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1997, Me and Body Therapy

by Allan Rudolf(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 27 - April 1998

What kind of a year was 1997 for me? To put it succinctly, it was a year where, thank God, there were only three hundred and sixty-five days! The final, crowning culmination came on Saturday, 27 December. My best friend told me I really look good in dark colours, particularly black. So I went down to Oxford Street to buy a black shirt. Caught up in the hectic atmosphere of the sales I thought I was in New York City for a moment and looked left when crossing Oxford Street when I should have looked right and promptly got hit by a taxi cab. I was knocked over and battered to the ground. I was disorientated, badly bruised, very shaken up, but otherwise whole. A crowd gathered around, both the taxi-driver and one stranger were particularly helpful in getting me ambulatory again. I guess that sums up my personal life in 1997, battered and bruised but otherwise whole. Making the best of a miserable year, I hope I learnt a few valuable lessons. (Of course, I will never never confuse London with New York again!)

Returning to my accident, besides feeling bruised and shaken up I also felt out of kilter. I did not suffer any neck, shoulder, or back pain, but in many subtle ways I knew things were not quite right. What was I to do? It certainly was not an emergency situation. I do have a favourite osteopath but he has a two-to-three month waiting list. I also have a wonderful Alexander teacher but he, too, is not available at short notice. And, finally, I have a friend who is a Tuina Master – Tuina is a form of Chinese medical massage. However, I find his work is best when a specific area in the body is in trouble which was not my situation.

I finally decided that I would take the self-help route to rebalancing my body. I put in extra time in my daily Taiji routine. For a short time after the accident I was doing Taiji for at least two hours per day. The routine consisted of three parts. Firstly, I would do standing meditation for at least half an hour. This was followed by a series of movements to stretch me, open up my joints (including the individual vertebrae) and balance the body. And, finally, I would practise the Taiji form. I would also lie down daily for about 15 minutes in the Alexander technique semi-supine active resting position. I find this position, together with the mental directives that go with it, very effective in releasing and sorting out the body. My Alexander Technique teacher recommends it as part of a daily routine. (Readers interested in learning the semi-supine should consult a basic book on the Alexander Technique. Most basic books discuss it and this resting technique probably is simple enough to be learnt without an Alexander teacher.)

Lastly, I religiously performed a series of exercises developed by Dr Ida Rolf to align the body. The net result of all this is that I am again feeling well (at least physically).

The story I have just told touches on at least two important issues in body therapy. The first issue is when should a person seek professional help for body therapy and when is self-help sufficient? My viewpoint is self-help and professional work are truly complementary and symbiotic. Life pulls people clown and this gets reflected through strains, stresses and, self and outside body work can contribute to this. The more professional work we receive the more effective will be our own work and vice versa. All this is particularly true if we subscribe to the viewpoint that body therapy in the widest sense is not really about relieving pain but about enhancing our wellbeing and increasing our vitality.

I have not addressed the related issue which occurred to me personally. When in pain or discomfort should a person seek professional help or try to solve the problem themselves? Each person and situation is so individual. All I can say is – use your common sense (unfortunately common sense is a rare commodity).

Another issue related to the above issues, which concerns me as a professional, is how much self-help advice should I give to my clients? I see my clients only for a limited number of sessions and they bring with them a lifetime of poor posture, stress and strain, so there is only so much that can be accomplished. It obviously follows that the more the client can do to augment my work the more effective the sessions will be. I have a large bag full of exercises, images and movements to draw from. Currently my policy is to give my clients individualised programmes, usually involving only a few minutes per day. However, I do make two exceptions. Some clients thrive on homework and I'm more than happy to give them more to do. Other clients don't want to be bothered and resist any sort of homework. I don't waste my time or theirs and do not bother to give them extra work as I do believe my work with them can be very effective even without external work.

I also tried out some new therapies and therapists in 1997 and I plan to write about my experiences and issues raised by these experiences in a future column.

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About Allan Rudolf

Allan is a Rolfer and Feldenkrais practitioner and trained with both Dr Rolf and Dr Feldenkrais. He now lives in China and is not contactable.

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