Sometimes I feel torn about teaching movement. I’m using the term “teaching” synonymously with guiding, facilitating, partnering, supporting or co-creating.
I want to follow the evidence, and at the same time, I don’t want to have to learn something new.
I want to do everything I can to support my clients as they walk the journey towards wholeness, and at the same time, I want to follow the familiar formula of how I like to do things.
I want to be logical, structural, and show my clients how great I am at seeing their “faulty patterns” so I can “correct” them, and at the same time, I know that’s not what they need.
What they need is for me to listen to their story, hold space for their recovery, and empower them to be their own healer.
In my early days as a physiotherapist and movement instructor, I was very confident that my education would give me all the answers I needed to be able to give my clients the “right” treatment and instruction that would lead to improvement and their ultimate recovery.
It’s not exactly the norm for me to quote ancient Greek philosophers, but over the last couple of decades as I’ve explored the world of movement, neuroscience, pain education and more, the wise words of Aristotle pop into my head quite often. He said, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”
Boy, is that ever accurate! But where does that leave me in terms of having to be in possession of all the answers for my clients?
Well – as I’ve discovered over the last few years, it’s actually quite freeing not to have all the answers.
“I don’t know”. This simple statement leaves room for curiosity, inquiry, connection and dialogue.
At first it can be scary to tell a client you don’t know, but in following the latest research in areas like Pain Neuroscience Education, it turns out that a lot of what I was taught back in the day hasn’t been supported by the evidence.
There’s just a ton I don’t know…and neither does anyone else. How many research papers end with “needs further study”?
I’ve had to let go of beliefs I’ve held for many years in order to follow a more authentic evidence-based path. Beliefs like thinking I had to teach someone to lift with a neutral spine to “protect the back”, teach them “core strengthening exercises” to decrease pain and prevent injury, or show them how to correct their sitting and standing posture to improve their symptoms.
None of these beliefs are backed by science, and letting go of them can be challenging.
As I confronted my own beliefs, I found myself resistant to learning a different way both as a student of movement and as a facilitator.
I would question the evidence. I would exclaim to myself, “The things I was taught make sense! And darn it—I know how to do it and teach it the old way! It’s familiar. It’s comfortable.” But in truth, this was just my reluctance to embrace change talking.
Here’s the freeing part. There are things we can adopt in our practice that are supported by the evidence:
1. We can listen, be present, and reassure our clients.
2. We can see each client as a whole, complete human being, and not as a machine that’s broken and needs to be “fixed” or “corrected”.
3. We can give them permission to explore movement freely, rather than giving them the impression that there are “right” or “wrong” postures or movement patterns.
4. We can hold the intention of compassion and love for a fellow human being who has courageously reached out to us for support. Sometimes we have no idea what’s going on in the lives of others, and we judge them anyway.
5. We can confidently say “I don’t know” more often.
Taking these things on in our practice can be challenging, but the rewards for ourselves and our clients are immeasurable.
I hope you’ll stay tuned as we continue to learn as a community how to be better movement practitioners for our own growth and the benefit of our clients.