Do you see what I feel?

Have you ever wondered why a client says that they feel straight when they look completely out of alignment? It can be frustrating for a Movement Practitioner to be looking at a client that is clearly twisted and contorted on the table, and they claim to feel evenly weighted and in a straight line. How is this possible? There are a number of factors at play here, and many that we can’t see from the outside. The fact is that both observations are correct. We can clearly see that a client is out of alignment, but what they feel is equally accurate.

The next time you are out in nature, take a look at a big old tree that has clearly weathered a few storms in its lifetime. You will see that the trunk and branches twist and turn, bend and torque as it aims upward towards the sun. Although that tree can look like a twisted mess, it is in perfect balance with weight distributed evenly from side to side. Our bodies are much the same. Here are just a few reasons why:

Center of Gravity
The human body, as in other living and moving things, naturally attempts to stay upright and balanced by distributing weight evenly around the center of gravity. If we shift forward on our feet, we have to shift some part of our body weight backward to keep from falling face first. The same goes for weight shifts to the side and back. Observing a client’s static posture is an interesting analysis of the center of gravity. Each client could have a center of gravity slightly higher or lower, or further backward or forward than another client. Consider height, weight, or the length of the lower limbs compared to the torso. Not to mention, adding the structural effects of injury and dysfunction.

Ingrained patterns that just feel normal
When we see a client for the first time lying on the table in clear imbalance, it is impossible to believe that they can’t feel it. Consider though that this pattern can be deeply ingrained from a very young age. The central nervous system always strives for a sense of equilibrium, and this complex system will send signals for the body to make adjustments to feel as balanced as possible, despite our structural alignment or lack thereof. These patterns can be so deeply ingrained that crooked does feel straight. If the body has not felt something different, what experience would it have to pull from?

Twists and Spirals
The most important factor that dictates whether you can see what the client feels is properly assessing the internal twists and spirals that occur throughout every part of the biomechanical system. Muscles pull bones this way and that to create that sense of alignment that keeps us upright and moving forward in space. We know that wherever there is a joint, there can be some kind of rotation or deviation from neutral alignment, the spine can twist and slide, the femur can rotate inward or outward in the hip as well as over the tibia, the pelvis can tilt and torque, and on and on it goes all the way up and down the chain until we feel somewhat straight. If a client looks straight to you, but feels “a little off” from their perspective, it may be that only they can feel those internal twists, and then what you see and what they feel is once again at odds.

All of this falls into the concept of Spatial Awareness that is learned through movement as we explore the world. The key point here is that it is learned through movement, isn’t this exactly what we teach our clients? We see that the more a client works with us, the more aware they become of their own body, its biomechanical variances, and then they begin to learn how to truly move with more efficiency and balance. The gift that we all aspire to possess is that coveted trained eye that allows us to effectively observe and assess these patterns and deviances, and to make real differences in our clients’ bodies and subsequently, their lives.

Written by

Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute

Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

© 2016. All rights reserved.

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