A longtime client who comes to class sporadically grabbed me at the end of our session on Sunday for some extra help.

I talk a lot in class about lining the ribs up over the pelvis and checking to make sure that the sternum (“breast bone”) is parallel to the wall ahead of us, not pointing up in the air. “I was doing a forward bend,” she told me, “and I looked at myself in the mirror and it dawned on me – I’m sticking my ribs way out.”

When it comes to the work I do bringing principles of Restorative Exercise to the clients at a “big box gym,” there is just nothing better than having a client properly identify an alignment issue.

I can point to the parts of their body I’d like to see move differently, but my words don’t “stick” the way a personal epiphany does.

We talked a little after class about rib thrusting – and, make no mistake, we are pretty much all rib thrusters – and ways that she could begin to work on the issue.

I’ve realized that alignment work, I told her, is a process and a journey rather than an event or a FullSizeRenderlesson. You don’t “fix” yourself. Rather, you slowly and over time peel the layers of an onion. You can’t begin to dig into the deeper layers until you’ve worked on the superficial layers.

I had said earlier in class that I was working to solve some pelvic floor issues. Those issues are a great example of the state of my onion. Because if I hadn’t already addressed the position of my pelvis over the course of a few years, worked on releasing my psoas (still most definitely a work in progress!) and begun to address my own rib thrust issues, the pelvic floor issue wouldn’t have revealed itself to me.

So often when we are in pain or perceive a “problem” in our body, we just want to fix it now. But that’s not really how the body works, is it? I’ve come to believe that the deeper, more meaningful resolution comes from peeling away the layers of dysfunction and discomfort one at a time.

I don’t see my role in the classroom as one of mere instruction. I have loftier goals. I hope to enable my clients to get to know their own bodies better. There is something magical about helping people become more “embodied,” as Brooke Thomas of Liberated Body is fond of saying.

And when clients have those “aha!” moments, and you know another layer of onion just got removed? Well, that always makes for a good day.

(You can find this post and others from like-minded bloggers at Thank Goodness It’s Monday here.)

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