Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Joy of Movement

One of the most frustrating things I'm finding about my osteoarthritis (OA) is, amazingly, not the daily pain and limitations on movement (although that's bad enough), but the fine line between doing enough and too much.  It's unpredictable on any given day how much will be too much, but I still the need to move and exercise because I know that without it, I will seize up altogether and that will be even more painful. I had some physiotherapy for my knees, which woke me up to the need to strengthen my quad muscles and pay attention to my knee tracking. The Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT) Workshop last year changed my view of somatics from a word which I read and puzzled over, to something real.  It awoke my curiosity in how I and others move and the links between movement and context, environment, emotional and physical states and the senses.  The realisation of how my OA is going to be a permanent feature of my life started a grieving process, of a sort.  Once over the initial upset, I knew I would have to start to listen to my body and rethink movement, learning to move in a different way.

After the success of the SRT workshop, a new series of somatic movement workshops started at Penpynfarch studio.  Unfortunately, the state of my knees and the timing of the operation on my foot meant that I have missed four out of the seven so far. Now my knees and toe/foot are improving, I'm driving again, and I need to dance and move!

Somatics refers to the link between the body and mind and its influence on movement. During the 20th Century, it developed into a broad field of approaches to awakening awareness and gaining a deeper understanding of the whole body in motion, using various techniques such as breathing, visualisation and various sensory stimuli. Some of the methods aim to reduce or eliminate chronic pain.  I can see how this could be the case for pain caused by poor movement habits, which can cause imbalances and tightness in muscles over time, pulling the body out of alignment and affecting posture and gait. I'm not sure how effective it could be for pain caused by OA, but it will make me think about the way in which I react to the pain in terms of body movement.

I love serendipitous coincidences!  As I continue my work to try and improve the function of my toes and knees, a fortnightly contemporary dance class started locally through Arts Care Gofal Celf.  It's really more of an extended warm-up and technique session for the youth performance group, but it is taught by a great young teacher who knows my background in dance and is happy for me to work differently at the back, playing with movements to adapt them to my capabilities, skipping those which would frankly be unwise. Each week I can safely test my limitations, explore the limits of my movement and do a little more.  I find that with a hot bath and an extra hour in bad the following day, I get a good 24 hours post-class reprieve from the worst of the OA symptoms and can feel the strength and flexibility creeping back into me, in a way that physiotherapy doesn't supply.

With the somatics workshops and the contemporary dance classes, there's a lot of floor work.  I'm suprised at how much I'm enjoying stretching, breathing, listening to and working with my body.  I've become fascinated with the healing process for my toe. Yes, it is highly subjective and apparently completely self-centred, but doing it with a group also provides insights into how others think about and experience movement. Who knew that rolling around on the floor could be so good for you?
False perspective, toe on window ledge; playing with extension of tree shapes

No comments: