When Mark Grauman, 62, came to Embody, he was afraid to move. “I’ve never seriously exercised in my life,” he wrote to me. “And it’s coming back to haunt me.” He was in pain and had a list of ailments, including tendinitis in both elbows, compression fracture in his cervical spine, and bulging discs. “Oh,” he added in a follow up email, “I also have a frozen shoulder. I’m a mess.”
Mark had tried other modalities, including personal training. But his experience was of a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. He was detached from his own body and its vital messages. The trainers he found seemed to reinforce this detachment. He quickly grew frustrated and quit. He figured it was safer on his own couch than venturing out into the gym. But newly retired from many years at a desk as an engineer, Mark wanted to enjoy playing blues guitar and hanging out with his two young grandsons for as long as possible.
At first, I tried some of the movements from the first level of the Gyrotonic method with Mark. But this proved too much. Though Mark was flexible in many ways, he lacked the basic shoulder and pelvic stability to move safely to simultaneously build strength and range of motion. He cancelled a few sessions, sore and teetering on the edge of giving up.
Working with clients is a relationship. It is about building somatic awareness. This requires the client’s feedback about how movementsfeel during and after. It is also about the trainer listening to both verbal and non-verbal cues. Together, Mark and I backed off from level one exercises and began spending almost the entire hour on the floor, building Mark’s awareness and strength from the inside out.
Supported by the floor, Mark began to build strength and confidence. He soon moved from skipping sessions to increasing his frequency to twice a week. I observed him sitting taller without effort. Perhaps most amazing of all, he began to perceive his pain differently. Soreness not longer always signaled danger to him.
“Sometimes,” he said, “I just might be sore.” This shift in Mark’s perception came from his deepening trust in the messages his own body was giving him. As his somatic awareness has increased, his belief in his body’s ability to heal is also being restored.
“I’m now a few months into my work with Susan and I’ve regained a lot of flexibility while strengthening core, lats and gained greater awareness of psoas, the muscles that connect my torso to my legs. I look forward to my sessions.”