Postural Realignment Experience

Finding my walk a client testimonial

The session starts: I casually walk around the room, my habitual movement patterns on display. Ishmael Dengate watches. I stop with my feet in parallel. Ishmael gives gentle, steady touch to my right ankle. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. One shoulder is two inches lower than the other!

Ishmael's touch moves to my right knee. After holding it for a minute -- the pressure is steady but what draws my attention most is the calm awareness, the energetic quality, that my knee receives -- he sends me off. A slight push catches me off balance, walking for a couple of steps in a way I never have before, as if on a new limb. I circle the room, noticing the difference. An invisible splint now connects my ankle to the outer edge of my right knee. I pause in front of Ishmael to receive the same treatment to the left. Soon I'm wandering around the room with two invisible supports. Actually the supports aren't that invisible, they're my knee and feet; it's as if I hadn't known how to use these basic parts of my body.

Next is a point above the knee, which connects my whole leg into the movement. My femur now has a direct connection to the floor. After another round of walking Ishmael says, "I'm going to put my hand under your glutes and support your sitz bone while holding on to your outer hip trochanter. This will invite the pelvis to support itself, allowing your weight to be fully carried by your hip socket," as the touch moves to a point deep in my butt.

After experiencing this treatment on one side, the inner part of my pelvis feels more open than the other. When I mention this finding to Ishmael, he remarks that the pelvis is now more aligned with the other bones, bringing my weight to pour more directly to the ground. I learn that distributing weight over the bones gives the muscles a break. And if this is practiced more often it helps rid the muscles of tension.

The founder of this form of bodywork-in-movement is Michael Mazur, an Alexander technique practitioner doubling as a landscape artist. His rock sculptures illustrate the innate power and grace that is naturally exuded upon alignment with gravity.

As Ishmael's supportive pressure transitions up my body, I feel that my bones are being stacked, oh-so-gently. The body welcomes the opportunity to move more efficiently. I become a witness of the innate knowledge of my body. Look at what is possible, my body says. The possibility has always been here and will continue to be here whenever you invite it.

At this point, we're half-way up from floor. Aligned my bones are, yes, but only up to my hips, which are swaying naturally, admittedly more than I typically allow. Above the hips, I don't know what to do. I say that out loud. My lower back is collapsing on itself. It doesn't know where to go. I don't know how to hold myself. I feel the strong base but above that is a big unknown. There is so much information in tuning into a movement as deceptively simple as my walk. I could do this for a long time.

In the next moment , I feel tired. This is hard work. This is not a passive session. I’m not lying on a table receiving work. I’m actively engaging, learning. My body is being retrained and that rewiring makes me tired. On a conscious level there’s not much I need to do. I can tune into the touch, into the presence and awareness I receive from Ishmael. I can try to meditate. I can stare at the wall, bored.

A series of points on the spine and ribs follow. My unknowingness becomes a series of questions. My spine feels straight, mostly unmoving. Shouldn’t it have more flow? Perhaps a gentle spiral to connect the sway of my gait? Now my right shoulder is brought into the pattern. This is the shoulder that was sagging below the other. Or perhaps this one is relaxed and my scoliosis pushes the other up? Or am I attributing to a natural cause something that all those daily hours in front of my laptop creates?

Next is my left shoulder. As Ishmael’s hands rest on it, I notice tightness in my neck; this is what must be making that shoulder so much higher. The shoulder relaxes and sinks. A good inch, at least, I note as I peer into the mirror. I wonder what an hour of attention would do to even out my shoulders.

I witness a growing spiral move through my body. I feel graceful, open. The spiral becomes a figure eight, then with triple loops, flowing up, down, and around my body. I sink into it. I am unsure of how to direct this spiral. Which way should it go – forward or backward, clockwise or counterclockwise? I then drop this idea, allowing the spiral to move me, letting it sort itself out.

Into my neck and head. The remains of congestion and sore throat from my recent cold linger. It’s minor – I thought it had already departed – but as Ishmael’s hands invite me to draw my attention to the area, I realize it is still there.

To end, Ishmael sets one hand on my head and the other on my tailbone, a silent reminder for my spine to fully extend in each direction. My knees sink a notch lower, my hyper-extended knees are reminded to loosen, as my head reaches up. Once in a tai-chi class, I was taught to imagine a river flowing through me to make the difference between reaching and extending. Reach has an end-point. Extension works with chi. There’s no efforting. The extension is beyond the skin. It’s beyond the wall. It’s simply beyond. The session ends and I walk around the room exploring my new walk, left with the image of extension and opening. My body feels open to the spiral, to the new learning. There’s a playfulness, a curiosity. I want to put on some music and see what dance feels like now. Or go on a long walk in the woods.