When I lived in Philadelphia I had a studio that I divided into two halves. The door opened up right in between those halves, so once you walked in and changed into something comfortable we had a choice together – either you went towards the windows for a workout or you went towards the exposed brick to lie down for a Thai massage session.
The thing is, nearly everybody thought that they were there for the wrong thing.
It’s not that they were stupid or intentionally trying to mess anything up.
People came for what they were familiar with, what they already knew.
Hard-charging workaholics, athletes, military and police officers and other high-action, I’ll-sleep-later tight-schedule types thought they needed workouts and mobility training.
People in pain, or tired people, or those who had been through a bunch of rehab therapists already all thought they needed a massage and gentle healing delivered to them in a totally relaxed manner.
But when you understand energy, the two camps got it completely wrong, almost to the letter.
The folks that never rested didn’t know how to listen to when their bodies needed to lie the fuck down for a moment. They were so used to action-oriented solutions, which often got them far in life toward achieving dreams, paychecks, and tuition – that they never bothered giving themselves space for anything, let alone think, or heal, or to realize their bodies were crying for rest. These folks were often coffee junkies, in denial of some basic communication strategies with their friends, underslept, and tight as a rail. They thought the solution was MORE action, because that’s what they knew. So their minds brought them to me to do mobility training, and once in front of me their bodies SCREAMED to let them unwind and relax for a while. So I would take them to the right, towards the bricks, prop them up with pillows and use my skills to work the kinks out they also didn’t know they had. The result was feeling a weight off of them they didn’t know they carried by the time they walked out the door, and a pretty high rate of return back to me.
On the other side, the pain clients were used to not being able to do anything. Many of them had been to therapists with different schooling than I had, done exercises from a printed out sheet of paper for as long as they were told to or their insurance ran out and felt they had done all they could to recover. Much of this population believed their bodies were just meant to keep getting worse over time. They accepted it as fact and they didn’t think they could do anything about it. Possibility went out the window, often affecting the rest of their lives as limited and painful as well. So they wanted to lie down, enjoy this thing they’d heard of called Thai massage and maybe get something new out of having somebody else do things for them and their bodies. Thai massage involves stretching and range of motion on your limbs, but it also usually allows you to completely relax in a position.
When this population of amazing people walked in my door their bodies told me immediately that they needed strength, in a way that wasn’t stupid.
Most rehab protocols are cookie cutter bullshit, not designed with the specific person in mind but “for back pain.” Or whatever else they were dealing with. The blanket approach works for some people and acts as a frustrating nudge to others to find something better to spend money on.
Using FRC principles, we would find and learn how to move without pain, build strength, and expand what the body could do with just a little tender loving assessment but also a lot of intense and hard work. Mobility training shouldn’t be painful but it might make you sore as we figure out the thresholds that make sense for you.
It made sense that these people moved towards what they knew already, or away from what they thought was bad.
The go-getters were never able to relax, so they stopped trying until they found me. They found they could use workouts to get EVEN MORE stressed, so when they came down their “normal” stress seemed “reduced” by comparison.
The tired, pain clients had experienced working out as painful, limiting, and frustrating. As their bodies loudly objected many of them continued to do what they were told by therapists that probably did their best but continuously lost trust in their bodies as a result. The best that they could hope for was to relax for a while in less pain. What their bodies needed was to feel powerful.
Introducing good relaxation and good activation are just ways of moving energy around respectfully of your body’s needs and processes.
Understanding your body in new ways is an empowerment practice. Trying something new is like strength training for opening the mind. It’s a curious thing that the things we most resist or outright dismiss tend to be the things we are most ready for.