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80% is the alarming number of Americans who will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Besides the huge economic cost of lost work hours, medical treatment and drugs (as high as $240 billion a year!), it means there is an awful lot of unhappiness in our country right now. Can you be happy if you are in pain? Surely, this is not the result of some design flaw in the human body. Why would Mother Nature create a body that doesn’t function properly? Is it possible that something about the modern lifestyle is responsible?

Office chairs, cars, laptops, cellphones, TV and video games all have one thing in common. Minimal movement of the big muscles of the back. Yet Americans spend an average 10 hours a day involved with at least one if not all these forms of modern technology. Coincidence? I think not! Truth is, our biology has not caught up with our technology.

So until humanity evolves into some other cyborgian form, we need to return to the function that we were designed for: movement. If you stand still for a few moments with your eyes closed, you’ll notice that your body starts to sway, and if you stay long enough, you might even fall over unless you tense up. Our systems need to move. But once you’re in pain, movement seems to make things worse. How can we move from pain to pleasure? 

There are many approaches to healing back pain, and exercise is certainly one of them. But often there is an emphasis on “core strength” and stability at the expense of mobility and flexibility. Dr. Timothy Sobie of Saybrook University compared a Core Strengthening Program with A Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® Program in an 8 week study with participants who had back pain. The results “demonstrated greater effectiveness across all relevant outcome measures for:

1) decreasing pain,
2) decreasing perceived disability,
3) increasing function,
4) increasing endurance, and
5) optimizing performance ratios for sustained holding of torso positions in comparison to more commonly accepted, medically endorsed, and popular Rx protocols for ‘Core Stabilization’ isolated recruitment of ‘core muscle groups’ and the usual performance of ‘Motor Control’ fitness-based exercises for a population of patients diagnosed with persistently chronic Low Back Pain problems.” Read his article here.

But Awareness Through Movement lessons do so much more than relieve pain. Moshe Feldenkrais said, “What I’m after isn’t flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I’m after is to restore each person to their human dignity.” Using the subtle, sophisticated movement sequences he developed, you will find that not just your back pain, but your whole life improves. As he so eloquently put it, “Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.” Wouldn’t you love that for yourself?

An article in today’s The Guardian explores back pain in depth and (hurray!) mentions Feldenkrais as an approach toward relieving it. 

If you’d like to explore Feldenkrais options for back pain, join me at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, NC – Aug. 23-26