Balancing Whole Body Systems
A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
I hear the term balance often in my work as a PT and yoga instructor. “I don’t have good balance” a person may say while testing out Tree pose (vrksasana) or Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III). Or, “My neck pain is due to stress. I can’t balance work and my family.” The concept of balance evokes an image of steadiness. Smoothness. But what is balance, really? And how do we find it?
A quick Google search of the word balance brought many definitions including “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” I love this description because it allows for an uneven distribution – as long as the proportion is correct. As a physical therapist with a holistic practice I look at whole body systems when evaluating a patient. Rather than focusing only on the location of symptoms, I look to other areas within the same system. This could mean assessing movement in the spine, shoulders, and hips, in addition to the knee, in a person reporting knee stiffness. Oftentimes it is another area of the body that is “out of balance” and is a major contributor to the issue. A hip with too much mobility and not enough strength may allow for too much strain to be absorbed by the knee resulting in swelling or tenderness. The solution to finding ease in the musculoskeletal system is finding the different elements of the whole system in the correct proportions.
But our systems don’t work in isolation. This means that the function of our gastrointestinal system affects our musculoskeletal system, and our respiratory system. When one system is struggling, others may be the first to show the signs. GI issues are notorious for causing back pain. Our psycho/social/emotional systems are included in this big picture. Have you noticed that neck pain or headaches increase during times of stress? It is important to consider multiple systems of the body when assessing and treating dysfunction. The Pancamaya Kosha model is a framework used in yoga therapy that considers multi layered systems – a biopsychosocial approach – and strives for optimal function in all of them for optimal function for the whole self. Read more about this here.
The physical therapists at Evolution do this. In treating our patients we look to cultivate balance within the whole body. This can include strengthening weak muscles, stabilizing hypermobile joints, improving exhalation, and developing a meditation practice for stress management. We work with our clients to find ways in which the different elements are in the correct proportions to find balance.