How You Do It

In order to learn to play the piano you have to sit down at the piano and practice. The more you practice the better you get. When you become really good you still have to keep practicing in order to stay good. Even the best players practice basic skills such as playing scales over and over.

Learning the skills we teach – posture, efficient movement and relaxation – also requires practice and many of our new patients have told us that it is hard for them to find the time. Our training sessions are 2 hours and involve sitting, standing, walking and using mental concentration and imaging while maintaining as much mental and physical relaxation as possible. It is not surprising that at first, participants feel like they have to put significant amounts of time aside on a daily basis in order to learn these skills.

They don’t. Most of the things we do in our group sessions are things people already do in their daily lives, i.e. sitting, standing, walking and thinking. What it takes to practice our material is to apply the rules of posture and relaxed movement to whatever you are doing as you go about your daily activities. The specific exercises we teach can help mobilize you and teach you these rules but you don’t have to spend a whole lot of time on them. It is much more important to keep reminding yourself to sit and stand properly while staying relaxed all the time.

Unlike learning to play the piano, you don’t need any special time or place to practice our material. You can practice proper body alignment every time you are standing whether on an escalator or in line at the bank. You can practice loosening your muscles every time you sit down. You can work on stepping properly every time you get up to walk.

We advise initially focusing on one specific thing you want to improve. Neck posture is a good example. Spend about 30 days in a row doing your best to keep your neck in good position every time you can think about it. By repeatedly sending a set of nerve messages to the correct muscles, you are strengthening neural pathways. Think of a neural pathway as a path across your lawn. You have to walk on it a lot at first to make the path obvious. Once set down it becomes easy to maintain. Eventually, if you keep practicing, correct posture will simply be there all the time.

During our sessions, we provide very specific instructions on how to hold yourself in as relaxed a way as possible while being still or moving. The instructions are not complicated. The more you apply them to your normal daily activities, the easier they become to remember and the better you will become at avoiding aggravating your pain.  There is nothing magical or mystical about the effects of practice but remember that changes will be gradual. You wouldn’t expect to become a concert pianist with only a few months of practice, would you?

This is all very simple but simple is not the same as easy. You will have to think about posture, movement and relaxation a lot. In other words, you will have to be mindful of what you are doing and how you are doing it. The ability to remain aware is key to what we teach. Paying attention to your posture and state of tension will become easier if you do it as much as you can. However there is another thing you can do to improve your attention and mindfulness – meditation.

Meditation is the one practice that requires setting aside time on a daily basis. However, this does not take hours. It will repay your investment many times over with improvements in your ability to be mindful while remaining calm and relaxed. You can begin with only a few minutes a day and work up to 20 minutes or more within a few months if you are determined. Like everything else, the more you put in to meditation the more you will get out of it. You will also learn more about yourself and your pain than by doing any other exercise we can show you.

Yes, commitment is required to learn to do things to help your pain but you don’t have to give up your life to do so. Just remember to do what you can every day as you continue to live your life. You will change for the better.

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