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The Unquestioned Assumptions Behind Corrective Exercise Methods, Part 4

Movement and Awareness Methods for Release and Re-training

A fourth approach for correcting muscular imbalance that has become popular in recent years is somatic awareness, methods that use gentle movement, hands-on guidance, and awareness exercises to bring about release and improvements in coordination. These methods are based on a number of techniques, including the inhibition of harmful patterns of tension through kinesthetic awareness and body support; direction of body parts using self-monitored proprioceptive feedback; reciprocal innervation (mentioned earlier); gentle exercises and body positioning for releasing muscles and increasing flexibility; and retraining harmful patterns through gentle guidance and redirection of movement.

Although some of these techniques are useful, the problem with the overall approach is that it largely begs the question of how the body actually does work -- that is, it fails to articulate in a specific and positive way how the body works normally. Why, for instance, should we be engaged in a constant process of rectifying tension if our bodies are designed to function without harmful tension? Exactly what is the goal when we are giving people hands-on guidance and instruction? Are we trying to establish improved conditions or heightened awareness or both? In this sense, awareness methods seem to be positive and educational; in actuality, they lack the knowledge necessary to fully restore the system and instead tacitly perpetuate the assumption that things ought to be wrong and that all one can do is to constantly "work" on the body. Even worse, awareness methods fail to address the fundamental question of why, when the system does work well, it goes wrong and how to stop this from happening.

This is a question that goes beyond the study of movement and raises the more fundamental educational issue of how to raise the working of the system to a more conscious level.

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