Healing comes from letting there be room for all of "this" to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ~ Pema Chodron
How do you create pain-free movement?
First and most important, find a way to enhance relaxation. Essentially, you are creating the space for healing to happen. If your jaw is tight and you e barely breathing, your whole body is screaming "tension" to your mind, and your brain will respond by tightening your muscles - which can very likely cause more pain. Deep relaxation can begin when you connect with your breath, which is as simple as noticing your inhale and exhale. Is your breath easy? Is it hard or forced? Do you breathe deep into your belly or is your breath restricted to your upper chest? Do you struggle for breath or do you feel each breath moving in and out like gentle waves in the ocean? Are you able to stay with your breath without trying to change it?
Second, nourish healthy movement in your spine. A healthy spine moves well in 5 different directions - forward, backward, side to side, rotating, and extension. If your spine is tight or immobile, it will affect your ability to turn, bend, or reach overhead. Tightness in the spine can limit movement through your joints.
Third, notice how you're moving in your largest joints - your shoulders and hips. Each bone is attached to muscles designed to help it move. When your shoulders and hips are moving well, those muscles are doing their job. If they are weak, injured, tight, or asleep, then other muscles kick in, compensating for lack of functional movement. Pain and tension often result.
Fourth, move your joints in their optimum range of motion. Each joint has its best range of motion. Shoulders and hips are designed to move more than the knee or elbow joints. If you have arthritis, it can slow you down – literally stop your movement. The less you move a joint, the more it will tend to freeze up and become immobile. If one joint is tight and doesn’t move as well, another joint might take over. For example, if your hips are tight, you might compensate with extra movement (and pain!) in the lower back or knee.
Fifth, increase your core stability and remember to breathe. A strong core begins, simply, with the breath. If your breathing is tense or laboured, your core will be tense. As you soften the breath, your diaphragm can relax, and you can begin to deepen the connection to your core. The deep core muscles are stabilizing muscles, and one of the best ways to strengthen them is create core stability - try to hold your pelvis and hips steady when you move your legs – and don’t hold your breath!
Sixth, practice relaxed resilience. Also known as "effortless effort," it is the result of two principles in yoga moving into balance. Sthira, or strength, and sukha, or ease. Think of a willow tree. Strong, yet supple. Moving constantly in the wind, yet firmly rooted. Relaxed resilience starts with the ease you find when your breathing is soft and not forced. Rooting into the ground with your feet, your strength flows out from your spine and strong core, and moves out into the limbs. Stability and fluidity are the result.
Seventh, move in your pain-free range of motion. As pain is something different for each person, this needs some clarification. Distinguish between good pain that feels good, and avoid bad pain that sears and tears and lasts perhaps for days. When you move into bad pain, the rest of your body feels it too. Your jaw might clench or tighten, your breath might feel restricted. Move slowly, boost your core stability and remember to breathe. Move only in your pain-free range and your pain-free range will start to improve. Simple - and it works!
Eighth, is to focus on less is more. Do you think you have to work harder, strain harder, do more, to achieve more? It ain't necessarily so! When you're in pain and want to find strength and flexibility through ease of movement, then baby steps are key. Strain less. Breathe easy. Soften. Breathe some more. Find your edge - that place before pain, where softness and strength meet. Breathe in that place - and watch and feel your body open and soften, without pain.
Don't worry if you think this is a lot to remember - you are not alone! Your nervous system learns what you practise. Practise one or two principles that resonate with you. Gradually add more as you feel comfortable. W hen you're ready, perhaps a private session will help you begin to master the principles so they become embodied (another way of saying "second nature").
Donna offers a holistic perspective on the relationship and healing of physical and emotional pain.