I woke up this morning and read a response from my client, Athena, on a post I tagged her in from Mike Mullins (If
you don’t follow him, you should). Athenas reply was amazingly insightful. I literally can’t put into words the immediate monumental “ah ha” moment I had after reading it. Athena is a brilliant physician, mother, yogi, lover of earth, gardener, violin player, vocabulary phenom…this list could be a mile long. Her eccentricities are as varied and beautiful as one would hope for in their own life. Here is a picture of Athena and her son, Julian, and husband, Amir.
Athena began seeing me years ago as her trainer. She lived in a state of persistent pain. Her back and neck were constantly flared up and she was chronically fearful of the next “episode” that would leave her physically and emotionally debilitated. I wanted to help her so much, but just did not have the tools. I was extremely diligent and tried to be “safe” with her exercises but I knew absolutely nothing when it came to her compensatory strategies. I had been training for 15 years and I couldn’t have even explained what a compensatory strategy was!
Fast forward a couple of years. My first PRI course was in late summer 2017. My brain was on fire with the concepts I learned in Myokinematics and the primary courses helped me gain some perspective and start to really make changes in my clients that were lasting. Athena was improving but I knew there was something that was not making sense and clicking for me and her. Two weeks ago I took Cervical Revolution with Mike Cantrell. I can’t say I absorbed everything at first, but it gave me a new perspective I truly needed in order to see the entire picture.
I asked Athena if she could bump up to seeing me 2 times a week at no additional expense to her, if she would allow me to use her as a case study and fumble my way through my own learning. She agreed. I went back to my manuals and sat for hours thinking of what might be going on with her. I had a very strong suspicion that she might be a superior T4 and that I had been missing it even though I learned about it in Respiration. Something about Cervical just allowed it to all come together. In addition, I emailed Mike Cantrell and Mike Mullins asking for advice. Cantrell graciously emailed me back right away with a plan of action to get me on course. Mullins also graciously emailed me back with an offer to discuss her issues over the phone when we could find a mutual time. At some point over that week I also read James Andersons article on Superior T4 and the alarm bells went off.
I went back to the drawing board. My evaluations / assessments with clients over the past year had become a hodgepodge of tests as I struggled to see things clearly. I did a full assessment of Athena using the evaluation form in the manual. Yes, the massive one with 32 assessments! I made notes next to all of her tests regarding potential compensations, strategies, weaknesses, etc. When I finished, I sat back and just looked at it and it was as if I could see every single thing I had needed to see 2 years ago. I had an exact direction I needed to go.
Athena arrived at my house right 30 minutes before that moment, vulnerable and open to being my guinnea pig. I was elated that I had a sound course of action. We started with the superior T4 manual technique / test for T4.
Her Left HG IR (humeral glenoid internal rotation) went from 45 to 80 and her positive Left ADT (adduction drop test) was negative after 5 breaths. I chose a standing exercise because I have always felt Athena does better with the reference of her feet and gravity. She performed a wall reach, left hip back, left zoa and right reach. At first she struggled and her neck started flaring up, particularly her right SCM. I had her place 70% of her weight on her left leg and as she breathed I could see her thorax going back to the right. I remembered from cervical the need for occlusion and Cantrell mentioned placing a card on the left side of her molars. I gave her a folded up post-it to put in between her molars on the left to give her more reference. She repeated the exercise with complete success! I rechecked her HG IR after one cycle of 5 breaths and it was greater than 90.
I got a call from Mike Mullins regarding my email that same afternoon and we discussed my uncertainty regarding which non manual exercises worked best for keeping her out of her Superior T4 position as well as the effect on her cervical spine and a few other amazing nuggets of information that he shared with me. Here is one of the pages in my respiration manual that he reference for me to take a look at. Sometimes the manuals can be so confusing that I forget where to find things.
That night, I came home and tagged Athena in the above mentioned post that Mike had made regarding autonomics and emotions. Athena’s response to that post was profound to say the least.
“Katie Stuart St.Clair. Thank you! Firstly, youre the bomb! Secondly this is powerful impactful work. The physical and metaphysical interplay is very real for me. The way I’m grounded (or not) in my body correlates with my emotional and spiritual state. Too much laxity or flexibility results in instability and compensatory rigidity elsewhere…physically and emotionally. Too much constriction in the neck and shoulders affects breathing and also limits self expression…and vice versa. The reunification of breath, position, and autonomics in PRI ironically circles back to the ancient concept of the chakra…as a root of a set of properties and functions embodied at a particular structural nidus…and it is very much a two way conversation between the body and the mind. For many, myself included, a not so pleasant conversation that’s takes a heavy toll. I’m excited and hopeful to be on this journey with you.”
Athena is an avid yogi and has a love for the teachings in both a physical and emotional sense. Not being a yogi myself, I had to google “what are chakras”. This was the first picture that came up.
A lightning bolt struck my brain and I actually started crying. Here I was, staring at a picture of something Athena new all too well and I suddenly realized I was staring at her! The irony of this situation is beyond comprehension. I immediately created a graphic of the chakras and PRI compensatory strategies.
Evidence of the Chakra system originated in India between 1500-500 BC. Postural restoration concepts originated from Ron Hruska’s brain in the 1980’s and was created as an Institute in 2000. It is ironic to me that two concepts separated by over 3000 years have so many similarities. Chakras are either believed in whole heartedly or dismissed as hokus pokus. PRI definitely has had to struggle to become mainstream and I know that Ron early on was in the business of “convincing” physicians. The chakra system is concerned with balancing the “life force” or energy to create emotional and physical well being. PRI is focused on balancing and managing asymmetries, which ultimately affect our central nervous system, in order to create a greater parasympathetic or exhalation state, resulting in emotional and physical well being. As, Athena, so intuitively pointed out “The reunification of breath, position, and autonomics in PRI ironically circles back to the ancient concept of the chakra…as a root of a set of properties and functions embodied at a particular structural nidus”. Both PRI and the Chakras start with a nidus that can lead in many different paths.
I am sure there are even more comparisons that can be made regarding the individual chakras and individual compensatory strategies and I look forward to delving deeper down that rabbit hole. But for now, I am grateful to see the correlation between the two, which has opened my mind to a new understanding of the physical body that I would not otherwise have realized if it were not for the inspirational insight of my client, Athena.
For all the PRI trainers, coaches, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dentists, ophthalmologists, and physicians, who are struggling with the concepts I have a few words of wisdom (if you will take them from someone with much less intellect and education than you):
1. If you are struggling to connect the dots and considering giving up, I would urge you to keep going down the rabbit hole. It will come.
2. Reach out to anyone you know is clearly more well versed in PRI than you and do not be shy about asking for help. This community is amazing.
3. If you don’t have a resume beyond a B.S. and feel intimidated, as I often have, put your ego aside and embrace being the “dumbest person in the room”. Fear leads to great things.
4. Find whatever correlations to whatever system you understand to help you see the big picture. (Chakras = Compensatory Strategies)
5. When you see someone who is online implementing PRI concepts that you question, know that they are making mistakes and that is part of their journey which they are amazingly vulnerable enough to share. Like their posts and support them because they need to keep going so they can help others.
6. Educate your clients and assume they are capable of understanding. When we educate others we learn for ourselves.
7. If you realize you have missed a big piece with your client, don’t be hard on yourself. Know that even the simple things like a 90 90 hip lift to get them out of extension are helping them.
8. When you leave a course and feel overwhelmed and doubtful you will ever understand, meditate for 20 minutes to calm your nervous system and then open your manual.
9. Celebrate every achievement you have with each client. Every time we are lucky enough to help another human being’s existence become less painful without the use of surgery or medicine, we have exceeded our own humanness.
10. Reach out to anyone you can and create your own PRI community. If no one in your town is using these concepts then reach out online. If someone is willing to go down this rabbit hole without intention of financial gain, trust me, they are the real deal and they will embrace you. They truly just want to help people.
11. Drink lots of coffee!