Do you want to take charge of your health?
Would you like to get back into sports, but are worried about old injuries? Do you want to overcome your stresses, but feel stiff and achy? Or perhaps you have been on a body-mind roller coaster? Good news: to get moving again doesn’t have to hurt.
There’s a few strategies to follow. First, take it easy. Don’t expect to run a marathon or carry a heavy backpack for 20 miles without training. Give your body a chance to get fit. Second, interval training, with short bouts of intense exercise followed by less intense bouts helps build endurance. Third, don’t just do aerobics. Add some strength training. Fourth, do what you love. Whether it is bicycling or gardening, tennis or tango, when you enjoy it, you are more likely to stick with it. The pleasure improves your motivation. And the emotional benefits actually reduce pain!
Did you know that movement even beats ice for injuries? You can use ice for the first day or two. Then the latest scoop is to get moving again as soon as you can. But not to return to full impact sports or intense training until your body completely heals.
Sports Training and Healing
Mental rehearsal and mindfulness are not the new wave in elite sports training. From Olympic gymnasts, to college football, imagery has helped athletes perfect their performance for decades. More recently, we are starting to notice imagery’s benefits for the body’s healing. While people can walk on coals without burning their feet, it takes intense focus. But beneficial brain changes can show up after just 8 weeks mindfulness training. People with Parkinson’s can reduce or overcome their symptoms. Even the placebo effect is evidence of the power of our mind.
Mental imagery–body-mind with purpose
When we mentally rehearse, it creates much of the same body training response as physical training. The Huffington post writes, “Former Olympic gold medal-winning decathlon runner Bruce Jenner once said, ‘You have to train your mind like you train your body.’ He’s echoing an athletic maxim that’s practically a cliché: sports are 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”
The Russians first introduced mental rehearsal by sweeping the Olympic gold medals in gymnastics. Since then, it has been used successfully to win at tennis, alpine skiing, by sprinters, and many more sports.
How does imagined movement train your body when you don’t actually move? Visualization is an advanced training technique in sports psychology. The brain areas that coordinate how you imagine, move, and feel are all connected. They project the movement plans through the nerves to the muscles. They also receive feedback from your body about whether the movement matches the plan. So your brain and body, in a split second, can assess the accuracy of the movement and simultaneously correct it. Thus, the muscles and nerves get trained to match the planning.
From sports to healing–the kinesthetic advantage
Like us, athletes also get hurt. Can those same principles help us heal? The New York Times in Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training gives an example. Emily Cook, of US freestyle ski team states, “One of the most important components of imagery is kinesthetic imagery. Actually feeling your body go through the motions.”
“The psychologist Detling, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, worked with the aerialists here after working with the short-track speedskating team in 2010. Detling has collaborated with Cook since 2002, when Cook was recovering after a crash that left her with broken bones in both feet.
“Imagery has long been one of their focal points, and when Cook was in the midst of an injury layoff that lasted more than two years, she and Detling first used imagery to see and feel her bones heal.”
Are researchers applying this to healing? Yes. More and more. Mirror training and imagined movement are two examples. Researcher Lorimer Moseley developed mirror training to overcome pain in Graded Motor Imagery. It trains your brain with simple exercises.
Other research has used mental imagery to improve recovery after a wrist was in a cast. Their muscles had less atrophy, and regained strength more quickly. The results support what Emily Cook was saying about kinesthetic imagery: not just to imagine a picture of movement, but also feel it happening.
Mindfulness and Body-Mind Healing
However, when we are in pain, or ill, or have experienced trauma, we may have more trouble with focus and concentration. So, rather than wait, how about starting body-mind training now? It’s good practice for any condition.
Look for Tai Chi, yoga, breath work and mindfulness or meditation to relax the body and calm the mind. Then, look for the bonus: they also help to improve focus, reduce anxiety, and relieve depression.
These are also some of the best known benefits of massage and bodywork. Even more, mindful bodywork asks you to focus on sensation and the breath. It’s like meditation and massage rolled into one. You learn to change your experience from the inside.
Healing with Integration Massage
My main bodywork technique is Ortho-Bionomy®. It works with your body in the direction of ease and comfort. As one client states, “It makes me feel more relaxed, and better emotionally.” As the body relaxes out of pain and tension, the mind follows. From that relaxed state, you can project alternatives to the “fight or flight” mode that feeds forward into your life.
A close second for how it helps clients heal is Mindful Awareness in Bodywork Therapies (MABT). Although I had been using mind-body approaches before, MABT unifies many of them. With a gentle touch, I encourage awareness of sensation, movement and breath. It is like mindfulness in the form of healing for people in pain, emotional distress, or suffering from trauma.
As well, I use a variety of other mindfulness practices to help you heal. I encourage mental imagery. I teach you to use your breath to release stress. From Alexander Technique, and Hanna’s Somatics I developed Movement Education. Whether you are a desk worker, or dancer, I always include home exercises. You can reclaim your body, and feel empowered. As much as you release postures that bind you, you also release old beliefs and painful emotions.
Please feel free to leave comments here. Or schedule an appointment: Schedule Appointment or call 503-708-2911. Let’s get moving again!
Ortho-Bionomy® is a registered trademark of the Society of Ortho-Bionomy International, Inc. and is used with permission.