Posts Tagged Modern dance

My Healing Process

Two weeks ago I posted a blog about my auto accident in which I promised to write a little more about my treatment and progress, hoping that you’ll find it interesting, and perhaps helpful, if you or someone you know gets in an accident. Just to recap, I was rear-ended two days before Christmas, 2012.

Until that last post, I hadn’t said much to anyone about being hurt, other than to my therapists. I’m sure that I mentioned it in passing to a few people, but, even then, I brushed it off. I pretended it was nothing, while, in truth, I was a mess. It’s only been lately that I’ve been wondering why I did that.

I’m not sure I know, other than that I didn’t want to lose business. As a massage therapist, I didn’t want people canceling their sessions with me in order to somehow protect me, or because they didn’t think their treatment would be up to snuff. And, oddly, I needed them to come in for my own sake. Giving to them gave me something outside of my injuries and pain to focus on. I rarely felt pain while I worked. After so many years, giving a massage is second nature. I check my troubles and concerns at the door and turn my attention on the person under my hands, with some focus on my body mechanics.

working girl on ball

A nice picture of a straight spine and pretty good posture: one of the goals of my therapy was to return my back to balance, with left and right sides level like this.
Thanks to EdwinP on Stock.Xchng for this photo of a woman’s back.

However, it wasn’t just my clients: I didn’t even tell many of my friends about my pain and mental confusion. Perhaps that’s my nature, to underplay my difficulties, to be brave, and to pretend everything is alright. I’m not sure. Perhaps I just needed to pretend to myself that my healing was on track, that every day was better than the last, but, again, I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t want people gushing over me and worrying.

Do you do that? Downplay or even hide your problems? Isn’t it human nature? Can you think of times when you’ve hidden your problems, or made them seem minor? Maybe it’s poverty, or an abusive spouse, and you worry people will think badly of you for your choices. Or, I don’t know, a drug issue, or something minor, even, such as an errand you forgot to run.

This is a little long for a blog post, but here are the details on my treatment and recovery:

First week

The day after the accident, I went to the chiropractor. Luckily, he was working Christmas Eve. At that point, I wanted to be checked, since I hadn’t gone to emergency. I still didn’t know how badly I was hurt. I had more pain than the previous evening, but still not a lot. Since I do massage from time to time on people who’ve been in accidents, I can attest that that isn’t unusual. Pain often doesn’t appear for days, if not weeks.

Anyway, he noted that my left shoulder was swollen, and my skeleton was twisted so that my ribs angled up on the right. I still thought the accident had been no big deal. I was shaken and tired, but I’d be better in a few weeks. If I’d only realized how badly I was injured, I wouldn’t have felt so optimistic! I know from treating clients that it’s really difficult to predict how much pain someone will experience, or how long it will take them to recover. I’ve seen people get better in six weeks after a bad accident while others are in pain a year later after a mild one. Still, I was in excellent physical condition. Surely, I’d be one of the ones who heal fast.

By Christmas Day, I was a mess: tired and disoriented, with increasing pain. I barely got out of bed long enough to finish the meal I’d started cooking the day before, open presents, and eat. I had to lay down, even though I didn’t sleep. Reading was out. I just laid there, feeling awful, while my friends went skiing.

Next two months

I had loads of Chiropractic care for the next few months. Massage and Acupuncture entered the picture after three weeks. Acupuncture was lovely, but boy were those first massage treatments painful! She claimed to be barely touching me, but I didn’t believe her. At that point, she was just trying to help decrease inflammation and get some circulation going, but I almost grew to hate her before things calmed down. She found painful spots in places I had no idea had been affected by the accident, like my left quad. Okay, so I had some knee pain, but it didn’t seem enough to justify the fire that shot through me when she worked on my thigh.

Once the pain settled in, it was all on my left side, mainly lower ribs in the back and shoulder plus neck, an aggravating 6-7 out of 10, where ten is like being basted with burning oil. Ten is what I felt when I tried to play my flute. Forget skiing or bicycling! And absolutely forget taking a modern dance class, one of my great loves. No Vance Stance, either.

Unusual symptoms developed and what I did for them – March and April

After maybe two months, I realized that I couldn’t close my mouth properly. It’s impossible to recall the exact sequence of events now, but I had difficulty chewing, and developed a lisp because my teeth hit each other when I tried to speak. The chiropractic care, while it helped with my pain, and gradually moved my skeleton back into alignment, didn’t help with this weird issue. Oh, and I also had double vision and tinnitus, possibly from the concussion, but who knows. Anyway, I added a Cranial Osteopath to my care regime. I could hardly get anything done, because I was always running from one appointment to another!

Slowly, I improved. My bite went back to normal. I apparently stopped acting like I was wandering around in a fog sometime in April, at least according to people who weren’t me (I hadn’t realized that I was acting weird, but, hey, that’s the way it goes). My energy picked back up, and the pain decreased. The chiropractor slowly spaced all of my appointments out, from three times a week, to two, then one, then every two weeks. I started doing Vance Stance again and added Physical Therapy every two weeks. This is a pretty typical progression for post-accident, by the way.

Six months out and finally feeling better

It wasn’t until June or July that I had my first pain-free day (about six months after the accident). I didn’t realize how much pain I’d been in until it was gone (which is pretty normal—lots of people tell me that). I was able to extend my flute playing time, first from five minutes to ten and then twenty. I  tried bicycling, gave it up when it hurt too much, then tried it again with better luck. More and more pain-free days ensued.DIGITAL CAMERA

Long term

By September, when I’d used up my auto insurance, I felt good, although I still have a flare-up about once a week (at a low pain level). That’s one thing about whiplash – it tends to leave behind some scar tissue. I seem to still be getting better, though, so hopefully the tissue is still healing. As a massage devotee and fervent believer in its benefits, I continue with regular massages.

Oh, and I have a stretching sequence that I started doing every day as soon as I could, which gives me great relief.

Gratitude

Thanks to my therapists for all of their great work. I don’t know where I would be without them, but I doubt I’d be able to ski this winter, or dance, bicycle, etc. I’ve seen too many people who didn’t get such good treatment, coming in for massage years later and complaining that they’ve lived with pain ever since their accident.

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Self Transformation and Bodywork, Part IV

I am in love with massage, acupuncture, dance, stretching, bicycling, hiking, and so on. I can’t seem to help exploring new possibilities. It’s truly amazing, really, when you think about it, how every cell in our bodies is linked with every other cell. Our bodies hold keys to our minds and our brains hold keys to our bodies. The ancient Chinese linked emotions with particular organs, and those linkages seem to hold for many, but it seems to go even deeper than that. Our bodies hold memories and emotions in odd and wondrous ways.

Today, I am thinking about movement therapies, so I’m doing a little overview of my own journey while introducing you to a number of approaches. What I love about some of these is that I get to ‘own’ them. I get to be in charge of my transformation, rather than laying on a table having someone work on me as in massage. To a certain extent, I don’t need to pay someone, and, within limits, I can push myself as hard as I want. If I am having an off day, I can be gentle, and if I am feeling like it’s time to have a break-through, I can push myself. That’s if I am doing them by myself, and not with an instructor, of course.

The first form of “movement therapy” I ever tried was modern dance. When I was in graduate school, I noticed that my Institute offered modern classes, and I decided it was the perfect thing to help with my back and neck pain. I figured the other students would be clumsy like me, and it turned out that I was mostly right, except for one Chemistry Grad student who had danced for years. I had a lot of fun, it helped with the pain, and I got introduced to a whole new world. I still take modern dance classes when I can find them (and I’m not as clumsy as I used to be. :)).

Toshiko Namioka - Japanese Modern Dance Choreo...

Toshiko Namioka – Japanese Modern Dance Choreographer/Performer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I lived in Santa Fe, dance classes could be pretty intense: we sometimes explored ourselves in ways which verge on therapy, such as imagining being just a sack of bones, or that we were babies and should explore our bodies and the world around us from that perspective. Group work might involve pushing our ability to trust others or to sense someone’s movement with our eyes closed (I recall being absolutely terrible at this and always wondered if the others cheated and opened their eyes). It certainly opened up a new, more creative and intuitive, way of approaching my life.

Lately I’ve been going to an ecstatic dance group that meets a couple of times a month. This is free-form dance, to music, where the idea is to go through a series of rhythms and movement types, somewhat following Gabrielle Roth‘s ideas about the Five Rhythms, that allow a person to open up and end up in a calm, happy, place. I love dance, so while I have not had any huge transformations yet from doing ecstatic dance, it’s fun and I finish happy and relaxed.

Anna Halprin at the University of San Francisco

Anna Halprin at the University of San Francisco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most profound dance/movement class I have ever taken was with Anna Halprin. I wish I’d had the guts to move to California to study with her and her daughter (I definitely considered it, and in retrospect I think I was afraid, not so much of giving up old ways, but of failure. I just couldn’t see myself having the guts to teach it and being any good as a teacher of movement.) In my two day workshop with Anna, we mixed meditation, drawing, and movement, looking specifically at parts of our bodies. I may have learned more about myself in those two days than in any other two days and it truly transformed my approach to life. It taught me to look at the dream-body, and by that I mean the images that come up when I visualize myself. I saw dragons, and a young boy, and chains and caves – you get the picture – which represented thoughts and emotions I had never dealt with. By approaching them this way, I got started on my healing path in a serious way.

Another type of movement therapy is more obviously about changing posture, healing an injury, or achieving better balance and ease. Some of these get incorporated, also, into dance classes. For example, simply finding your balance point by swaying, and looking for a more comfortable way to hold your body. There are many ways to approach the body. I’ve tried yoga and Aston Patterning, and a tiny bit of Pilates, but have mainly done Structural Reprogramming, aka The Vance Stance, largely because it suits my personality and Dr. Bonner who invented it lives in my town. Why not study with a genius, if you can? Plus, it seems to work for me. This journey deserves its own post, so I will reserve it for later.

Finally, I will just put in a plug for breathwork. For a brief period of time Tziporah Kingsley lived here and did workshops on Judith Kravitz’s Transformational Breathwork, which I found amazing. I suppose you can’t quite call it movement therapy, but still it is focused on the body. I still sometimes do my 100 breaths of joy, using the tape I got from her. It’s a way to open to traumas held in the body, and, eventually, to ecstasy, which teaches us how to feel happiness and heals the physical body.

Okay, so I have zoomed over a zillion ways to get in touch with your body, and also use it to heal not only obvious physical issues and find health but also affect thought-forms and emotional problems. I’d love to get your feedback on all of this, so leave your comments. What have you tried? What do you think of all of this? I’ve probably left out your favorite approach, so tell us about it and we can all learn.

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