This is the second part of this newsletter. If you want to see Part I, which I sent last week, you can go here.
In last week's newsletter, I talked about my fall horseback riding, and the fact that I had a lot of pain afterwards. If you want to read that newsletter, you can go here
One of the things I said there is that, over the years, I've worked with lots of people who are in pain. Some of them come to see me for lessons a year or two after something traumatic has happened, like a car accident or fall. Though all the obvious injuries have healed, they've been suffering from chronic pain.
That pain is caused by a long-term, unconscious response to the accident that's both emotional and physical. The physical part of their response is in the form of muscle tension: we get tense when we're in pain. Of course, none of us do that on purpose. It's just an instinctive reaction. And yet if we don't become aware of it and address it, it can turn into a habitual pattern. And when that happens, it makes the original pain last a lot longer. Without realizing it, we hold onto the trauma -- or more accurately, we hold onto our response.
I mention all of this because, after I fell, I could tell that things were beginning to go in that direction for me. I noticed that I was responding to the fall, and the ensuing pain, by tensing and holding my whole left side in place. That was especially true of my upper arm and shoulder, which, as I said last week, began to be frozen.
Above all, I realized that, if I didn't address those tendencies right away, and nip them in the bud, they could easily become very well established. So about two or three days after I'd fallen, and after making sure that nothing was broken, I made up my mind that I wasn't going to keep my shoulder and arm immobilized. Even though they hurt a lot, I took off the sling I'd been wearing and began moving them. (Of course, if something had been broken, I would have had to take a very different approach: I would have had to immobilize that area.)
Now the most important thing about my approach, using the Alexander Technique, was not that I began moving my left arm and shoulder, but rather how I was moving them. Before and after each movement, I spent a lot of time working to subtract all the extra tension that had built up. That way, when I did move my arm, I made sure I was moving it with a minimum of tension and effort. At the same time, I was orienting or organizing my head, neck and spine so that they could support the movement of my arm. I even oriented my arm as I moved it.
That orienting or directing part of the practice is difficult to describe in words. It may seem somewhat abstract to you, unless you take some Alexander lessons and actually experience it! But the result of my overall practice – both subtracting tension and organizing my head, neck and spine – was that my arm returned to normal within five or seven days. I was able to let go of my response to the fall before it became habitual. A big relief!
I hope this newsletter finds all of you well!