3 Levels of Self-Maintenance: dial in your own regular self-care practices to maintain your health, heal from injuries and help prevent future injuriesRead Now
It’s vital that you have regular practices which give you a chance to check-in with your body if you want to stay ahead of pain and injuries and fully heal from past injuries. We tend to ask so much of our bodies, whether from inactivity and stress, or from intense activity (or an erratic mixture of both) while not wanting to listen to that stiff shoulder, tight back or tweaky ankle. Developing a solid self-care practice can give you a chance to check in, learn more about your body and movement patterns, and identify more subtle imbalances which can be shifted much more readily as opposed to waiting until something is broken and trying to ‘fix it.’
3 Levels of Self-Maintenance:
1. Every Day
2. 1-3 Times a Week
3. Once a Week, to ~Once Every Month
1. EVERY DAY: some low-impact movement forms like Pilates, Yoga, Qigong, Taiqi, casual swimming, hiking and climbing easy mileage at the cliff. The emphasis in this level of self-care is on movement which gives you a chance to feel what your body is telling you, as opposed to telling your body what to do without listening: INTEROCEPTION vs EXTEROCEPTION. In reality, proprioception (spatial awareness) is always a combination of these two, its just that the emphasis is on interoception in these low-impact movement forms. Ideally you have a regular low-impact movement form to go through in the morning to get the day started in a more somatically engaged space. Everything else through the day starts to make more sense, and you begin noticing subtle shifts you can make through the day.
2. 1-3 Times per Week: Focused and specific Self-Myofascial Release, Trigger Point Release and challenging movement exploration. This is where you can shine a light on the aches, pains and stiffness. With this practice you give yourself a chance to go more into depth with the tension or imbalance that you may be noticing daily through your low-impact movement forms, and your daily life. Use this practice and time to acknowledge your aches and pains, and work through them as much as you are ready, in order to clean the slate to be ready for upcoming challenges. The intention at this level of self-maintenance is to consciously tune-in with the aspects of your movement and form which are less comfortable, in order to:
-RELEASE THE PATTERNS OF PAST INJURIES
-SHIFT PATTERNS WHICH ARE LEADING TOWARD FUTURE INJURY
-ADJUST YOUR HABITS OF POSTURE AND MOVEMENT TO BETTER MATCH YOUR ENVIRONMENT AND LIFESTYLE
Myofascial Release work gradually creates shifts in our structure and allows us to find new posture and movement patterns, so it's important to give a few days between sessions in order to reset your proprioception and learn to inhabit your 'new' form. The fascia gradually remodels itself to match habits and posture over the course of weeks and months, and the brain/ neurological system needs to register the changes in fascial length and relationship of our bones and joints in order to build new habits and movements. So while we can often find some immediate relief from pain and tension with trigger point release, it takes time and consistency to see lasting structural change which your body and brain can make sense of. That is why doing a solid session of self-myofascial release at least once a week is so helpful.
3. Once a Week to Once a Month: working one-on-one with a Bodyworker and/ or Movement Specialist. This can be your favorite Acupuncturist, Structural Bodywork Coach (wink-wink), an Osteopathic Doctor, an expert Pilates and Gyrotonic Instructor, or a quality Physical Therapist.
There’s a wide time-range on this because some people like to work one-on-one frequently to stay focused, while others prefer to spread out their visits and work by themselves extensively between professional sessions. Both ways can work well, as long as there’s a consistent practice in levels 1 & 2 of self-maintenance.
These sessions ideally provide a non-judgmental space to look at your body and movement habits from a different angle. You know your own body better than anyone else, BUT we all develop blind spots where we can’t quite see or understand how to heal or move forward. Oftentimes we have deeply ingrained habits and patterns which we have become experts at avoiding or ignoring (our bodies can be masters of compensation), even during conscious movement work and self-treatment. A good bodyworker will help you to see these patterns, while helping you to free-up the more stubborn or ‘stuck’ aspects of your form, and will give you some homework involving categories 1 & 2 from this list, to help you establish a more direct and self-empowered path of healing.
This level is still self-maintenance, because a good practitioner works with you and helps you to understand your body in greater depth. It’s best to use this level of assisted self maintenance before you’re injured, at the stage when you feel that “something is off” and you could use help figuring it out, although it also helps with healing from injuries already incurred. The real work is taking what you learn from a detailed session with a practitioner and implementing it into your daily and weekly routines in order to make lasting shifts by assimilating the changes into your body-mind network.
Comment below about how you integrate self-maintenance practices into your life.
Brian Cork, MSAOM, CMT