I have been having a fascinating conversation with one of my clients over the last month or so. Cindy is the kind of person who always does her customized movement program exercises. She has put a lot of time and effort into doing the exercises “the right way”. During our 1:1 sessions, Cindy will often ask “am I doing this right?” I completely understand where she is coming from. It makes sense to believe that the pain will go away faster if you are doing the exercises correctly. But, this is often not the case. It certainly wasn’t the case for Cindy. Despite all of her efforts, she is still experiencing some pain in her knees and low back. How frustrating!
Cindy is definitely not alone…..So many of my clients come to me still in pain and not seeing any results for all the well intentioned exercises they have been doing. Here’s the thing – doing your exercises “the right way” is not the golden ticket to less pain and more easeful movement.
What I have learned since integrating Yoga Therapy into my Physiotherapy practice is that my clients get much better results when they learn to use their own body as the guide. I am keenly aware of the importance of listening to one’s
own body. Instead of seeking external validation and following the Physiotherapist’s guidance blindly, my clients learn to pay attention to the sensory information their body provides as they perform the exercises in their wonderful, unique way! This gives them a better idea of what their body needs and how it is using the given exercises to solve the issues or challenges that brought them to see me in the first place.
Over the course of our time together, Cindy has learned that she can get better results when she puts her effort towards feeling how she is doing the exercise, instead of placing all of the effort on doing the exercise “the right way”.
The gold is in noticing how your system is meeting the challenge of the prescribed exercise.
Next time you are doing an exercise, try following these 3-steps to get even more out of your movement.
- Notice what is happening as you are doing your exercise
- Make an adjustment
- Acknowledge the results and how you feel!
Let’s use a classic Physio exercise, “the clamshell” as an example. You know the one, you are lying on your side with your knees bent and feet together, then you lift the top knee keeping your feet together (like a clamshell opening) then lower. Remember you don’t need to do this “right “! There is no wrong way to do the clamshell. Just try the movement for yourself, however you do it is great! Repeat it a few times and notice what is happening as you are doing the movement. You don’t need to fix, or correct anything. Simply notice or feel what’s up? Where do you feel muscles working to drive the movement? Do you experience any pain, tension, or discomfort? Where? Are you mashing your teeth together? Are you holding your breath?
Once you have a feel for how you are doing the movement, make an adjustment – perform the same movement, but make it easier. Less resistance, slow down, smaller movement – you chose.
Now you get to acknowledge your results and see how you feel following your mindful movement! Do you feel pain, tension or discomfort now? Is it more or less? Are you grinding your teeth? Are you still holding your breath?
By applying these 3 steps each time your complete an exercise, you will grow a deeper awareness of how your system completes the exercise and what works best for you. Not only will this help you get more out of your exercises, it may also reveal aspects of yourself and your movement patterns that were previously unknown. Give it a try!
Getting results from the time you invest on your exercise is everyone’s motivation. I can help you get there. If any of this is resonating with you, click here to set up a call – let’s have a conversation!
Thanks Kirsten, with your help I am learning to listen to my body but it is a slow process as bad habits creep back in easily particularly with any new movement or exercise. This body brain connection is fascinating!
Thank you Kirsten, this is so helpful. I have Yoga Therapy clients who approach their physio exercises like taking a meditation prescribed by their doctor. The exercises aren’t bad, but as you say, to make progress the client needs to notice how they feel and modify if necessary.