Even as a child, I recall having neck and back pain. It was the relief I felt when I first experienced yoga with Lilias Folan on PBS in the 1970s; that was my first inspiration to train as a yoga teacher and later as a massage therapist. Even so, I continued to experience recurring stiffness and pain, and it wasn't uncommon for me to injure myself in small ways while practicing yoga. In addition, over time, I developed a chronic hip problem that often kept me awake at night. Sometimes, I would get out of bed and do "hip opening" stretches to relieve the pain so I could go back to sleep.
While I appeared to have gained "flexibility" from all the stretching I was doing, I didn't understand that I had become dependent on stretching to feel okay. Releasing the tension trapped inside chronically tight muscles did bring relief, but it was always short-lived so that I was soon having to try again, and again, and again . . .
By the mid-1990s, I had the good fortune to learn about the work of Jean Couch, founder of the Balance Center in Palo Alto, California, who was teaching what she had learned from Noelle Perez of Paris, France.
Noelle had developed concepts related to the body's natural alignment based on her observations of people who moved gracefully and were free from stiffness and pain.
The story is long, so I'll fast forward and jump to the part where I traveled from home on the Big Island of Hawai'i to have a session with Jean. I never imagined that that first session would change my entire perception of my body and shine a light on the chronic misalignment that caused me to "need" to stretch regularly to hold constantly recurring discomfort at bay.
By then, I was in my late 40s, and my three children were at various stages of launching into the world. I had yoga studios in two locations now. I couldn't have imagined that I would soon decide to give up yoga altogether and head off on a solo trip around the world in search of women and children who successfully carry heavy loads their heads!
In the twenty-eight years since I first met Jean and came to understand how to re-inhabit my body the way Nature had in mind for this body of mine, I’ve traveled to many places in the world and met with and photographed people who successfully live their entire lives according to Nature's design. I’ve written books on this subject and taught principles of natural alignment to countless people in the classes and workshops I’ve taught. I’ve designed small, portable posture aid products, and created an online course that makes this information available to anyone who wishes to learn this.
Even now, at 76, I am far more limber and comfortable than in my 20s, 30s, and 40s—and I haven’t stretched in over twenty-five years!
Nothing gives me greater satisfaction (besides hanging out with my grandchildren : ) than introducing these principles of alignment to someone who struggles with stiffness and pain and then watching the life-changing benefits they gain from knowing how to apply them in their daily lives.
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