Let us talk ‘Balance’: what do we mean?
A client recently sent me this photograph of her brand new flip flops after she had worn them for just 5 hours following a trip over a kerbstone. It told a story which I thought I would share with you here.
Being ‘out of balance’ sounds ‘airy fairy’ but is it really? I see clients every day and think ‘gosh you are out of balance’. Those who do sport tend to know EXACTLY what I mean – they feel it. What am I looking for? Is it a ‘feeling’ that I as the practitioner has that something is not right?
Well yes, partly, but mainly it is a visible asymmetry and a palpable difference in tensions as the body is worked on. One shoulder higher than the other; a shoulder further forward than the other; a foot turned more in than it ought to be; a spine more bent over; a section of spine which does not bend when the person leans forwards to undo their shoes; a lean in the upper body to one side or the other; or a tendency to always have one leg bent when standing or to put that leg out to the side; a pelvis more thrust forwards so that the upper body leans back to try and maintain a centre of gravity. In many cases a combination of all these factors and more.
Does this matter? I hear you ask and, as a holistic health practitioner, I would say yes it does very much matter. Ignore such ‘imbalance’ at your peril as they will often accumulate as each instils compensatory tensions such that they layer up over the years and decades.
A hunched forward body will compromise bodily functions via a range of routes – potentially impinging nerves, compressing organs as a result of the abdominal cavity being reduced in size, restricted breathing due to the lung size being reduced within the overall smaller space, walking made more difficult as the body tries to maintain a centre of gravity, a greater risk of falls, and much much more.
As the diaphragm muscle draws itself down the lungs suck in air to fill the vacuum created and the organs in the abdominal cavity are compressed momentarily as the thoracic cavity expands to hold the air, the pelvic area expands slightly and the sacrum and coccyx (our ‘tail’ or balance point) tilt (watch this YouTube Video).
As the diaphragm reverts to its resting dome, expelling the air from the lungs in the process the wave moves up the spine to expand momentarily the sutures between the bones of the skull (watch this YouTube Video for full explanation) giving the brain a slight compression as the organs are released from their compression.
This cranio sacral rhythm supports the effective functioning of the body by repeatedly and alternately massaging the brain and then the organs. To be fully effective all vertebrae should be independently mobile and any soft tissue tensions which are holding vertebrae out of alignment could lead to one or more nerves being compressed or trapped leading to pain and/or malfunction of related organ(s). A diaphragm muscle in spasm or impaired will serious impact whole body function.
In similar fashion if a shoulder is being held forward even at rest then it is quite probable that the soft tissue tensions that are holding it will in due course lead to functional issues such as entrapment of nerve fibres or restricted range of movement. The very presence of an imbalance of this type in the upper body will cause compensation elsewhere to try to retain centre of gravity.
A so-called ‘longer’ leg will tend to be bent or put out to the side to enable the eyes to be brought level with one another as the brain functions better this way. As the body will tend to lean to the ‘shorter’ leg side, that leg will start to support greater and greater percentages of the body’s weight. In this way, persistently standing on the ‘shorter’ leg will compress the ankle, knee and potentially challenge the (femur head) hip as its supporting gluteal and related muscles struggle to hold it in its shallow ‘cup’., all on that one side. This is likely to result in yet greater ‘shortening and ever increasing ‘lean’.
Balance matters. We should all try to avoid crossing our legs or ankles as these create torsions in the body (most particularly the pelvis) which then have to be compensated for in other parts of the body. Try to stand 50:50 on each of your two feet – with that measured both from side to side and from front to back of your foot.
If tensions are holding you out of balance consider Bowen as a means of restoring tissue tensions to their correct function and thus avoid the need for artificial supports to prop up your feet and body.
Kathryn Phillips BSc(hons) BTPA cert ECBS PRM MAR IIR regd TATh
BTPA Regional Interest Group (RIG) Coordinator