Back In The Dark Ages
What Voltaire wrote in the 18th century about doctors could well be an aphorism from Philip Day's "Health Wars" published last year: "Doctors prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of which they know nothing." You could say the modern medics with a few magnificent exceptions like Helen Ford in Stourbridge, who allies technical mastery to huge psychic insight and rare perspicacity, are deeper in The Dark Ages, certainly about the human back, than the 18th century French doctor, because of the plethora of drugs and their wizardry with the knife. Even pre-Hippocratean, since at least their patron saint found it useful to massage people's backs when he couldn't diagnose their problem.
But it is not far from how I felt on qualifying, in spite of 4.5 years of wonderful tuition, split between Zen Shiatsu of Sonia Moriceau and the Devon School of Oliver Cowmeadow with Simon Fall and many marvellous moving treatments from them all. Why? I revelled in the magical properties of Shiatsu from the comments of those receiving, like the 28 year old half French-Swiss girl who'd been a heroin addict till 23: "I feel like I've died an gone to heaven...if I'd known about Shiatsu I would never have taken heroin", until I was swiftly brought to my senses when vainly attempting to treat a man whose back was so sensitive to pain I could barely touch him. Not only had I little insight about human backs but also an unawareness of what Oliver in his exceedingly clear "Art of Shiatsu" calls a "very common problem". Meir Schneider's masterly, wide-ranging "Handbook of Self Healing" states "people have suffered from backache throughout recorded history however the current epidemic proportions of the problem are a more recent phenomenon". This chapter on the Spine begins: "80% of the world's population suffer needlessly from back pain." A Fact brought tellingly home to me a month a go when l spoke to only four people in 48 hours, all of whom had bad backs.
Four years ago the miracle occurred. The Devon School ran a workshop on Pelvic Correction by Alexander Barrie, Shiatsu Practitioner, Cranio-Sacral Therapist and Teacher of Hatha-Yoga, who has made a profound study of what he terms "an appalling problem." We became aware of its magnitude from the fact that everyone on the workshop had a misaligned pelvis: he showed us two ways (since expanded to four) to re-align it and on our own to keep it in place. Though out a mere 1/16th, I felt afterward as if walking for the first time, whilst others 1/2th (of inch) or more out, found their body weight had shifted, their spirit much lighter, almost heady. The ruthless logic of it. Alexander says, is that if the pelvis is not in place, all the bodily organs are under stress, to cause, with all the other stress people plant in their lives, a constantly rising mass of complaints from which only remote mountain people like the Hunzas are blissfully free. Do the majority of ailments, as he offers, stem from this one crucial imbalance?
The practical outcome for my clients was breathtaking (their true names may be obtained) suddenly I could offer people health of a kind that the Rev. Sidney Smith envisaged in the early 19th century (see his daughters, Lady Holland's Memoirs) - an American Ambassador of his day said that if he had not been regarded as the wittiest man alive, he would surely have been deemed the wisest:-
Of The Body
"Happiness is not impossible without health but it is of very difficult attainment. I do not mean by health merely an absence of dangerous complaints but that the body should be in perfect time-full of vigour and alacrity."
Lucy in her early thirties was the first beneficiary. Her frozen shoulder, progressively seizing up for six months, now affecting the whole of her left arm (her pelvis 3/4" out of alignment) was 85% better within a day, totally free of pain within four. Next, 51 years old Annette, 1/2" out, arthritic (supposedly) twinges in her hips for 7 years, a muscle ache from left elbow through upper am, had five treatments saying after the first " I could have been a bird flying in the sky", by the fifth entirely pain free commenting "feel more relaxed than ever as if l wasn't there." Her son-in-law of 24 showed the crucial power of realignment. With a back problem since 16 when shovelling, he now suffered agony by the end of work as a printer and for eight months had given up rugby, squash, cycling. Both GP and chiropractor had not spotted the pelvis being 1 1/4" out. After realignment, Shiatsu and a week of the Alexander Barrie self-help techniques he returned 85% better (we were both equally astounded), a week later 95% fit and after session 3 no return.
Elizabeth, around 55, proved a solid test-case as she had so much awry. An eroded disc in the lumbar region for twenty years, though ameliorated by a osteopath at the time so that she could walk, now gave a constant grinding pain plus, of late, tingling and numbness from the buttock to knee, itching skin, painful neck and shoulders, a stiff right wrist, irritable bowel syndrome. All complicated by HRT for the last 7 years following a hysterectomy (she refused to allow the surgeon to remove her ovaries). After 1" realignment and 5 sessions, a startling 80-90% improvement everywhere apart from the IBS (only 30%), the neck, wrist and thigh almost totally freed. Much livelier and more confident, she stopped taking the HRT after I had subsequently sent her the relevant article from "What the doctors Don't Tell you "publication and the whole blistering chapter on it from Phil Day's "Health Wars".
Peter, the plasterer, too had a 1" misalignment, his plight a 9 week old cricked neck becoming a left shoulder and elbow pain extending to pins and needles in index and middle finger. A G. P. prescription on Voltarol caused stomach cramps, so given antacid tablets which didn't work ending up with equally ineffective tablets - he read on the label they were for bed wetting and depression!!! Within the first week after realignment/Shiatsu he noticed shoulder pain/pins and needles thrice and then briefly, by the end of week 2 entirely better. After two further treatments (Makka-ho and other exercises demonstrated to help prevent recurrence) he asked for books to read on Shiatsu and this new world of health and ease.
Aside from using the 100% effective Alexander Barrie self-help techniques, how can people overcome a long-term proneness to this imbalance? Having tested well over 100 people, including this autumn ten apple-picking Czech students in their early twenties, all of them well out of true. I see a pointer from the only two who did not need realignment: one a 28 year old German yoga teacher, riveting in the way she walked, exquisitely poised, balletic, dreamlike, the other a N.Z. Shiatsu practitioner who daily did exercises. Ohashi in his "Oriental diagnosis" has a fascinating chapter on the back-for people with hunched up backs, riddled with anger, he says plenty of exercise to let off steam. Schneider sees the principal cause as a life deficient in the movement, of the western world to the African Bushmen so vividly portrayed by the Lurens van der Post in his masterpiece " The Lost World of the Kalahari", three of whom ran alongside his land Rover for 30 miles sprinting away at the end. I can testify, after doing it for twenty five years, to the value of vigorous exercise, either walking swiftly, running 5 miles most days, swimming (30 lengths) or lately, since we sold our car, cycling (14 miles into town or 15 miles to play tennis , i.e. a 30 mile round trip).
What is the relative importance for general healing of the Alexander Barrie Alignment System to the ensuing Shiatsu? Alexander said 60-40% my intuition 80-20% but when I dowsed with a pendulum the answer was 75-25% going up to 82-18% for those with severe, long-standing back-pain. So taking into account all he has to offer (The AB workshops soon to be extended into five). I would interestingly suggest that those unfamiliar with the AB system of Pelvic Correction it is de rigueur. (Details below).
Phylis Duller sums it all up: "I am now of an age when my back goes out more than I do". With the Alexander Barrie Technique she could say, "I Never need to go out because my back always stays in." That is if you see entertainment, like modern drug, as a palliative for perpetual pain which you can now forever banish for yourself and others