After more than 18 years in practice, I am reminded of something an even more seasoned once said. When asked about the amazing miracles we are all privileged to experience while doing Body Stress Release, he said: “Every single client’s experience is miraculous. Do not let the big ones get in the way of the small ones”. A small, even insignificant change, could mean the world to a client.
Such a client, in her mid-sixties, entered my practice in 2015. Eleventh of August 2015, to be precise. Her husband suggested that she “tries” Body Stress Release. She did not expect anything and came with no expectations. Her words to me were: “I have lost the will to live. I cannot do any of my chores or housework. I cannot bake cookies for the church and I feel utterly useless”. It is not uncommon for us to see clients suffering from depression, fatigue or low energy levels like this.
She had a bad fall, backwards, three weeks earlier, as a result of her general malaise. Her MIP (Most important problem) was shoulder-ache and restless legs. She also found it impossible to bend her knees. She also suffered from tension headaches, but blamed her reading-glasses! She was losing weight, for no reason at all, and that made her fear a possible and dreadful illness. Being constantly tired and suffering from fatigue, she came in with a walking-stick, because she was afraid of falling again. Her words: “Dit sal my laaste val wees” meaning it would certainly be her last fall.
After her first release, and during her second release, she was surprised to experience “feeling” in her lower back, which “was never a problem”. Explaining communication being restored and the lower back possibly being the primary cause of her “problems”, she reluctantly agreed to do her Tummy Tuck exercise every morning. It is an exercise that we recommend our clients to do, every morning, in bed, before they get out of bed. She also mentioned that her neck was very stiff, after her fall, because she tried to stop the fall. At this point she remembered (although I had asked during the first appointment) that she had a MVA (Motor vehicle accident) nine years ago. Her coccyx was injured. Both the old accident and the subsequent fall may have caused a “whiplash” type of injury, which could possibly lock in tension in the neck-area. She still seemed slightly dazed and bewildered during her second appointment. Her emotional stress was apparent. Quite often a client’s mood and physical experiences “swing” during the initial three sessions, as stress unlock and nerve communication start to improve.
A visibly younger-looking and elated client entered my practice for her third appointment. No walking stick this time! She immediately proceeded to bend her knees and touch her toes! The fact that she could now reach her kitchen’s top shelves AND lowest shelves, as well as being able to bake cookies and rusks again, was (for her) absolutely wonderful. She then told me that, for the past year, she was extremely depressed and despondent. She felt that her life had no meaning. She kept on repeating the fact that she could not believe that Body Stress Release could turn her whole world around. Physically and mentally.
I now attend to her regularly, in order to maintain (for her) this newfound sense of relief. She always brings cookies! She has become very active and energetic and although she has had a few subsequent falls and injuries, she maintains that “My kop is nou reg” meaning her mental disposition is more positive. The restless legs have not made an appearance again, after the third session, and her shoulders only ache, when the grandchildren come to visit and she carries them around. No more knee-problems and her stiff neck is completely gone. Also no more headaches.
She recently had to undergo extensive dental work, and she arranged her visits to the dentist to coincide with her Body Stress Release appointments. I saw her after each dental visit and having explained chemical stress (antibiotics etc) that can occur with such medical procedures, as well as the fixed neck position in the dental chair, during the procedure, she felt this dental experience to be her first enjoyable one.
Practitioners learn something new from nearly every client. My personal lesson here was : Be present and be persistent. Looking at all her prior injuries and illnesses and her despondency, it seemed,at first, almost unlikely that my personal goals for her improvement would be met. She intended to go for a big shoulder operation, during the month that she started her Body Stress Release sessions. Ultimately she has had no operation, no discomfort and currently experiences absolute joy in her daily life. Our bodies are amazing entities and Body Stress Release is the perfect frame of reference to display it. It is also the perfect technique to help reset it, after stress, for optimal health.
Vredendal – Western Cape (RSA)
We all grew up with our our parents telling us to “sit up straight” or “stand up straight” and “stop slouching” to name but a few. Well over time we hopefully adjusted our posture correctly to prevent physical stress from accumulating in the body, whilst doing activities, such as sitting, standing and walking. Our natural inclination is to start exercising in order to take the tightness out of the body or to try and stretch aching muscles. It all depends on whether we start slowly enough to not strain the body further and ensuring that we are doing the exercises the correct way. You might do more harm training incorrectly than doing no exercise at all. As Body Stress Release practitioners we encourage exercise and always advise expert advise from the exercise specialists.
Many doctors, physiotherapists and biokineticists recommend walking as a low impact exercise and I agree fully with this, it not a specialist skill to walk – or is it? Walking gives you a full body workout and hopefully gets you outdoors in nature to enjoy the sun and fresh air – but good walking posture is key. All these components are really great stress busters. In a country like South Africa with so much sunshine it is sad that we are stuck indoors most of the day, as we have all been on the recent lockdown or home confinement for COVID-19.
Most of my clients enjoy walking but almost none of them realised that walking actually has a technique to it; you need to have a good walking posture. Like many exercises, if you do them incorrectly or to excess – it can cause lock-in or stored tension. From a novice’s point of view I would like to explain how to walk using the correct posture and technique as I have taught myself over time.
Shall we start from the bottom up?
Pay attention to how you put your foot down when you walk. It is supposed to be heel first then the toes. Do not slap the whole foot down at once, or walk on the balls of your feet, as this can be quite jarring to the body. Ladies wearing high heel shoes daily have a tendency to do this and cause postural damage to their bodies. Make sure you have a good walking shoe or trainer to promote good walking technique. Also ensure your toes are pointing forward not at funny angles (pigeon toes or duck feet). It takes a bit of concentration, as it is not something we ever look at. We assume we can just do it
Keep the knees soft so you use them as shock absorbers instead of taking the strain in the back and use those quad muscles in the thigh to drive you forward. They are strong and designed for the job. Locking the knees is also quite common. We are not dancing the tango here – just walking! Locking the knees puts strain on them and changes your posture making you lean slightly forward activating the back muscles too much. If they are tight you will feel it pretty soon too. Keep the ears, shoulders and hips in line, which will help minimize the gravity pull on the body.
Strides or steps:
Not all of us are blessed with long legs; so shorty’s keep those strides short, and same for tall people with tight backs, do not over step. When you step forward your step should be small enough so that there is no rotation on the hips, leave that for the Olympic walkers please! The pointy tips on the hip-bones (ASIS’s for those using medical terms) should stay pointing forward not swing from side to side or rotate as you step. The easiest way to check is to keep your hands over the hips. Keeping your hips steady prevents rotation on the back and irritating the back vertebrae and sacrum joints. Shuffle if you must but keep those hips still.
Keep the arms bent at 90° and elbows tucked at the ribs. You look like a runaway chicken with those elbows flying in all directions – just saying. Swinging those arms may cause rotation on the upper body and you get this tired/burn sensation just below the shoulder blades. The big secret to swinging the arms correctly is to turn the wrists so the thumbs are pointing to the sky. Keeping this posture allows your arms to swing past your body with the minimum strain on the shoulder joints and no rotation on the torso. It will also use the correct muscle groups to drive you forward for a bit of momentum.
When swinging the arms – elbows stay tucked; fists do not go beyond the ribs at the back and the elbows to not go beyond the ribs in front. Try to create a steady pendulum swing with the arms. Pay attention to not pull the shoulders to the ears. This happens quite easily as our neck muscles are so tight due to emotional stress and poor posture behind the computer and steering wheel. Try doing the arm swing in front of the mirror and correct your posture where need be.
Last but not least – tilt of the head:
Keep your head upright and chin level/parallel to the floor – you are not going into a scrum so no need for tucking that chin down. Many people tilt their head sideways when they walk especially when they come around a turn or corner – not sure why? Keep the head upright – that little string pulling your head to the sky. Chin parallel to the floor looking at the ground 3 to 5 meters ahead. You will see in time if you are going to trip over something no need to stare at your feet. Tilting the neck forward changes not only your posture but also increase the pull of gravity on the body and the muscles need to work extra hard to keep you upright.
Lining up the ear, shoulder and hip also opens up the torso giving your lungs room to expand. The rib cage has room to expand as need be and the diaphragm (the muscle pushing the lungs to inhale and exhale) has room to move. Just remember to use the whole of your lung capacity when you breath as we tend to only use the upper half these days will all the sitting we do and slouching forward while we tap away on our phones. Thus having the correct posture while walking also improves your breathing.
Dust of those walking shoes, stand in front of the mirror, swing those arms, inhale to the bottom tips of your lungs and when ready take on the road shuffling happily as you enjoy the sunshine. Now you have the best possible walking posture.
If the weather is a bit grey and cold pull up the small rebounder (baby trampoline) put on your favourite series and step away. For those in tiny places or just a room take an old pillow throw it on the floor and off you go.
Remember start slow and build up your fitness over time -the tortoise won the race in the end.
BSR Where ? (Practice location)
A car accident I had a long time ago caused me years of suffering with shoulder and neck pain, most likely from whiplash due to the impact. After a few sessions of Body Stress Release I felt enormous relief and my pains soon went away. Soon after that, and because of the impact it had in resetting my life, I became a BSR Practitioner, the year my Dad turned 73 years of age.
What motivates me daily, as a BSR Practitioner, is the change I have seen in my Dad’s lower back pain over the years, due to introducing him to my new-found skills.
He has been struggling with lower back pain for years, but not continually, just every so often he would experience a flare-up. I guess the cause of lower back pain in his case comes from being very active in his youth – he played rugby,the hard way, and cycled to work, not to mention the various car accidents he had over the years. After retirement he kept busy with maintenance on the family house, which led to some heavy lifting, and not bending his knees, as we recommended safeguarding his back!
It was the year I qualified as a practitioner that we got a huge fright. My Dad was getting up from his desk and suddenly he was stuck in that one position. He experienced severe lower back pain regardless of what he did – sitting, standing, trying to lie down, not even mentioning trying to get up. So staying in bed was the only option. My Mum, who was still working,left snacks and drinks on the bedside table during the day.
After a few days he was able to get into the car, though it took him a full 20 minutes and loads of sweating. Arriving at the doctors it was the normal procedure – injections and then off for X -Rays, which then went on to a MRI scan. There was severe deterioration in the lower vertebra and left Sacro-Iliac (SI) joint. Chances were that he might end up in a wheelchair within a year or two if they did not operate.
There I was, as a freshly qualified BSR practitioner I put my foot down – he was to be my first client and Case Study in lower back pain. I started my practice in a small town some 600km from my folks, but decided Dad is coming to live with me for as long as it takes. For this client I put my foot down!
The drive to get to me was a killer – Dad had to be supported and strapped tightly with an SI belt (those belts weightlifters use), pillows and a warm water bottle to sooth the lower back pain – but we made it and the process started. I carried out the first 3 releases with him either standing, elbows leaning against the wall,or standing on all fours as he could not lie flat on his tummy at all, such was the extent of his lower back pain. After the first release he was dead tired, but could actually get into bed without taking more than 10 minutes.
The follow-up releases were in quite quick succession. I would say every 3 to 4 days but after the 6th session he started to feel more relief. He was then able to get onto my BSR portable bed – very slowly – with a pillow under his hips to support his back.
After 2 weeks he stopped his elective pain medication and was moving around the house, though still using the SI belt when he was a bit more active, or when we would take a drive in order to get out of the house. In week 3 we had a bit of a flare-up again. He was feeling better and thought it a good idea to hang a few pictures in my new practice room – the stance aggravated his back and the pain came back with a vengeance. Just because you feel better does not mean sufficient healing has taken place. So, in doing too much, too soon, will have the body shouting at you at full volume “…STOP! I HAVE BACK-PAIN…!”. We see this a lot with our clients, and sadly there are rarely quick fixes. Everyone’s journey to a pain free life is different.
Dad had to stay in bed for a day or two, but then the difference came. With him being more careful, resting enough and listening to his body, the necessary healing was able to happen. We kept the releases going, once a week. Sometimes I might do a bit extra, in-between, if I thought it was necessary. It was great having a guinea pig at home to practise on. His lower back pain was getting less and less each day.
After five weeks my Dad was becoming restless, wandering through the house and starting to keep himself busy with small activities. That’s when I knew he has healed to a certain extent and was ready to go home. Trust me, he was not 100% better, but so much better, and only if he behaved. On the days when he overdid things, he rested and the recovery was quick enough though. We do our best to educate our clients about the healing process – the only difference was this one was my Dad!
After six weeks I took my Dad home. We usually don’t do house visits or transport our clients to and from our practices, but of course my Dad was a different case. With BSR we find EVERY case is a DIFFERENT case!
A few years later I moved closer to home, and over the years my Dad has had flare-ups again due to his inability to sit still and taking on projects meant for much younger bodies. But regular BSR sessions keep him going. It is important to keep in mind that he was diagnosed by a doctor, with structural damage to the spine and SI joint (later diagnosed as Sacroiliac Syndrome) and will never fully recover from his back-pain. However this does not mean he has to live with constant back-pain and live his life at half measure. BSR is helping him to live the best and most active life he can. This is one of our principles in BSR – returning the client’s body to “optimal health” – sadly we cannot undo past damage.
So to end my story on a high – my Dad at the ripe age of 83-years old, walked the Camino de Santiago last year (a 5-day 200km pilgrimage walk) and I believe with my whole heart it is because of BSR keeping his body more mobile and encouraging his personal self-healing process.
Living a comfortable life and becoming pain free is often a choice, and like my Dad’s story Body Stress Release might just help you in the same way!