionomy principle: Exaggerating what is, rather than persisting in trying to force a change in my emotions, I talked about "what is." I did this then, and still do this. I don't tell him how I think it should be done, just that seeing him do it differently brought those emotions up. Naming the emotion helps it "shift."

In a treatment session it is really observable the way change can arise for a client more easily when we become less intent on "fixing" and more broad in focus. i.e. get out of the way. I think it is because humans are such beings of connection.
We can feel when someone is emotionally intense, in our space. When we feel that intensity,our nervous system is not fully able to shift towards it's restorative processes, because we feel a bit "restricted" by the intensity. For a therapist to maintain contact but take a deep breath/heavy sigh, and physically shift their body to give more space to the client(rather than leaning in and intently focusing) it can allow a freedom and safety in which the client can recalibrate and restore.
Give it a try when you find yourself getting really intense about something you can't change......




The Value of Exaggerating, and Giving, Comfort.

Recently I worked with an elderley gentleman, who taught me a lot. When he made his appointment he mentioned he had some concerns with aches and pains and stiffness. But when he completed his intake form, he described that his main reason for visiting me was to see if we could give him relief from anxiety that had plagued him all his adult life. He specifically felt easily embarassed in many social situations.

As I began to work with his body, checking movement and asking his preferences for comfortable movement, he spoke a little about an abusive and dysfunctional childhood. He suddenly seemed surprised he had spoken about such issues, saying he didn't know where that had come from and that he usually would not speak so candidly to a "stranger." He seemed embarassed in that moment.
I am not a counsellor, but asked if he had spoken to any mental health professionals over his life. He had done so, but he found talking about his life to strangers was embarassing for him and generally didn't continue.

It seemed appropriate to explain to him that held emotions, those not able to be expressed verbally or physically, can become "trapped" in the body tissues. They are little collections of biochemicals. Bringing his attention to what he was noticing in his body, as he experienced those emotions, allowed his nervous sytem to begin the process of moving those emotions through.....metabolising them. He was doing that with his words. I suggested that he not continue to talk about anything that made him uncomfortable, but that if any need to do so arose, with Ortho-Bionomy we could explore any sensations he may feel in his body associated with emotions that arose. Leaving the past in the past, but letting the emotions associated process through bodywork.

Then he said something that really struck a cord with me. He said, "Well it's really nice to be asked what feels comfortable, and then to have you do more of it. That is a really different experience for me."
At that point, I understood a deeper value of exaggerating what feels comfortable to the client. This principle of Ortho-Bionomy is a major aspect to all treatments. It works with, rather than against, structural patterns the body is currently displaying. That way it directly gives the nervous system information upon which reorganisation can occurr in the tissues. Exaggerating current body patterns also feels supportive and comfortable, letting the body relax, shift gears towards the restorative parasympathetic nervous system allowing structural change to happen as relaxation ripples through the body....sigh....
Each of those is really beneficial when a client lives with anxiety.

But I realised at that moment that giving the client the opportunity to notice, choose comfort, and then validating the client's preference by giving more comfort, allows a process to follow through that many people, and trauma survivors, have not been able to experience......often don't feel they deserve.
It did seem the case in this instance. It was nice to work in a way that enriched him.




The gentle power of our corrective pathways.

There are many times when clients arrive in my clinic saying: " well I had a problem when I booked this appointment but I feel a lot better now!"
That's the amazing power of self-correction, folks.

Self-correction is a naturally occurring set of processes, within the nervous system, that automatically "activate" when there is injury or structural imbalance, or disease.
These processes reorganise the body towards it's best and most efficient way of being, both physically and emotionally. The natural mechanisms of the body.
After any strain, injury, or when the body structure becomes out of balance, the processes are automatically triggered.
It's the way in which tissue repairs in just the right way eg. when we injure our skin, new skin tissue regrows because the surrounding area carries that blueprint. Likewise when we break a bone the nervous system knows to replace the damage and undertake the repair with new bone tissue because that's the tissue blueprint around the damaged area.

Sometimes though, lifestyle reduces access to those self-corrective processes. Things like repetative strain, postural overuse, chronic injury and even aging, can all reduce the body's capacity to remember how to access self correction.
But because the nervous system is always looking for the most efficient pathway of "being," gentle reminders can begin the process.
Making a phone call to book an appointment with a therapist, which has previously helped to resolve an issue, can be enough of a reminder to begin the self-corrective process.

While it can seem like magic, it really is the powerful medicine within our own body.




Surrendering as a Therapist

I have really noticed the value, for therapists, to have some regular work themselves. Being in the same position our clients place themselves in, with us, is a wonderful opportunity to experience things from their perspective.

Further benefits are, of course, the structural balancing, improved movement, pain reduction and overall improved functionality that comes with regular therapy.
But I experience therapists sometimes wanting to direct their own received sessions. It is a shame, because I think one of the real benefits of having a treatment is to allow yourself to be fully absent, as a therapist, and fully present, as a client.

This allows the hypervigilance that can arise when, as a therapist, you are watching your therapist's technique..... Perhaps noticing that they have, or not, moved as quickly to an area as you might have, worked in the way you would work, or bringing other expectations to the treatment.

Sure, it is important to give feedback. But such a vital part of any therapy session is to allow yourself to feel safe in the hands of another person. Noticing how you are responding to the treatment is a valuable tool to bring to the treatments you then give your clients. This also means your body can move to its restorative parasympathetic space, rather than being in a sympathetic fight/flight state of vigilance. That is not a place in which restoration and repair happen easily.




"Meeting" People, creating change.

There are so very many opinions, views and understandings in the world at present, around the cause, effect, and management of the coronavirus "pandemic."
Having just recently re-opened my clinic, again spending periods of time with clients, there is a lot of conversation in this regard.

I notice that very often my view differs from that of my client and, obviously, vice versa. When conversation about potentially volatile issues begins, I find the principles of Ortho-Bionomy provide me with a guide to navigate the "terrain" of the interaction. Specifically principles of not using pain/force to treat pain/force, softening around the sensitive/tender points, less is more, and moving with the energy of another, rather than opposing/resisting it.
In this regard, I simply consider a different view to my own to be an opposing force. When I meet an opposing force, IF I push back at it (in this case by arguing, or in any way being aggresively challenging) that force is likely to push back just as hard, if not harder. A circumstance is potentially likely to arise that will not allow for any positive outcome.

So rather than meet opinions that differ from my own with resistance, or feeling triggered to respond and force my own opinion, I "soften" around the sensitivity and just listen. I listen with an intent to really hear any information that might assist me to inform my own opinions. I believe, contrary to a common "catch cry" "the science," any science, is anything but settled, because that is the nature of science........theories continuing to evolve as new data arises. I can always learn, and I do this by hearing ALL the data with an open mind, rather than a mind that is "made up" and not open to continued evolution. And that is EXACTLY the environment in which new ideas can arise for me/them, and inform my/their understandings and views.

By providing a period of listening, and allowing a person to trully be heard, I find the environment may then be available to gently offer my own thoughts.....if I choose to. It becomes a respectful exchange of ideas. How my ideas are "heard" is not within my control, but by allowing the person I am speaking with the space to be fully heard, I can offer my views in a more personalised way because I have insight into that person's world view, their levels of understanding, and their willingness to consider a different view. I become aware of how much or how little information may be appropriate, if any at all. Less may be more appropriate.

It is very much like exploring the movement patterns of a person's body, moving within their zone of comfort, so as to trigger a comfortable, managable response....rather than fight/flight/freeze! Attempting to "overpower" or "win" will rarely create lasting change.

Providing, or receiving, information in a way that meets a person's world view and understandings, can encourage them/me to want to continue to explore and perhaps evolve within their/my views. It allows opportunity for exploring new ideas, from the safety of the current platform of awareness. Information gathered in this way can provide potential for permanent change.

If you're serious about wanting to create change in the world, Ortho-Bionomy can show you the way.



Thoughts on WiFi

Recently I have been interested with all the concerns about 5G WiFi. There has been speculation in these Covid-19 days about the 5G connection to creation and spread of the virus. I am not a qualified physicist, physician, toxicologist, or immunologist, so I don't have an opinion on that. There isn't enough evidence for me to form an opinion.

5G WiFi is the most recent version of wifi communications.
Like all radiation outside the visible (light and colour) spectrum, wifi is invisible and travels in waves. It is pulse-like, emanating from a source.
The number of waves per second is defined as the "frequency." Generally wifi frequency is measured in Giga hertz per second (Ghz or just "G" these days.)
3G and 4G wifi are high frequency non-ionising radiation. 5G is ultra-high frequency non-ionising radiation. Developers of all wifi networks assure us that tests have been done, and wifi poses no measurable harm to our bodies.
But for study, and well informed opinion in that regard, there is an equally well-informed opinion to the contrary.

What I do consider myself to have expertise in is the way the human nervous system operates, in regard to the way our bodies self-correct.
Our physical bodies are fuelled by chemical and electrical energy. We are very complex electromagnetic beings. Nerve impulses, that drive all movement and function, are a complex combination of chemical reactions and electrical changes across the membranes of neurons.....together this creates transmission along nerve(neural)pathways.
Our nervous systems respond to subtle stimuli from both our internal and external environments. One of the many ways our bodies respond is with reorganisation and regeneration at both cellular and multi-cellular levels. There is "vibration," a contant movement of, and between, all the cells in the body. This "communication" allows quick responses when we come in contact with internal or external events.

Scientists are now aware that even outside of the body, on the skin and beyond for several feet, extends the individually unique "microbiome."
This is a bacterial "cloud" that is specific for each individual. It makes contact, shares parts of itself with the world(and other microbiomes) around us, and informs and interacts with our inner body in ways we are only beginning to understand. How amazing is that!

All of these scientifically known aspects of our bodies are invisible, like wifi. Their effect is unmeasurable in daily existence, except in a qualitative way.......noticable after the event.
My understanding tells me that our systems operate and track data on such sensitive levels, long term continuous exposure to electromagnetic waves at a high or ultra-high frequency, will be "noticed" by our bodies. Wifi will interact, in some way, with these subtle aspects of our being.

I understand we have amazing nervous systems and immune systems, that are designed to allow our bodies to meet bio-incompatible events contantly, and recover.
Wi-Fi has been in our lives since 1997. On the one hand that's a relatively short time. On the other hand, it is long enough that subtle immeasurable(but possibly cumulative) biological changes in the human body will likely not be attributed to it. We have been exposed to increasing amounts and frequency in that time. I, or anyone else, do not truly know how our systems may be affected long term.
Humans have proven, time and again, it would have been safer to exercise caution in the moment, rather than hindsight.
Based on that, I've done a lot of my own research about wifi over time, and I've come to believe that there is enough credible evidence for me to want to reduce the duration of, and proximity to, my exposure.

I LOVE the reach wifi allows we humans to have with eachother. I LOVE the ability to research and communicate with the whole world. And in times like this, wifi allows families and loved ones to be in touch ....at least virtually. It seems here to stay, and my hope is that our systems can organise around it. But it cannot hurt to take some simple steps to reduce my risk:
1. I turn all modems and internet connections off when I sleep....PC, phones, laptops. This gives the body a chance to mitigate the effects of exposure. I've noticed since doing this I sleep so much better!
2. I never carry an internet-connected device in my pocket. This limits the dose of radiation my body is exposed to. There is evidence to suggest proximity increases exposure.
3. I always use speaker phone on my mobile, so I don't hold the phone next to my head, also to limit the dose of radiation my body is exposed to.
4. I always aim to stay hydrated and drink lots of clean, chemical free water. I do this because the body's largest organ is fascia, the connective tissue matrix throught the whole body. (See September 2018 blog post for more about the properties and capacities of fascia.) Fascia is largely a fluid matrix, and has an "intelligence" based upon very subtle movement. Because of the fluid nature of fascia I believe, of all the organs in the body, the electromagnetic waves/pulse of wifi have a potential to disrupt the biology, and function, of fascia.
5. I use inexpensive "sacred geometry" devices to dampen the EMF fields around my devices when in use. You can purchase very expensive dampeners, but that's not my choice.

Simple steps, that may make a big difference.



And now we're in Lock Down. "Being" vs "Doing." A "Pandemic Ponderings" follow-on

At present there is plenty of time for me to ponder, and I'm just allowing myself to freely do so. In a time of social distancing, spending a lot of time physically alone, self-compassion is more important then ever. Exploring what arises in that compassionate space is really valuable.

Our society has become really focused on the quantitative (numbers and amounts) aspects of existence. For many it is at the expense of those subtle, qualitative aspects...... simple experiences like smelling the roses, feeling the breeze on your face, the earth beneath your feet, or getting lost in the music.
Achieving and attainment of material possessions have become, for many, the focus and measure of success.
We've become kind of focused on "doing" and not very skilled (or comfortable) at "being."

But it is when we are simply "being" that our nervous system is able to "shift," and access it's restorative/healing capacities. In this state all the organ systems have the opportunity to regain their best function, and we become renewed, the mind rests. It is also a time when we are best able to process "held" emotions in our bodies, allowing their impact to resolve without effort. This doesn't happen when we are busily "doing."

If practicing "being" is a new concept for you, and you'd like to explore it, its best to begin with small steps.

Start with just a few minutes....and be compassionate with yourself when your mind "wanders."

Lie comfortably with whatever support feels fabulous. Pillows, bolster under knees, hands gently resting on your lower ribs, a cover if it's cool.
Close your eyes.
Systematically notice each area of contact your body has with the support underneath you.....from head...... to toes.
Notice whether each area feels relaxed.
Notice whether each side of the body feels the same, or if there is tension held somewhere.
But "do" nothing, just notice and "be."
This allows your nervous system to notice what the current physical state is, and this activates self-correcting processes......something you can't see, or even feel in the moment.
But you will subtly notice when things just "feel better."
This mindful practice, a couple of times each day, is like a reset. The equivalent of "turning it off" and "turning it on" again. We all know how well that works!



Pandemic Ponderings

This weekend, as the World Health Organisation has designated pandemic status to the novel Corona virus, Covid-19, I spent time researching and considering the best way forward for me and my family, my practice and my place in the community.
In this blog I am sharing the pathway that makes most sense for me. At a time when there is a lot of fear in the community, I prefer to calmly gather reliable information and decide on a way forward. I know that calm action quietens the fight/flight/freeze aspect of the nervous system, allowing healing properties within the rest/restore aspect to support my body.

Because I work in a clinic setting with my clients, spending upwards of an hour with each, there will be a likely possibility of me having exposure to the virus in the coming weeks. And of course if I become infected, there is a possibility I could pass it on. Either of these could occur through no fault on either part, in the 24 to 48 hours before a person becomes symptomatic, but is infectious.
The virus is spread by droplet infection i.e. if an infected person sneezes or coughs in a way that would allow viral particles to enter another person's mouth, nose or eyes. The viral particles can also survive for varying periods of time on the hands, or if they land on surfaces. So touching an "infected" surface, then touching the eyes, mouth, or nose can spread infection.
This is the reason I believe it is likely most of the Australia population will contract Covid-19.
So it is realistic that I consider possibilities.

AT THIS TIME, the data conveyed via government website information and fact sheets, is that the people most at risk of needing hospital care should they become infected, are people with cardiopulmonary(heart or lung) diseases or weaknesses, weakened immune systems(perhaps on chemotherapy treatments or other immune compromising drugs), and those with diabetes.
It makes most sense to me to advise clients with these conditions to consider this risk, before attending my clinic, or in fact going into the wider community, for their own safety. I will do all I can to make them safe, but there is still risk.

My plan is 2-fold. Firstly to practice hygiene as directed by the medical experts, secondly to support my body's natural immunity such that I will have a milder infection, recover more quickly, and so develop immune factors that will limit reinfection. At present health experts think reinfection is unlikely, but there is no certainty as yet.
By supporting my own immune system health, hopefully avoiding the need for medical services, it will allow those who most need medical/hospital support to have it.

I am very aware that our bodies have an inherent ability to heal themselves. The human immune sytem is an amazingly complex feat of biochemical engineering, designed to combat diseases such as this, and I am pleased to find there is a lot we can do to enhance its processes.
I feel fortunate to have found I already have many supportive behaviours in place.

So, here are the ways I plan to support my immune system, and mitigate spread of this virus, through this time:

1. Using a natural soap, washing my hands after every treatment, and before and after eating and asking clients to wash their hands on arrival. Soap dissolves the fat membrane surrounding each virus, causing it fall apart- becoming inactive. Here's a link to the science of this process: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/12/science-soap-kills-coronavirus-alcohol-based-disinfectants
2. Using natural soap solution to wipe all face and hand contact surfaces after each treatment.
3. Maintaining a healthy diet and paying particular attention to plenty of Vit C and Vit D opportunities. Both these vitamins play important roles in the immune process, and in creation of vital biochemicals in that process.
Vit C is found in many fruits eg. citrus, tomatoes, blackcurrents, berries, kiwifruit, and vegetables eg. brocolli, brussels sprouts, leafy greens, parsley.
Vit D can be found in oily fish, but it can be a challenge to consume enough Vit D daily. The best source of Vit D is found in your own body. Yep. In the presence of direct sunshine, UVB rays from the sun convert 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC), a substance present in our skin, into pre-vitamin D3. The liver does the rest. Most people can manage to create the daily requirement of Vit D with 10 minutes of sun exposure per day. So no need to get sunburnt! The most effective time to maximise UVB exposure is any time your shadow is "shorter" than your body. So a little fresh air and sunshine is on the menu.
4. Practice finding calmness, in what is at present, a fear-filled world. When I went to the supermarket this morning there were a lot of "hurried" fearful people. I found it most effective to give them space and walk slowly after them. When we purposefully slow down our movement, and even our breathing, we begin to shift our system away from sympathetic (fight/flight/freeze) to parasympathetic (rest/restore/digest.) All our body repair and recovery systems work most efficiently in this state. I find meditation and yoga really effective tools in this regard. I also find doing something I find really joyous a help ....gardening, watching a movie, reading....finding balance between the "busyness" and the resting and giving my system the chance to recover, supporting my immune response.
5. Exercise. Our bodies work most efficiently when we move. They are dynamic, interconnected processes and movement streamlines those connections. External movement accomodates the movement of fluids, within our bodies, that carry nutrients and immune factors to where they are needed; and waste products away from the sight of disease and tissue injury.
6. Rest. It is when we rest, generally at night, that our body recovers from the daily demands we place on it. Adequate function, requires adequate rest. At times when disease is prevalent in a community, this is really vital to remember.
7. Hydration. Our system is comprised, to a very large degree, of fluid. Healthy, filtered where possible, water is an essential part of each cell and the overall elimination process to remove toxins from the body. I aim for 2 litres per day

I am not an expert by any means. But based on the current knowledge we have on this virus it makes sense to do what I can to minimise the excessive demand it might put on the health system by accessing what I know my body has available.



My own evolvement around "Holding Space"

A year ago I wrote about "holding space" for clients, and the way the Ortho-Bionomy principles provide that in a session. In the last 12 months I have found myself really evolving with this concept, and wanted to share that growth and expansion and what I now want to bring forth in my practice.

In Ortho-Bionomy, I use gentle specific movement and positioning to give information to the client's nervous system, in a way that activates the body's natural self-healing processes. The way this happens will be unique from person to person. But it happens most effectively when clients feel physically and emotionally safe, supported and at ease.
In Ortho-Bionomy I achieve this in the way I talk with clients, contact their body with soft open hands, move people into and out of positional release positions, the pace at which I interact and the time I spend providing periods of stillness, encouraging and allowing the client to feel their own internal processes.
It is trully different for each client.
Equally the principles guide me not to use painful techniques, nor to use force, which triggers the protective fight/flight/ freeze mechanisms. All of these ways of interacting with my clients help create safety for them, both physically and emotionally.

Current research from both a pain science and psychological perspective have found that creating safety is one of the most important things you can do for a client.
Lorimer Mosely, a physiotherapist who has spent the last 15 years looking at how pain works, coined the acronym DIM SIM.
DIM stands for danger in me, which increases the intensity of pain.
SIM stands for safety in me, which Moseley found decreased the intensity of pain.
From a psychological perspective the research finds providing a safe space allows traumatised clients to feel safe enough to allow change to occur. They call this therapeutic presence.

What we do in Ortho-Bionomy can be divided into two distinct but intimately related parts:
firstly,the techniques we use provide the nervous system with new information about the imbalance that may be creating pain or dysfunction.
secondly, creating safety which allows the body to create the internal environment to initiate proceses, to use that information so change can occur.
Sometimes new information is the most important part, and in this case the body changes as soon as the nervous system understands the dysfunction.
But when the system is highly traumatised (emotionally or physically )it can be more useful to create a sense of safety, allowing the internal environment to shift from the fight/flight/freeze aspect of the nervous system towards it's rest/restore aspect.
This is what I find myself becoming more and more aware of in my treatments. There are times when it feels more helpful to assist a client to simply find a comfortable position, and then I hold an awareness of myself, the client, and the space between us, with no expectation on the client. My hands may or may not be in contact, depending on what feels more comfortable for the client. For many people this is a space that is often not available in the hectic lives we navigate. But it is a space which allows the safety for a person to feel unhurried, supported, with no demands upon them. In that space, the parasympathetic nervous system can fully bring self-corrective capacities to life.
This is a space I find joy in providing, in each and every treatment, and I have pondered how to encourage people to explore this space more fully as regular maintenance.

I guess my answers will unfold at the right time and pace.



Connecting Mind and Body

Today I worked with a client I have been working with who has lived with trauma and anxiety for many years. My client describes it as "brain function" issues, though no physical evidence has been found. She describes it as: "I know when I am triggered, and I know the panic isn't rational, but I cannot think or speak coherently to anyone around me, or calm myself, when I am "in it." It feels like I am drowning."

This is a fight/flight response of the nervous system. This pathway, within the nervous system, is in place for self protection, no thinking needed.
It is a relevant response of the hind brain, such that when confronted with a threat we are able to simply and quickly respond by fighting, running away to a safe place, or freezing.
The rationalising, planning processes of the frontal aspects of our brain are overriden.....because thinking would slow us down, and put us in further danger.

But for some people, due to certain events in their lives, almost everything feels like a threat and that process becomes really easily triggered.

This response often directs whether my client feels able to walk out of the door in the morning, or choose to stay safely at home instead. My client has done many years of "talk therapy, and in the last few months began to feel that some bodywork may assist. The fact that Ortho-Bionomy works with the nervous system appealed.

The range of ways to interact, which Ortho-Bionomy makes available, means sometimes we work on the body structure/joints and bones, somtimes the soft tissues, sometimes the body fluids.....and other times any body work may feel "too much" for someone living with trauma. My client, today, felt overwhelmed with even gentle open handed touch and support.
So today we worked with the non-physical, and I simply created a safe space for my client to be within, by being calm and accepting of the state my client was in.
At times I suggested some movement options that didn't require my physical support....bringing my client into the body if/as it was comfortable.
That's what we did today.

Respect and non-force create a very safe space for people when working with contact. But not applying my direct touch is as equally useful sometimes as supplying physical support, and in this case was most supportive because it respected the need to feel safe! Today, touch didn't feel safe for this client but my presence and allowing did.

If my client became triggered/panicked by an emotion, I asked where it felt best for me to be in the room, and I encouraged my client to describe the emotion and notice where the emotion may be "felt" as a sensation in the body.
We have, over the last generation or two, begun to interchange the word "emotion" for the word "feeling." But they are very different qualities. An emotion results when there is a cascade of chemicals that create a mood and state of mind. And a "feeling" is a physical sensation. But emotions will always create a "feeling" in the body. Most people will be aware of anxiety at times causing eg. nausea, neck pain, low back ache, headache, muscular tension.
So a "feeling" is the sensation that arises from the emotion. The feeling is the physical manifestation of the emotion.

In this process, my client was able to have opportunity to connect the emotion(the mind) with the sensation it evoked(the body.) These 2 simple steps, done over and over as emotions arose, allowed my client to feel safe to connect her mind/emotion to her body/physical sensation. Together, they begin to grow communication pathways within the brain that allow people to organise around, and build a resilience to, the trauma response....... over time lessening the intensity of it.

Using body focused work to treat trauma and anxiety..



Purposeful Movement

There is an element of truth to the old adage "move it or lose it."

We have movement receptors in our bodies that carry information, about the way our body is moving, to our nervous system. These receptors are called proprioceptors, and those proprioceptors that keep a continuous report on the position of limbs are the muscle spindles and tendon organs. Using this information, the body undertakes processes towards self-correction. This allows reorganising within the body's tissues to gain more functional movement. If we don't move, for any reason, information is not as easily relayed about the state of the body. Self-correction becomes less efficient.

Something else happens when we don't move too......In my blog post, "Fabulous Fascia" September 2018, I talked about Fascia. Fascia is the amazing type of connective tissue that creates internal integrity inside our bodies. Fascia envelopes, and provides support for organs, and soft tissues within the body. It holds things "in place." It has been found that fascia responds to any stress upon the body, physical, environmental or psychological. Eg. Maintaining a closed or forward hunched posture will signal fascia on the front of the body to produce more fibres, in an effort to provide support that will reduce muscle exertion in an area...so poor posture becomes reinforced and chronic. When the body remains in a closed postural position, OR DOES NOT MOVE, for extended times, overlying sheets of fascia adhere to each other, and movement becomes extremely restricted. So body movement both allows the body to best access it's processes of self-recovery AND reduces the processes that restrict freedom of movement.

How much movement?

Exercise, in all it's forms, is wonderful for our bodies. Most people will acknowledge that, and a good percentage of people would exercise for an hour or two several days per week. But the movement I am talking about here is the regular non-exertive full body motion which our body should easily be capable of.

This is not always available for people because so many professions create the need to sit/stand in one position for long periods. So I suggest to my clients that they "listen" to their body and move when their body begins to feel the need to do so so. When you are required, perhaps at work, to be in one position for long periods I suggest to move when your body begins to feel stiff, pressured or sore. It sounds like common sense, but often the need to "just finish this first" overrides that!

The movement I suggest could simply be in the form of taking a walk to the bathroom or going to get a drink of water. You may have the freedom to walk for five minutes....perfect! But it should involve your whole body, upper and lower, travelling slowly. Legs moving slowly and arms slowly swinging by your sides and hips and torso gently rotating a little as you go. When you do this many things happen. Two of the most important things that happen are that you acknowledge discomfort, and you give the proprioceptors(those movement gathering receptors) information by which the body can return to balance, before the self-corrective pathways become less clear, AND before the fascia begins to hold things out of balance.



Pushing the Edges

Because I talk about Ortho-Bionomy using comfort and ease to treat pain and imbalance, sometimes people think I mean our whole life should strive towards comfort and ease.

In this blog I wanted to clarify some thoughts on that.

The body is a system that is designed to move. External body movement creates internal organ movement that drives the processes of our metabolism. And as we move, we move structurally in and out of balance. The parasympathetic nervous system, one of the (2)aspects of the autonomic nervous sytem, has processes in place that gather, organise and forward information to the tissues to biochemically create states of correction and repair. These processes assist the body to return to balanced state, or neutral, from which we can launch into action that will take us out of balance once again. All this happens without us having to "do" anything consciously. It is this process through which we repair and recover when injured, sick, or strained. In regard to movement, we move out of structural alignment very, very often, and it is these parasympathetic processes that allow the body to structurally realign.....before we move out of balance again. Such a perfect system!

Sometimes, due to injury, postural strain, inability to move, or age these self-correcting processes don't work as efficiently.

In Ortho-Bionomy treatment we move the body in ways which give information to the nervous system to trigger the self-correcting processes. Because we are working with the nervous system, we do this gently because it is sensitive and there is no need for force. So it is not painful. We use comfort or ease to treat pain. This process, in an Ortho-Bionomy treatment is very different to physically challenging a healthy, capable body.

I think safely challenging the body, or mind, in daily life by "pushing the edges" of possibility, exercises and activates the self-corrective processes. This allows them to become more effective. It has been, historically, by exploring the edges of possibility that our species has evolved and perpetuated. But when there is injury or structural imbalance, I believe the best treatment involves using comfort to shift the system away from fight/flight, allowing the restorative part of the nervous system to do the healing.



More thoughts on Pain

We have sensory receptors in our bodies that carry information, about the state of our body, to our brain. With that information the brain makes the decision to experience specific sensation, pain at times, or not. This sensation experience allows us to relevant action.

The sensation the brain chooses to "tell" us to experience/feel is based upon so many factors.....past experiences, the threat the se may have to life, comparisons to other incoming sensory information, the overall physical state of the body, past emotional experience in respect to that sensation,the current emotional state of the body, the current emotional state of others involved....and so much more. This can explain why some people have different experiences when faced with the same injury or physical experience.

This awareness came to mind, when a client I work with recently spoke with me about her parent who has terminal cancer. They believe he has only a short while to live, the cancer has spread throughout internal organs and he has begun to refuse to eat food. The Dr expected he would be in a lot of pain. But on speaking to him, his only experience was loss of appetite. Perhaps that was the most appropriate sensation required, based on all factors?



Taking the Pathway of Most Ease

In Ortho-Bionomy there is as much focus on Practitioner comfort as there is on client comfort. Everything from the way the practitioner stands, to the way they support the client physically in positions that will release tension and enhance structural balance.

Ortho-Bionomy practitioners use their hands to provide open handed support, rather than "gripping" to move the client's body. Try this difference for yourself by really firmly gripping one of your forearms with the opposite hand, and lifting the forearm. What can you feel with the fingertips of your gripping hand? Now release the grip and gently, with your hand open, rest one hand under the forearm of the other and lift the forearm without gripping. Do you have more sensation in the fingertips and palm of the lifting hand?

This aspect of ease and relationship, with the client, is one of the things that really attracted me to Ortho-Bionomy.

To make contact with a client, physically or emotionally, from a place of comfort and ease is also a noticeably different experience for the client than spending time with a therapist who is tired or uncomfortable as a result of effort and exerting. When a therapist is at ease, they are able to notice more accurately what is happening in the client's body and so more adequately meet the client's needs. Having a treatment, or even just spending time, with a calm person, is noticeably more effective in reducing anxiety and tension.



Sometimes things just aren't ready to change.

Clients notice that sometimes issues resolve quickly for them, and at other times it will require a series of visits for an issue to resolve/improve. People wonder, and ask, why?

The body, and it's structure, are different from moment to moment. Posturally we move in and out of balance, some stabilising patterns activating and others "switching off," as we work and play. A sore shoulder may be the result of issues in the shoulder tissues. Or a sore shoulder may be a compensatory pattern arising from a rotation in the pelvis, a rib out of alignment, or some other structural imbalance.
If that is the case, the driving pattern might not be ready to release/let go, until compensatory patterns release.
This can certainly be the case if a problem has been in place for a long period of time. The nervous system may even consider the longstanding problematic structural conditions to be "normal." In fact there may be many compensatory patterns occuring in the body to stabilise around a long held imbalance. More visits may be required in this case, because the body needs to "unlearn" before it can "remember."

In an Ortho-Bionomy treatment I move the body in ways that stimulate the nervous system toward structural change, and give the space for releases occur at the rate at which the nervous system can manage change.
It is this individual capacity, unique in each person from one treatment to the next, that will determine the outcome of any treatment.

But the nervous system will reach a point at which it just can't take in any new information, in that session. If this is the case I might notice, as I track responses to the work I am doing, that change is no longer happening in the client's body. At that point, if I continue, there is the possibility the system will become overwhelmed. This can result in fatique or pain, as the body resists more change until it has integrated information already given.
So we stop, allowing time for integration to happen. I will give the client some gentle self-care practice to assist integration of the changes, and encourage another visit in a week or so.

The next visit will be different, because the client's system will be different.



The impact of belief

"Your vertabra are crumbling"

"You have irreversible degeneration in your spine"

"You'll end up in a wheelchair by the time you are 50"

"You need to be careful"

"You need to protect your back"

So many clients tell me they have been told versions of all these phrases. They feel shocked, fearful, finally many retreat from life.
But so much evidence is coming out that pathologies in the structure do not always indicate that there will be pain, dysfunction or a reduced quality of life. Have a look at the link on my May 2019 blog post. Causing people to fear their body, and how they move, will often have a more detrimental impact on their health, wellbeing and life than any pathology ever will.

The reason goes back to the nervous system, and it's biology.
The autonomic nervous system(the part that manages emotional, organic and chemical functions within the body) in humans has 2 aspects: (1) Fight/flight/freeze and (2) Rest/restore/digest.

When the fight/flight aspect is triggered it shifts us into sympathetic nervous system activity. Our heart beats faster, we breathe rapidly, our blood glucose rises...essentially we are prepped to take flight or take up the fight. This is not the part of the nervous system where the restorative capacities exist. They exist in the parasympathetic aspect of the nervous system.
Our system is designed to shift via the processes of an amazing pathway, the vagus nerve, from sympathetic to parasympathetic as we exist and navigate through life. Fight/flight equipping us to face challenges in the most appropriate and necessary ways. This is fueled by the body's chemicals, adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals raise blood sugar, heart rate, breathing rate and equip us for "battle." After "battle" the vagus nerve shifts us back to the rest and restore mode of the parasympathetic nervous system, so we can recover.

Can you imagine what happens at a nervous system level when a person is in pain, and told news such as any of the above, by their health professional? Already in pain and now with the added fear of diagnosis, their system shifts and continues to be in fight/flight... until it moves to the extreme of fight/flight...freeze. Fearful to move for fear of pain, or further damage.
Sure, there may by a need to modify certain activity, but presentation of the news could be done in such a way as to provide hopeful ways forward, rather than conveying the belief there is no way forward! Mood, frame of mind, plays such a huge role in any form of recovery or management. At the end of the day, sticks and stones may break bones but words can hurt forever.


Pain and the Brain

This week I had the opportunity to work with some women who are currently being supported by a family support and counselling service. They meet fortnightly to support each other, and explore avenues of self-care.
These brave women have encountered a range of relationship issues, including some that have left them living with trauma, and raising families as single parents.
I was invited to facilitate an Ortho-Bionomy self-care class for the group.
This presented an opportunity for the individuals attending to focus on their body exploring positions that let them experience comfort in the physical body, and notice how that led to a wonderful sense of relaxation, further leading to an easing of their individual aches and pains.

This is the basis of Ortho-Bionomy, because we know that finding supported, comfortable ease within the body "switches on" the "rest and restore" aspect of the nervous system, while quieting the "fight or flight or freeze" aspect, triggered by trauma. This allows structural and emotion balance to arise. The women attending embraced and enjoyed the class, and left with a sense of peace, and some "tools" to help them in their day to day life.

Many doctors and psychotherapists are now acknowledging this correlation between held emotions and pain.
Dr Howard Schubiner is a clinician, author and researcher who has conducted ground-breaking research on a treatment plan that can resolve, rather than manage, chronic pain. His work is based on the understanding that chronic pain, that often has no sound medical cause, can be directly connected to past incidents or life experiences that triggered physical or emotional discomfort. The nervous system, and the pain pathways, can become sensitised and more easily triggered when emotions are held, rather than released.

Connecting the mind to the body, through methods like Ortho-Bionomy that encourage people to consciously notice and connect to their body, can be enough to inform the nervous system and reorganise the pain pathways.
Here is a link to one of his talks on this subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VyH1laOd2M Really exciting!


A Different Type of Touch

A client recently told me a story of how, after experiencing what we did in one of her sessions, she asked her mum to "hold her ribs." To her that's what I seemed to be doing in our treatment. She told me that it feels so good when we work there in an Ortho-Bionomy session when her ribs feel tight. She is an asthmatic. But she was disappointed that it just felt "pokey" and it hurt when her Mum did similar! She had to ask her to stop, and there was no reduction in her pain afterwards. She asked: "Why is it different when you do it?"

Right there she had acknowledged the essence of an Ortho-Bionomy session. So much happens but it's all out of sight. What are we doing in that space?

I could talk in anatomical terms, but she isn't a scientist, so here is what we spoke about....
I explained that the difference she experienced was an awareness, by people trained in Ortho-Bionomy, to hold in just the right way, by approaching at just the right pace, with just the right pressure, for just the right amount of time, with hands that are open and feeling broadly connected and supportive of the body. And then to let the client return to a resting position in a timing that matches every aspect of their being.
Anything that doesn't meet the client by way of timing, pressure, attention to the client's mood, doesn't create as useful of an environment to stimulate self-correcting receptors in the joints, muscles, and tendons. So that self correction can begin, and for change to follow. Creating pain or discomfort activates the pain receptors and they are a lot "louder" and given a lot more attention by the nervous system, than the self-corrective receptors. If the pain receptors are triggered a lot of opportunity for self correction is lost.
It just doesn't feel nice.


The Sustainability of Ortho-Bionomy

With so much at stake in bringing health back to the only world we can live on, I feel really passionate about the way Ortho-Bionomy principles and techniques provide a sustainable method of treatment. Just a few examples off the top of my head:

* There are no products required in providing an Ortho-Bionomy treatment, so there are no non-biodegradable waste products.

* Ortho-Bionomy uses the naturally correcting biological processes within our own nervous system......limitless and without harmful side effects!

* Ortho-Bionomy is calming and balancing on the nervous system so recipients tread so much more lightly on the earth after a treatment practice.

* Working with the nervous system, the body's control centre, is really efficient and effective. So much less need for pharmaceuticals and less impact of their toxic by-products on the atmosphere and earth's water table.

* With less pain, improved nervous system function and clear thinking, perhaps more tolerance and less turmoil will prevail in local, and global, relationships.

* Demonstrating working without force, is a fabulous model for everyone to see.

The answers are within us, Ortho-Bionomy allows us clear thinking to access them.


Holding Space

You'll know if you've read previous blogs I have written, Ortho-Bionomy treatment is directed by a set of principles.

These principles guide the work I do, whether exploring aspects of the physical body or working to support the emotional or energetic aspects of the client.
The principles of Ortho-Bionomy are:

- Not to use force to oppose conditions occurring in the body, but rather to use techniques to allow the client to have an authentic experience of the body condition.

- To do less to allow the client's body the opportunity to do more. This allows the system to reorganise at it's own pace.

- Not to use pain to treat pain.

- To have no attachment, or agenda, towards a specific outcome. Once you think you know the answer, you will work towards it, only, limiting all the other possibilities that can arise.

These principles guide Ortho-Bionomy Practitioners in all aspects of interaction from the purely physical, to the emotional, and when working in the energetic/auric.
This might be by gently exaggerating a tension pattern in the body, or moving the body in a way that softens tight restricted areas. In this way the nervous system, always gathering information to find balance and stability, can become aware of the body's current state. From there the nervous system has a place from which to naturally find it's most most effective state, at its own pace.
In this world of "quick fix" thinking, this can feel like "taking the pressure off."

When working with a focus on the emotional or energetic aspects these principles, allow a person to have an experience of themself and their condition, in their own time and way.
This is sometimes termed "holding space," and other methods of therapy and interaction have adopted this term as well.

I'd like to talk about how significantly special holding space, using these Ortho-Bionomy principles can be, for another. I believe it is often the most significant aspect of any Ortho-Bionomy treatment.

These days there is often a real discomfort when we are in the company of someone who is suffering with physical or emotional pain, grief, sadness, emptiness, or any perceived "negative" state. Anything less than "happy and light-hearted" is considered damaged or broken....needing to be "fixed" as soon as possible. Many modalities have this as the aim.
In Ortho-Bionomy we don't "fix." Rather we support the physical body in a way that gives it an authentic experience of itself. This allows the nervous system to clarify what the imbalance is, physical and/or emotional, and so using the naturally occuring self-corrective capacities, find the pathway to self recovery. This allows the body to find it's more permanent resource.

And so it is with emotional discomfort. Coaxing another to "cheer up," or "look at the positive side of things," or "stop feeling so sad," or even suggesting that it's ok because "it is all happening for a reason" may seem like you are being supportive. But most often it is driven by our own discomfort in sitting with theirs. And often they feel like they are being forced emotionally, when they don't actually have a pathway along which to make that emotional shift.
So it can be more helpful to sit with them, supporting physically or emotionally, from a place of non-judgement and quiet allowing. Listening to hear them, but not to suggest action. Doing less, to allow their system to do more. Perhaps modelling a patience and tolerant space. Not using force to treat pain. With no attachment to a specific outcome.

Holding space for them to emotionally reorganise at their own pace, in their own time.


A comment on evidence based practice Vs natural therapies.

I don't post about this much, I prefer to put my attention towards the great outcomes my work with clients can have, rather than any limitations imposed upon it.

In April 2019 many age old, very effective natural therapies will no longer be rebateable via health funds. The federal government will not only discontinue the subsidy it provided health funds so they could do this, but the government has disallowed rebates for these services entirely. Such services include hoeopathy, naturopathy, kinesiology, bowen therapy, western herbalism, aromatherapy, alexander technique...and there are others.
Slowly, over just the last 100 years "evidence based" demand has become a requirement of "appropriate" healthcare.

Standards set to achieve "evidence based" status are difficult for natural therapies to meet in studies. Many natural therapies are qualitative, results, data and outcomes not "measurable" and "comparable" across the large sample groups required.... And studies are expensive, mostly outside the budget of natural healthcare. I suppose they could seek funding from the pharmaceutical industry. haha!

I will say Ortho-Bionomy treatment is not health fund rebateable. Our organisation is not large enough, or old enough to have that option. I guess that means clients are not choosing it, or being driven there, by a rebate. People choose it as therapy often because they have tried susidised or rebateable therapies to no avail, or they are reluctant to continue treating their condition with painful, forceful therapy. Some clients can't articulate why they continue visits after their condition improves other than "I just feel better when I have regular OB."
But natural health care IS MY choice of self care. I feel for the homeopaths, bowen therapists, and kinesiologists that I choose to maintain my health. I'm not in a health fund, I prefer to spend my dollars on organic produce and the costs that I incur to follow a healthy lifestyle.

I have great faith in modern medicine to treat trauma really effectively, and feel fortunate to live in a country where I have access to free/medicare'd hospital care and subsidised GP. Definitely my first port of call in an acute emergency. But for everything other that acute trauma I choose natural medicine/ therapy.
But many people might not choose natural treatments once rebates are removed. Cost and perceived efficacy may drive them away. That makes me sad, because these businesses that offer such great service may suffer in the short term. I hope they can hang on.

I also feel this is just the first step. They may have strong Associations with lobbying power, but remedial massage, chiropractic, osteopathy and other allied health services will probably meet the same fate in the future. Driving forces are gathering momentum.

The Australian Govt......aiming to take away choices for subsidised and rebateable health care options.

I remain curious though....without options for rebate on many natural therapies, I guess now we will know if people's choices are guided by outcomes. If there is no change, but less cost or full payment and improvement, what will people choose? Or will our community get even more unwell?

This link is a good read about the process here, and in some other places in the world:
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-21/schwager-war-against-natural-medicine/3840682?fbclid=IwAR2WKlcpoRKcuenMFI7Cie_8DJPkJRYjmYx-NNhZ1TXNCh8mUPFDBjdnZlI


Just the right amount of information at just the right pace.

One of the principles we are guided by in Ortho-Bionomy is to "Do less, to allow the client's body to do more for itself."
To the client it can appear practitioners of Ortho-Bionomy are doing nothing at all in a treatment. I have had people say how astounded they are at the profound outcome they notice after a treatment because "you didn't seem to be doing anything!"

Sure we move the body around, and wait for periods of time before moving on, but what are we "doing?"
The answer is LOTS! Practitioners are "tracking" responses in the client's body. Responses that convey information about what, when and how the client's body is responding to the stimulus we are giving the body, in the form of gentle movement, slight compression, traction or structural support.

In response to the stimulus given, the client's body can respond in many ways......

- It might relax such that the tissues soften, creating space that feels like the body pushes back out toward the practitioner;

- Ligaments might recoil to regain their natural tone, and that might feel to the practitioner like the tissues are moving inwards, toward the client's body;

- The client's system might shift into parasympathetic or "rest and restore," and the client might yawn, their digestive system "gurgle," tension patterns relax, or they might sigh deeply;

- There might be a shift in the client's "mood" that can be observed or "palpable;"

- Or the Practitioner might feel a shift in their own state, through the connectivity we establish when we work with the client.

An Ortho-Bionomy Practitioner will pay attention for any, or all, of these responses. These are the clues that the client's body is beginning to connect with their naturally occuring self-corrective processes.
We work with the nervous system, allowing it to gain information. We support the body as it begins to re-educate. The aim is to show the body, let it receive the information it had "forgotten," perhaps due to injury, postural strain or dysfunction, and then let the body do the work it was meant to.... self-correct.

By tracking the client's responses to the information we are giving their body, we allow the right amount of information to be given to allow this re-education process, at the client's own pace, without controlling or forcing change. By tracking we know when to allow the client's body to do it's own work, and move on to another area of the body to explore further cnnections. Every client is different, their processes unique, and by tracking we seek to meet that for them.
It is the client's "self"-corrective process we are exploring, after all, not the "practitioner"-corrective process.


The "Follow On."

So often clients come into the clinic with aches, pains or limitations in movement. They, naturally, have an expectation that those aches or pains will lessen and that their movement will become more fluid and free.
More often than not, over a series of treatments, we are able to find the best way to work together to awaken self corrective capacities, gently assist the body structure(bones, muscles, ligaments) to find some organisational balance, and the outcome they hoped for eventuates.
And then there's the "Follow on"......

As the great psychiatrist Milton Erickson said, "once you kick the log, the river will start flowing." No "kicking" occurs in an Ortho-Bionomy session, but for several days after an Ortho-Bionomy session the body continues to reorganise. We refer to this as the "follow on." The muscles and tissues soften. This creates space in the joints. Life sustaining fluids(blood, lymph, marrow) carrying hormones, nutrients, waste products of metabolism, are more able to flow....improving function in the body. Internal organs have more space and functionality improves.

If clients continue to visit for maintenance sessions, I often notice the "follow on" goes way beyond the body itself though. An effectively functioning body, pain and dysfunction reduced, allows the nervous system to more easily shift from fight/flight/freeze and find balance in rest/restore/calm.
It could simply be that being in a calmer state makes one "nicer" to be around, so creates better outcomes in the world around you. It's my belief, that we are energetically connected to all life and that as the mind and body reorganise, so the world around us does, after an Ortho-Bionomy session. I've observed clients describe the way workplaces become easier, interactions more genuine, and relationships more positive after some gentle Ortho-Bionomy.



Balance is just a place we visit.

When a person is in pain, and seeking relief, there is often a LOT of focus on the painful area and fixing the structural issue.
That's understandable. The aim is to reduce the pain, and most often the expectation is that if some part of the body is not "in place" it needs to be "encouraged" to be so..... to remove the pain.

Some modalities and therapies do this with a level of force, and others are more gentle.

But I think the aspect of Ortho-Bionomy, that sets it most apart from other therapies, is that Practitioners don't have a focus on fixing the structural issue directly.
Rather we focus on exploring the most appropriate ways of informing the nervous system about how it can find structural balance.
I believe this is a more sustainable practice, because the body is not a static system. There is always a necessary level of motion in the body.....microscopic, or macroscopic. Life takes us out of structural balance with every movement. But the self-correcting capacities in the nervous system allow us to reorganise and recover, in the next moment.

The self-correcting receptors in the nervous system are naturally stimulated through movement of the body. Normal movement, in everyday tasks, is most often enough to stimulate self correction, before any chronic issues arise.

Sometimes the system becomes confused though.
Injury, postural or repetitive strain, age, or any inability to be active can all create limited movement. Thus leading to a reduced ability within the body to self-correct.
In Ortho-Bionomy we use the same natural movement of the body, something the nervous system recognises and is familiar with, to remind the system of the self-corrective process.
We support and monitor the body as this process takes place.

The nervous system generally grasps this familiar information quickly. Meaning that it can soon return to it's most effective state, and repeat that process again and again as we move in and out of balance during work and play.

Simply "fixing an imbalance" is not enduring.
But educating the body, via the nervous system, to remind it of it's natural capacity to self-correct each and every time....that's enduring.


When did we stop seeking comfort, and begin to think pain was a better option for treating pain?

I was preparing to teach a class a few days ago, and in considering how to teach my students the way we use our hands to assess structural imbalances in Ortho-Bionomy, I thought how much the Ortho-Bionomy touch is like the way we hold a newborn baby.

When a baby is held it is with soft open hands, gently molding to the shape of the baby's body. It's not a "gripping" forceful touch. This softness gives the baby the sense of security and support, without restriction and limitation of movement.
People will often even say they notice how soft the baby's skin is, the temperature of their skin, perhaps its smoothness....that is all possible with relaxed open hands.
But it would not be possible to notice that if your hands were gripping. When we grip it becomes all about the "hold" and not about the contact and the information that contact can convey to both the giver and the receiver.

That gripped, forceful way is how many other treatments are delivered to people in pain...and often the way people expect, and even sometimes prefer, to be contacted.

The way we hold a baby is very much the way a Practitioner contacts the client's body during an Ortho-Bionomy treatment.
Broad, open, though deliberate touch gives a lot of information to the practitioner, allowing appropriate needs to be noticed, and treatment to be delivered to best meet the client's needs. And it also conveys a sense of safety and support to the client, as well as letting the client notice how their body feels.
Feeling safe and supported allows the client's nervous system to access self correcting processes in the nervous system. If a client doesn't feel safe, these processes are less accessible, if at all.

So I wonder at what life stage it begins to be "ok" to be held in an uncomfortable way?


How can something as effective as Ortho-Bionomy be so gentle?

People are often surprised how a treatment as gentle as Ortho-Bionomy, in application, can be so effective. Most Ortho-Bionomy practitioners would have been told by a client that they left their first session feeling like the practitioner "did nothing." But, over the next day or two, big changes arose in their body!
How does that happen?

This is how I explain this circumstance to people...
We live in a society in which we are not encouraged to pay attention to how our body physically feels, as long as it serves our purposes. i.e. unless there is pain or immobility that prevents us from doing some activity. Anything less than pain, or perhaps indeed extreme pleasure, doesn't get our attention. But to keep us in balance our amazing body is constantly reorganizing as we move in and out of what is the best physical position for us. Recovering from excessive stretch and strain from our physical activity.
We sit at computers for hours on end, in positions that create postural strain; we dig ditches or lay pavers, or bricks, bent forward putting pressure on our backs for long periods of time; we use repetitive movements because we specialise in our work (and play) to such an extent that often our bodies only experience a very small range of possible movement.
Then, when we rest or sleep, the remarkable self correcting processes of our parasympathetic nervous system reorganize the tissues and joints such that we wake the next day able to do it all again.

The process is called homeostasis, well known to science in regard to biochemical pathways in the body that maintain functionality of our organ systems. Maintaining fluid balance, salt and blood sugar regulation, hormonal balance etc. This is a process through which our bones, muscles and connective tissues find structural balance as well.
This process isn't painful or forceful. It happens "under the radar" of our awareness. It doesn't wake you up as it happens.
This is the platform into which Ortho-Bionomy gives the body information- the parasympathetic nervous system. We use methods that gently stimulate the self-corrective processes of the parasympathetic nervous system... in the joints, tendons and muscles. These processes may have become inaccessible to the nervous system through postural strain, injury, aging...

That's why Ortho-Bionomy treatment doesn't need to be painful. When you give information directly to the "control centre" it is a really efficient way to treat people. In fact, creating pain or using force will likely trigger the fight/ flight response, shifting the body away from parasympathetic and the capacity to heal.


Fabulous Fascia

Maintaining our upright stance is an amazing feat of structural engineering. We may think that we are standing still, or sitting still, but what is actually occuring are a continuous series of adjustments to maintain stability. This is necessary because there are heavier structures, on the top of the body, balanced atop the fairly narrow base of our feet. Our bones and joints provide the capacity for us to have structure and movement, but their rigid nature doesn't provide true stability against the pulls of gravity as we move.
So it is the system of, what are often referred to as, "guy ropes" that provide the stability for us to find the balance to remain upright. This system includes the muscles, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue within the body. Under the control of the nervous system these tissues are making many adjustments each second to create balance and keep us upright so we don't just topple over.

Connective tissue is the general term for the continuum of tissue that surrounds, separates, and supports our inner body organs and tissues, connecting them to the bones and to adjacent structures. It is only in the last century that science has become interested in connective tissue. Previously, Anatomists simply removed it to study the muscles, nerves and organs within it. Connective tissue is composed of a fluid matrix, known as "ground substance," that can be more or less viscous, depending on the demands we put upon it. Protein fibres, within the ground substance, provide structure within this fluid matrix. When denser connective tissue is needed, e.g. when a wound repair is required, the ground substance produces more protein fibres to close the wound and protect the area as it heals.

It seems crazy that connective tissue historically received so little attention because without it, our internal body would have no integrity. Organs, and bones would be at the mercy of gravity. We would not be upright beings.
Specialised connective tissues include ligaments, which connect bones to bones, and tendons which connect muscles to bone. The delicate tissues that envelope and support the brain and spinal cord, the meninges, are also a type of connective tissue. Even our bones are a mineralised form of connective tissue. The tubing around the nerves and blood vessels, and the sheets of tissue around our internal organs are also a specialised type of connective tissue called Fascia.

Fascia is amazing!
It doesn't just envelope organs, it permeates them to give containment, support and integrity to them. In the heart it provides separation to each of the chambers of the heart so they can work together, but independently.
At a cellular level, fascia forms containers for every cell, and on a multicellular level our internal body is a 3-dimensional web of fascia with compartments for all our organs and muscles.

Fascia is strong and supportive, but equally fluid and mobile. Adjacent areas of fascia form cohesive sheets to provide an internal continuum from the top of our head to the soles of our feet. This allows tissues throughout our entire body, to be continuous. Movement and function in one area affects, via the system of fascia, any and all other areas. Fascia provides a communication network throughout the body, distinctive from the communication and feedback of other body systems. The ground substance has a liquid crystalline composition so it conducts bioelectric currents. Body positions that create both stretching and shortening will send currents through fascia that will signal it to change its state. It is only in recent times that scientists have begun to understand fascia and this "intelligence."
It has been found that fascia responds to any stress upon the body, physical, environmental or psychological. Eg. Maintaining a closed or forward hunched posture will signal fascia on the front of the body to produce more fibres, in an effort to provide support that will reduce muscle exertion in an area...so poor posture becomes chronic. When the body remains in a closed postural position for extended times, overlying sheets of fascia adhere to each other, movement becoming extremely restricted. In this case, the level of adhesion that occurs is often beyond being "stretched out." Conventional bodywork therapies work with the bones or the muscles and are often ineffective at accessing the level of adhesion that can occur in the fascia.
In Ortho-Bionomy we have developed ways we to gently work with the fascial tension patterns, giving the system information about the directions of tension and adhesion, which assists the system to unwind the layers. If you have long term postural patterns Ortho-Bionomy is a gentle, supportive way to make permanent changes.


Making Permanent Change

There are two ways that people use Ortho-Bionomy (or other modalities).

One way is to have a treatment when the pain exceeds their ability to function. This might reduce the pain for a short time. But, if pain, structural imbalance and dysfunction have been a concern for a while, it is often not enough to change the underlying structural system while trying to relieve strong pain.

The second way is to have treatment to resolve the pain (often this takes from 1-3 treatments of Ortho-Bionomy) then to have a few more treatments so the practitioner can do some postural re-education work with you. The postural work will help the body re-organise around the structural changes that occur during treatment, and move forward with new, more functionally stable patterns.

Our body's natural self-correcting processes are activated through movement, and when that movement has been coming from a place of structural imbalance, the body needs some "re-education" to make the new patterns permanent.
Postural re-education is the best value body work you can get. The more aligned your skeletal system the less load there is on the muscles when you stand or move.
In Ortho-Bionomy treatment there are never any painful techniques or forced manipulations needed to change the posture because we work directly with the nervous system, making it more efficient than other forceful modalities.....no "middle man" eg. the muscles, or bones. We work with the postural patterns, instead of against them; stimulate the self corrective capacities in the joint capsule and muscle belly; and literally watch the body re-organise. Gentle for the client, and the practitioner.
A little additional postural work can make long lasting changes.


Working with Different Aspects- meeting clients where they are

Clients come to bodywork Practitioners with a variety of needs.
In Ortho-Bionomy we give information to the nervous system that supports the body, all aspects of the body, to self-regulate. This can be very helpful when the system has been physically traumatised eg. post surgically. This is because after this kind of trauma, though often life-savingly necessary, the body will be in "fight/flight and the self-regulation aspect of the nervous system is not fully available.

An example of this was a client who contacted me, a week after an emergency hysterectomy.
She was experiencing a lot of back pain. The surgeon had suggested it was quite normal, and likely referred from her abdomen. Though her surgery was a long one, her surgeon assured her that her back had not been compromised nor injured during the surgery. She wasn't able to drive or sit in the car even as a passenger, and she was a client I knew, so I was happy to visit her at home.

The beauty of Ortho-Bionomy is that we can modify how we work to specifically meet a person's needs and capacities i.e. she couldn't possibly get up on a treament table or even sit for any length of time, I also needed to be comfortable to best be "available," and her injuries were largely her internal tissues rather than her outer structures. So we worked on her spare bed, me sitting beside her with a pillow behind me for support, and she lying on her back and then on her side.

In this instance I knew that her body would be working to repair the tissues in her pelvis. The uterus(now removed) has a lot of connective tissue attachment to the sacrum and all the other pelvic organs, and those organs now needed to reorganise without the physical support of her uterus. Pain and discomfort would certainly result from this.
Using gentle methods that give the body information about where the tissues were, and weren't, would assist the areas to reorganise and recover. Allowing her pelvis to form new realtionships with remaining organs would be a help in recovery.

For her it felt like I gently lay my hands on different parts of her pelvis, and gave some comfort. For me I noticed tissue movement patterns under my hands and supported these until her body gave responses, via the parasympathetic nervous system, to indicate the tissues were reorganising within.
Because her body was already working hard to restore, a half an hour felt like enough time for her treatment.

She phoned the next day to say her pain had reduced by 80%.
I love this work. Less is always more, and to work with the movement patterns in the viscera( internal tissues) the same principles apply as when we work on the structure...... even though the technique is even more gentle.


Less is More, in my Practice.

As my understanding of Ortho-Bionomy deepens, I really notice I "do" such a lot less, as a Practitioner, in a treatment.
I have a sense that rather than any intensity of focus on an issue, I am more curiously exploring, gently moving the clients body this way and that. Gently awakening and informing the self corrective processes within the client's nervous system.

Considering "doing less," that old paradigm of "value for money" arises in me for the client. And yet positive outcomes arise. So value certainly!

When I sit with these thoughts, I realise I am attentive to the client, but to a much more broad version of the client.
Feeling not just the part of their body my hand supports, but the energetic vibration or charge in the room as we talk, shifts in mood, how I shift with that mood, becoming aware that releases are happening or have happened and moving onto areas I acknowledge as unrelated to the presenting issue, but simultaneously knowing that it's right to do that.

What I've come to understand is that when you tightly hold a singly focused space, with an expectation for change to happen right there, you can't be aware of all the other aspects of a person.
Holding a broad awareness feels so much more allowing for all sorts of reorganizing to arise within the client's body. Changes in the tissues of the joints, muscles, bones, fluids and the energetics of the body. All are interrelated, this "connects to that".....
I notice that I feel aware of where I am working in the client's body, but simultaneously by broadening my field of awareness, I notice connection at all levels.

Sometimes it's helpful to notice how my body feels in relationship to what may be occurring for the client.
When I do that I'm reminded of Victor Frankel's well known quote: "The interface between is where existence happens."

So I feel really in touch with the Ortho-Bionomy principle of "less is more" these days.... "doing" a lot less, and yet knowing this is simultaneously allowing the space for such a lot more to arise within the client. That is what makes Ortho-Bionomy so unique as a way of working with the body.

Having too much specific "intention" puts the nervous system "in tension," perhaps limiting possible outcomes.


The Ortho-Bionomy Difference

I have been seeing a client for her current issues for about 2 months. She visits 2-3 weekly as her schedule allows.

Through an initial impact injury, she developed a condition that resulted in consultation with her GP and subsequently being under the combined care of an orthopaedic surgeon, a hematologist, and a physiotherapist. Surgery, after other issues subside, is ahead.

My client is a health professional and works with her hands, and has been unable to work for 4 months.
Currently she has a referral to a rheumatologist because, though having certainty about some of her issues through medical imaging and blood testing, none of the medical specialists are really sure why a debilitating degree of pain has developed in certain joints.
Each specialist focuses on their area of expertise...the blood, the joints, the muscles.

At our last session she commented that the other treatments are all quite painful in delivery, and all leave her with more pain. But that in our treatments together, I rarely cause any discomfort and afterwards she feels relief for a few days, and very relaxed.
I thought about this remark, and compared what we do in Ortho-Bionomy to the other very qualified practitioners.

In contrast to the other specialists, my specialty area was "her."
Her condition was unique each time she came to my clinic, and so my practice in Ortho-Bionomy, checking in with her and meeting her where it seemed most effective, was also unique.
Letting her body's responses be the guide.
Also not being attached to specific outcomes, so as not to limit the possibilities that could arise through the treatment.
Sometimes that would mean I gave attention to the bones, sometimes muscles, lymph, and sometimes in the energetics and emotions. At her last visit we used Ortho-Bionomy principles to explore her biome...her "microbial signature." Each time giving her body information about its current state, to assist reorganization and recovery.
Rather than working "on" I was working "with" her body and all its aspects. Quite special work we do in Ortho-Bionomy really, and seemingly limitless.


How Ortho-Bionomy can assist trauma recovery

In Bessel Van Der Kolk's book "The Body Keeps the Score," he outlines his decades of research, and findings, as a psychologist working with trauma and PTSD patients.
Explaining that to access full recovery it is most effective for a somatic (body focused, as distinct from the purely psychological) approach to be incorporated:
"The act of telling the story doesn't necessarily alter the automatic physical and hormonal responses of bodies that remain in hypervigilant, prepared to be assaulted or violated at any time. For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger had passed and to live in the reality of the present. Our search to understand trauma had led us to think differently not only about the structure of the mind but also about the processes by which it heals."

There are several reasons Ortho-Bionomy can be a useful treatment, along with regular counselling with a qualified counselling professional, for people existing with a background of emotional or physical trauma:

In an Ortho-Bionomy session clients remain clothed and the practitioner interacts with the body's natural self-corrective processes, located within the nervous system through gentle, directed movements. Treatment actually stimulates the parasympathetic, or "rest and restore", component of the autonomic nervous system and consequently balances, or rests down, the "fight or flight" component.
This means that a sense of relaxation can develop for the client throughout the treatment.

During the treatment the Practitioner supports the client's body in a safe, open handed, and deliberate way as they move the client's body into release positions specific to the client's structural needs. This gives the client a physical opportunity to experience being contacted in a safe, supported way. Allowing people existing with trauma to experience, and begin to re-learn, there can be safe contact. The capacity to seek, feel, and learn to respond to safe, loving contact is a neural pathway within our brains and generally begins to develop in infancy through our parents safe touch. When people have experienced trauma, that pathway can become inaccessible as all roads lead to self preservation and a state of hypervigilance and constant "fight or flight" prevails. Modern science is now acknowledging this process can recover through safe, supported embodied experiences.

In cases of trauma, when certain audio, visual or sensory triggers readily cause a "fight flight" response, orientation of space and time can be compromised. To a trauma survivor it can suddenly seem they have transported back in time. In Ortho-Bionomy we might use a method of isometrics to help the client explore and identify patterns of joint movement that exist in their body. This allows clients to orientate their position in space and time.

Within the nervous system there is a relationship between the physical and mental/emotional systems. Just as you might feel it as tension, tightness or nausea in your body physically when you are stressed, science now understands that we also hold emotions we don't always want to experience, in the physical body as tension or sometimes pain. Mostly we aren't aware of this.
In an Ortho-Bionomy treatment, the Practitioner assists the client to mindfully notice what is happening in their body. As the body's structure is supported to gently realign, building this awareness between mind and body can allow these held emotions to release an pain can resolve.

Ortho-Bionomy can provide a physical aspect to trauma management, to support the emotional counselling a client may be having with their health professional.


A complimentary stress management tool for you:

The stress response occurs in our body as the adrenal glands release adrenaline, then cortisole, into the blood stream to trigger the very useful fight or flight response. That's meant to happen for a short while, prepare us to "deal", then dissipate and allow the system to return to neutrality. Sometimes whatever is causing the stress can be constant and cortisole continues to be released........maintaining the stress response. Unpleasant and exhausting!

The adrenal glands are located very close to the diaphragm muscle( important to our breathing) and cause it to hold a contraction that can exacerbate the problem by creating an environment that only allows shallow breathing. ......also stressful to the body!

If you can't make it in for an Ortho-Bionomy treament
try this neat trick to break the cycle a little and relax the nervous sytem:

Sit or lie comfortably and quietly
Just tune in to your breathing, rest your hands on your lower ribs, and notice the rib cage rise and fall as you breathe. Stay with me, it will get more interesting 😊.........
On an outward breath, when you think you've exhaled as far as you usually do, exhale a little more.....and then a little more. Essentially exaggerate the outbreath.
Then inhale, and let the breathe just rush in as fast and full as it wants
Breathe in and out at your normal pace for 3 or 4 breaths.
When you feel ready exaggerate the the outbreath once again. Keping hands broad, not pokey, you can gently slightly push the lower ribs towards the back if you like. That will create a further exaggeration.
But only do this gently
Repeat this process for 6 cycles
Repeat as necessary

This method uses an Ortho-Bionomy principle referred to as "exaggerating what is."
In this case exaggerating the diaphragm tightness, which triggers the self corrective response in the nervous system, to relax the muscle. In this case allowing more air to inhale as well.

If you can make it in for a treatment, Ortho-Bionomy can greatly assist the nervous system to rest down.


Playing with the Principles of Ortho- Bionomy

No Attachment to a Specific Outcome:

In an Ortho-Bionomy treatment it is more effective to be mindful of how limiting to the client an anticipated outcome may be. It will very likely limit the practitioner’s focus, and also limit the information a broader exploration would give the client’s system. Sometimes an area of the body doesn’t have the capacity to change at the time of the session. It can mean that something else needs to change, to allow the area to release.

A client might present with a sore, stiff neck. Naturally the practitioner would want to ease pain in the neck. But on working with the neck for a while there might not be noticeable change. Rather than persisting, and possibly overworking the neck, it might be more useful for the practitioner to look further afield. The Practitioner might ask: "Where can the body respond?" Neck and shoulder issues are often strongly influenced by the pelvis and lumbar spine shape. Exploring patterns and releases there may allow space for changes to occur further up the spine. So it is more effective to be open in focus.

This translates into our personal posture and stability as well. A broader focus of all parts of the body, rather than just what is directly at the front of the body, benefits our structure and in turn all our body's functions.

A way to play with this principle:

A simple example for me is the yogic pose, half moon pose. It's a pose that requires stabilising on one foot and leg, as you bend sideways and bring the other leg, and upper body, at right angles to the stabilising leg. If all my focus is on the stabilising foot, I often fall over. But when I take my focus more broadly and have a broader sense of the space behind my back, and through my shoulders at the same time as giving the stabilising leg and foot attention, I achieve a stable pose.

This is great in any activity, walking, running, climbing because a broader focus will give you more openness, stability and better function in all body systems.
Give it a try…...from time to time become aware of the space around the sides and the back of your body, and notice how different it feels.

This open focus, and non attachment to specific outcomes provides benefits in the greater scheme of life too.

It's great to have goals in life, to work towards. But sometimes, becoming too focused on a particular outcome exclusive to all else, might actually limit achieving the goal in the fullest of ways. Because you might not notice the dalliances along the way that would bring much more to your life. Try holding a space for the goal, with a broader mindset so as to notice other opportunities along the way. The goal may even modify as you go, or become something different, or become a series of really uniquely wonderful independent outcomes. Living with the principle of having no attachment to outcomes, allows space for EVERYTHING. One can become limitless.


Playing with the Principles of Ortho- Bionomy

No pain to release pain:

In Ortho-Bionomy we look for what feels more comfortable, rather than creating more pain, for the following reasons:

The position of comfort gives us some idea of the patterns of contraction in the client's body. For example, if the right side of the body is contracted more than the left, there will be less pain, and the client will feel more comfortable, bending to the right. That's what we would do in an Ortho-Bionomy treatment.
The pain receptors are much ‘louder’ than the self corrective or proprioceptive receptors. For that reason the nervous system pays them a lot more attention. So in order to get the most efficient communication with the brainstem, it is important to minimise pain so that the proprioceptive receptors, and the information they bring, can be “heard.” .
When a person is made more comfortable they relax. When the body relaxes things can change quicker throughout the whole system. This increases the effectiveness of the treatment and reduces the chance of pain after the session. This doesn't mean there is no pain at all, sometimes clients have conditions that even hurt when they breathe so there is no way around it, but our aim is to find more comfort or better movement capacity for all of the above reasons. It simply instinctive for people to want to give comfort in times of pain. Mums instinctively “kiss the hurt better.” You often want to give a hug to a friend in emotional pain or suffering. When someone falls, it is a human urge to offer support or help.

A way to play with this principle:

As well as in a treatment, this is also an effective way to interact with situations (or sometimes people) that create emotional pain in us.
Often an unkind act or thoughtless comment will cause emotional pain that will make us want to give pain right back to that person. In return they may do the same, and before you know it there is an ongoing action of retaliation and attack. Sounds like any war humanity has ever endured!
Treating pain with pain, will never result in comfort, it becomes all about the pain.
So how might you stop treating this type of emotional pain with pain? What would be a more effective treatment? Each case will be different..........
Sometimes a smile, a nod, a look of understanding, a kind word of understanding, speaking softly rather than shouting (especially if they shout) deflecting, ignoring, walking away, simply holding an awareness and practice of NOT RESPONDING to pain/negativity with pain.
There is also the chance that you might then model behaviour that will be followed. Pretty soon the pain pattern can dissipate.
Historically this has been a way to change thinking, and suppression, in a culture. John Lennon, Gandi, meeting pain or aggression with calm and peace. The aggressor has no frame of reference, needs to rethink themselves, can’t fight when there is no attack. I do believe it is our humanity’s way forward.


Playing with the Principles of Ortho-Bionomy

Less is more:

In Ortho-Bionomy our aim, when working with a client, is to do less to initiate self-corrective reflexes. This is so we allow the client can do more for themselves. Engaging the self-corrective processes of the client’s body is the most efficient way to change the system. By working with the nervous system, information can be supplied to the body in its own language, and then the nervous system can follow on with the corrective processes. The nervous system can however, be overwhelmed by too much information, which can result in confusion. There is a point where the body has had enough and needs to rest to integrate. When the nervous system is overstimulated the body will start to resist and overwork symptoms like aching and pain can result. So it is really important to notice when the body has “had enough.” In an Ortho-Bionomy treatment Practitioners track the body's releases, and become aware when the nervous system stops responding in a variety of ways. This principle of “less is more” applies beyond the bodywork though. It's a valuable tool to notice when we are overdoing anything. Most people have experienced overdoing in exercise, eating, drinking alcohol, sleeping, etc.I don't need to discuss consequences there.

A way to play with this principle:


Less is more is also a useful principle to consider when we are interacting with others. In human relationships each person brings something to every interaction in the relationship. When one person constantly brings more, expecting more to “happen” or a “better outcome” there can be disappointment when nothing happens, or the outcome isn't better. You could consider the relationship to be the body, and the people in it to be body parts. The relationship may be feeling overworked, confused and unable to integrate the overdoing! The people in the confused relationship can't play in harmony….. Sometimes frustration will arise….maybe blaming…….then surprise on the part of the other(s) in the relationship….. If this seems to be arising, maybe that's a perfect time to begin to apply the “less is more” principle. Check in with yourself and notice what motivates you in any interaction. If you notice yourself thinking “this doesn't seem to be working, I'll be more accommodating…... use more effort to please….. spend more money on them……. give more of myself in whatever way I already have been……..there must be more I can do” it could be a great time to give “less is more” a try instead. More of something that's not working possibly isn't the answer. So try doing less. Play with doing less, and just being with your feelings and what you've already done, and allow the relationship to evolve around that. See what arises, and how this gives space for the other(s) in the interaction to be a little “more,” and maybe have a chance to bring more to the interaction.

If we universally played with “less is more” each human might have the opportunity to develop to their full potential. Feel good about themselves, with clarity in their relationships. I wonder if the planet would benefit from a humanity of people all able to be in their full potential? Interested in playing with “less is more?”


Playing with the Principles of Ortho-Bionomy


Exaggeration of the preferred position:

In Ortho-Bionomy the way we assist the body to self-correct is to exaggerate what the body is currently doing, rather than trying to force sudden change upon it. Often that will just meet with resistance. If a muscle is tight or contracted, we explore ways that passively shorten the muscle further, exaggerate the contracted state, and support the muscle in that position. This will generally feel really comfortable for a client. This triggers the proprioceptive/self-correcting reflexes in the muscle belly, tendons, or nearby joint capsule, allowing the muscle contraction to release and the muscle to lengthen. Try this for yourself by lying on the floor and slowly rotating your head to the left and then the right. Which way does it prefer or rotate to more easily? Turn to the preferred side and place one hand on the upper side of your face to support the position, so your neck muscles are not engaged and can relax into the position. Try this on tight hamstrings (the muscles at the back of your thighs). If you have tight hamstrings, exaggerate their shortness by lying on your tummy for a while with your knees bent and feet resting on a chair or the couch. Recheck the tightness after a while. Any tight muscle can be released in this way. Rather than trying to apply force to lengthen, we show the muscle what relaxed feels like, and it can release. But what about beyond the body? Sometimes it’s not in our body we have pain, sometimes it is a result of our external environment. What about exaggerating your preferred place in space and time?

A way to play with this principle:


Find a room you can explore by walking around within it. Slowly walk around the room till you find your most preferred position in the room. It may be the light, the temperature, or just the ease or sense or “rightness” it gives you to be in that spot, as opposed to anywhere else in the room. Once you are there take a little walk around your preferred spot, in a 1 metre wide circle. Explore where you feel most comfortable in that circle, and stay there. Finally on the preferred spot, turn your body on the spot to discover which direction you are most comfortable to face. Exploring your preferred space is a useful tool in new places, or any place you feel uncomfortable, and have the option to explore a position preference. It incorporates “ living in the moment”/mindfulness practice, and the benefits to the brain and nervous system are becoming increasingly well documented. You can also play with exaggerating a preferred position in relationships with others. When you are in close proximity and interacting with another person (friend, colleague, boss, family member, etc) allow yourself to become mindfully aware of how close you prefer, or otherwise, to be to that person. How close or apart do you prefer to be? If you are able to, position yourself at your preferred distance and feel into that preference. If space is limited, or for any reason you are not able to be at your comfortable distance, try changing the position of your body, shifting your weight, or the direction you are facing (slightly)to explore your most preferred position, in relationship to the other person. Noticing and being in a preferred position will leave you feeling at your most comfortable, and assist the interaction between you and the other person. On the planet, if we all explored this, in all our interactions interpersonal tension might minimise. Imagine if we all felt into what was most comfortable, and acted from that platform, rather than being driven by less mindful objectives. Perhaps this practice is a great place to begin. People enjoy being around someone else who is comfortable in their skin, their space, and their environment.