How To Relieve That Pain in the… Glutes

Yesterday I got an email from an attorney who’d bought my DVD several months ago:

Your first DVD was great. For months, I had a recurring pain at the top of my right glute, which radiated down my leg. After figuring out which Somatic Exercises worked best to relieve the tightness and regain the ability to relax the muscle, the pain is gone and if it recurs, I know how to relieve it.

I asked him which Somatic Exercises were the ones he’d figured out worked best for him. His answer was:

  • Cross lateral arch and curl
  • Walking lessons, part 2

People are individuals, yet all humans’ brains respond the same way to stress. This is the beauty of Thomas Hanna’s discoveries. Every human being tightens the back or front of the body, or the side of the body when responding to stress, be it mental, emotional, or physical.

I created my Pain Relief Through Movement DVD so that people could learn to relieve pain on their own, at home. It’s great to hear from those, like the customer above, who has devoted time to getting to know his body again, and refining his physical awareness (proprioception) in order to figure out where his Sensory Motor Amnesia was and how to reverse it rapidly. I believe this can occur when we FEEL our Somatic Exercises, rather than simply DO them. When you FEEL your movement, you know what works for you and what doesn’t.

FEELING is different from DOING

When we DO something, our attention is often more in our head than in our body. I’ve seen many students “perform” the Somatic Exercises more concerned as to whether they’re “doing them correctly” than to “what the movement FEELS like as they do it.  When feeling and sensing, rather than rote “doing” is the medium, you’ll find the results to be superior. Feeling and sensing opens the channels of learning. Your brain starts to coordinate your muscles in such a way that the movement becomes easier and easier to do. It’s much like a deer treading a path in the forest.

Here are a few pointers about the benefit of these two movements for anyone with pain in their gluteal muscles – especially in the gluteus minimus, at the “top” of the buttocks:

Cross Lateral Arch and Curl

This exercise creates more rounding through the front of the body on a diagonal plane, which helps to further lengthen the back muscles on the diagonal. Not only do you lengthen through the upper back to curl yourself up, elbow toward the opposite knee, but you also release the lower back muscles on the side of the knee that curls up toward the elbow. If the top of your buttocks (glut minimus) is tight and painful, this movement will help release the lower back and the buttock as they coordinate together.

Walking Exercises, Part 2

This movement, done after “Part 1,” which I call the “knee dropping inward” movement – reminds the pelvis that it can move in a nice rocking movement, as it should when we walk. The back muscles, waist, and abdominals all lengthen to allow the leg and knee to move over the foot, as would occur in walking. Many of us learn to keep our pelvis rigid when we walk. This makes for clunky, inefficient walking, and contributes to hip pain. We don’t want to walk like “America’s Next Top Model,” but it’s important to allow the hips and pelvis to move slightly in walking. For those with buttock pain, this movement reminds the muscles of the core to lengthen and relax as they coordinate together to move the pelvis. The buttock contracts slightly in this exercise, as it coordinates the walking movement.

Learn these movements, and many more using my Pain Relief Through Movement DVD.

Explore Your Movement and Relieve Your Pain

Last week “Michelle” came to me with severe sciatica. Sciatica is a full body pattern of muscle contraction that causes the sciatic nerve to become pinched, sending pain down the leg in most cases. Her back muscles on one side were like steel rods and her pelvis was slightly twisted, causing one buttock to contract while the other one was soft.

Michelle had participated in one of my workshops and found many of the Somatic Exercises to be challenging. No matter how she moved, everything hurt. As she left the class I wasn’t sure if she’d gotten anything out of it. Two days later I received a call from her; she wanted to come in for clinical sessions to continue to learn how to relieve her sciatic pain once and for all. Here’s what she told me:

I went home after the workshop and sat at my desk.  I suddenly realized that I’d been twisting my upper body one way and my lower body the other way to sit and work at the computer. The light bulb went off for me as I remembered your explanation of the Trauma Reflex and how it contributes to back and hip pain. Twisting my pelvis had become a habit!

Before we could even start to work, she put her hands on her head and showed me what her mother used to do every day when Michelle was growing up. She looked like a hula or belly dancer, rotating her hips in large circles and letting her belly be soft as it moved.

She told me she would ask her mother why she did those movement, and her mother would tell her, “because it makes my back feel really good!

She asked me, “should I do stuff like this? It feels really good when I do it!” My answer was an unequivocal “yes!”

You may find out that you’re smarter than you think.

Michelle’s mother’s brain was telling her that it’s GOOD to move her hips that way. Finding movements that feel comfortable and relaxing can be just what you need to keep your muscles supple and relaxed. By doing this you can figure out for yourself what helps and what doesn’t help.

Many people do exercises only because they’re told to do them. Blind adherence to what the teacher is telling you to do without being present and involved in the process yields few positive results, whether it’s in life itself or with your body. It deadens the channels of awareness rather than opening them and letting learning flow in.

I often need to remind my clients to FEEL the movement rather than to DO the movement. The feeling will guide and inform the movement. If a movement is uncomfortable – back off and go more slowly in a smaller range of motion. Forcing a movement just for the sake of doing the movement can cause injury.

People like Michelle’s mother, figured out that putting her hands on her head and gyrating like a belly dancer several times a day would keep her back feeling good.

The possibilities for healthy movement are endless, and the awareness we can gain about ourselves, our bodies and the way in which we interact in our own lives through Somatic Exercises and movement exploration helps relieve pain, and improve muscle control.

If you’re like Michelle’s mother and have already made up some fun Somatic Exercises or fun movements that you find helpful – whether they’re done lying on the floor or standing up – I’d love to have you share them with me.