December 18, 2011

I had this book by Sharon Butler on my wish list for a few weeks, and when it came available I decided to go ahead and give it a shot. I experience on and off issues with repetitive strain injury, and I have several clients who have problems with this as well.

After finally getting a chance to read through it, I was pleasantly surprised. The book include a few short chapters on theory/background and then goes straight into descriptions of exercises that are helpful for strain in various parts of the body and general tips for proper alignment/posture. It is truly a self-care guide designed for the layperson. The key to these gentle stretches, according to the author, is practicing them in a specific manner. She recommends performing each movement only until the slightest stretch is felt. One then holds the stretch and waits to feel subtle muscular release (the stretching sensation disappears, typically), indicating that the body has accepted the stretch and is ready to continue on.

Practicing stretches like this requires close attention to your body, which I think is healing in and of itself. Finding and holding the exact place where the stretch has just started is actually quite a challenge. For someone who has practiced yoga for more than a decade, this type of movement requires even more concentration – I am used to looking for a slightly more intense body sensation! I found this practice a refreshing change, and because I needed to focus on staying with the slight stretch and not deepening it I found that my mind was more focused and less wander-y as well. (Note that you don’t have to do these stretches from a yogic perspective, and the author does not mention yoga at all in the text.)

I will also report that the techniques have brought me a measurable degree of symptom relief. They feel good to perform and the effects seem to last and accumulate (over days, so far). I would recommend these exercises to clients with repetitive strain injuries – or anyone who is at risk for them – and may incorporate some of them into future yoga classes as well.  And with used copies of this text available for $5, it certainly seems worth a try!

My one gripe with this book is that the importance of making changes in posture, alignment and/or movement is not particularly emphasized. The author seems to assume that readers will continue to perform the movement(s) that caused the injury/strain in the first place. Clearly, the exercises would best be done in conjunction with changes in these areas that would help avoid further strain to the affected area. Overall, I would highly recommend this text as a useful resource for bodyworkers, yoga teachers and anyone experiencing repetitive strain injury.

About Camille Freeman, LDN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for highly-trained herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.

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