After teaching skiing over the holidays and all the shoveling at the beginning of January, my lower back decided it had had enough. It seized up one night as I stood in the bathroom. I could barely move. This had also happened two springs ago, after the ski season was over. Then, it had taken a month of dry needling, massage, acupuncture, and two trips to physicians to get rid of the pain. I knew I couldn’t afford to take that long to recover. I needed to teach skiing, take care of two kids, and teach three NeuroMovement classes.
I did take the next day off, though. I called a PT friend who was also trained in the Anat Baniel Method of NeuroMovement. She told me to do a couple of exercises and she told me “motion is lotion.” I took this to heart. I started moving and kept moving. I walked around the house. I took a gentle stroll around my neighborhood. I did a few gentle movement lessons. I did the exercises my friend suggested. I took some Aleve. During that whole day, I kept my back moving, very gently, with a lot of attention to how I was moving.
When this had happened to me before, I learned a couple of things. First, that lying down and, especially, sitting down, was the worst thing. That spring, I had taken the day off and stayed in bed reading. When I was not moving my back felt fine, but once I got up to move around, my back seized again. In fact, the research shows that being immobile is the worse thing for a back that has gone haywire.
The second thing I learned was that this was a common occurrence for ski instructors after the season ends. Kevin Waldron, the acupuncturist, said he saw this regularly. He said that doing yard work was often the culprit. Two years ago, I had been helping build a set for a kids’ play. This year it was shoveling. I think that my movement over the ski season had established a pattern and my brain and body had not reintegrated how to move in different ways.
This year I used walking as a way to gently keep my back moving. I also did a couple of movement lessons that helped me integrate how my body and brain worked together. Here is one of those lessons, called the Pelvic Clock. It is one of the most recognized and basic lessons created by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, the creator of the Feldenkrais Method.
Before you begin, lie on the floor and scan the way your body comes into contact with the floor. Throughout this lesson, do very small slow movements paying attention to what you feel. Don’t do too much. This is an exploration of how you move, not exercise.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet standing. Pretend that your pelvis is lying on the face of an analog clock (digital doesn’t have the same effect). Using very small movements, roll your pelvis first to 12 o’clock a few times, then stop. Then roll your pelvis to 6 o’clock a few times, and rest. Then roll your pelvis between 12 and 6 o’clock. Do the movement each way several times. Each time you change a direction, straighten your legs and rest. After going vertically on the clock, begin to roll your pelvis to 12 o’clock and around to 1, and 2, and 3. Stop, rest, and then roll your pelvis to 12 and to 11, and 10, and 9. Slowly, hour by hour, roll you pelvis around the whole face of the clock. Go both clockwise and counter clockwise around the clock imagining that you feel the numbers under your pelvis. At the end, lie on the floor and pay attention to the contact you have with the floor.
Motion is lotion. Back pain is one of the most common physical ailments in adults. It can be terribly debilitating, but with gentle movement it can be prevented, especially at the end of the ski season by gently walking, starting new activities slowly, and doing some gentle movement lessons.
David Singleton, ABM, is a trainer, alpine, and Telemark instructor at Breckenridge. He works with children, older adults, and high performers and teaches classes to the Breckenridge Ski and Snowboard School to help instructors become better skiers by improving their awareness of their bodies. He’s available for private lessons and teaches classes in Dillon and Breckenridge.
(970) 389-6480, SummitMovementCenter.com.
About David R. Singleton:
Using the body to speak to the brain, NeuroMovement benefits adults and children with injuries, neurologic disabilities, and helps high performing people improve their abilities. In either an individual or class setting, David uses unusual, gentle, slow movements to promote the most optimal learning and help you feel and move better. He is the editor of Listen, Share, and Be Kind and is a fully certified alpine and Telemark instructor at Arapahoe Basin.