If life is fair in anything, it is in balancing accounts of our relationship to ourselves. Equally to the body, as well as the psyche. All we miss while caring about them, all that we ignore with the excuse that it does not matter, that we don't have the time to deal with it - all in the naive belief that this carelessness will go unpunished - all of that catches up on us. The elderly would say: there always comes a time to pay, with interest. Sooner or later, life gives us an account right on the money. * I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was thirteen. Doctors gave me electrotherapies, and then I had to do some exercises with a physical therapist. I somehow tolerated the first ones, but I gave up on exercises after a second or third session. I hated all the work I had to do, and I didn't listen to adults' warnings who said that I would have real problems when I would be fifty years old if I wouldn't do anything about it. And what thirteen-year-old cares about what would be when he/she is fifty, which is the age when everyone dies anyway.
The next decades until 'the age when everybody dies' I spent mostly sitting with occasional periods of increased physical activity like hiking, recreational cycling, aerobics in a gym. I was never in pain, the exception was occasional discomfort in my lower back (lumbar area), which indicated something wasn't right. However, almost everyone around me had such, or even worse problems: they would wake up one morning with tense muscles, with an only limited range of motion or completely immobile. I believed it had to be that way – it comes with aging. And I also thought I had good predispositions for problems, which I didn't mind so much, but people, even many younger than me, were having severe chronic problems.
When I was something over forty years old, I decided to go around the world on a bicycle. I was having pain in my right arm from the very beginning of the journey. My arm got utterly numb over the night, from shoulder to fingertips, and sometimes I needed half an hour of various exercises just to get some life into it. I thought the problem was in positions of my bicycle seat and handlebar, but even after numerous adjustments the pain and numbness didn't go away. I made peace with that thinking it was 'a sacrifice I had to pay for my freedom as cycling nomad.'
Also, my back was sending me signals, but not as clear and painful as my arm. I wasn't able to sit on the floor without the backrest for a longer time, and I occasionally had troubles getting out of my tent. I was angry because 'that back of mine' was acting like old people's backs (I realized in the meantime that the fifties are not the dying age). However, I had strength and energy to cross the Himalayas with a loaded bicycle. So I ignored the signals. I also neglected tension in my lower back that I sometimes felt after my ride, and I had problems with getting on my bike. Then one morning, just when I was turning fifty – what an irony! – I woke up with a tense and painful back. It was during my tour to Pamir, which is considered to be the Holy Grail of bicycle travelers. I ended up in a hospital taking the MR instead of achieving my dream. The diagnosis was a discus hernia. * I stumbled upon Aleš Ernst by coincidence as I was online searching keywords 'discus hernia and cycling'. The thing I was most worried about was what to expect in the future and what was the prognosis for cycling and nomadic lifestyle, which was what my journey around the globe had become. All-knowing Google directed me to a forum where Aleš actively polemicized about sensory-motor amnesia, clinical somatics and a method he had developed and named AEQ a few years earlier. That was something completely new and uninteresting to me. However, there were two facts standing out: Aleš himself was a former cyclist, and his method gave some pretty amazing results. People's opinions in forums cannot be faked, and they were almost borderline miraculous, at least from people who attended his therapies.
I thoroughly read everything I could find and then visited the website of AEQ method. I finally contacted Aleš via FB. I sent him my diagnosis together with a question how dangerous my situation was and whether he could help me. His reply was a concise, clear and logical explanation of what caused my condition and two AEQ exercises for a start. Instructions for those two exercises were longer than all the previous explanations for exercises I got from others I worked with to solve my troubles. Namely, the barrier was that clinical somatics, and especially the AEQ method, is taught in person, live so to speak, because almost everything is more important than a mere mechanical repetition of moves. Be as it may, I was stuck in Central Asia in a land where medical doctors weren't much different from witch doctors; I was having such pain that I could barely make twenty steps from my hostel to the shop. I believe that was what convinced Aleš to try helping me from afar anyway.
I understood right away that the AEQ method was teaching about mechanisms that enable us to move and live (survive) and that it all took place on relation brain – neuromuscular system. It was a great discovery for someone, who had spent almost her entire life studying spiritual self-realization, which is that our bodies remember everything, physical and emotional stresses, and they react to these stresses with pain.
My perspective changed all of a sudden. It was like a prediction of what was yet to come: I started walking like it was my first time, or like I had walked long time ago when I had been learning the skill. I felt my movement, and I was aware of them while I was doing movements, joyfully and lightly. But just for a while. It will take lots of dedicated and precise work, learning and practicing to master the skill permanently.
But I saw the path precisely at that time. I knew I found the right thing. * Pain is not a good thing. It doesn't exist so we can conquer it, to roll over it like a bulldozer. Pain is the system's warning that we are not doing something right and that it can't handle the pressure anymore. Pain is the spokesperson of entropy, and if we don't hear it, it leads to exhaustion and injuries.
When we experience physical or emotional pain, we contract our muscles and so tonus of the system increases so we could stand the pressure. It's a natural defense mechanism of a human organism. Muscles are supposed to relax when the danger is gone. If that doesn't happen, our movements remain in trauma reflex and become automatic in time due to the sensory motor amnesia.
Relation mind-subconscious-body needs to change. Because physical laws always outplay the mind the end.
These easy, simple and slow movements, sort of like in a decelerated film, help you regain awareness and control over your muscles, you learn when to relax them and when to contract them. It's a way of reprogramming your brain, so it starts sending our conscious commands to muscles again. ...
AEQ method teaches us this, among other things. * There was no miracle overnight. I exercised every day. I read explanations of the exercises again and again, I studied online articles on clinical somatics, but I spent most of my time listening to my body. My condition was changing not just daily, but also during the same day. I felt improvement, but then the pain returned.
Aleš followed my condition through sort of correspondence therapies, always with lots of patience, calmly and attentively. I was reserved towards his method for some time, though subconsciously. I had met too many the-so-called-teachers during my travels. Well, Aleš wasn't one of them. Every new answer to my questions revealed he was a person with vast knowledge and the master of the topic he was teaching me. It turned out he was very smart, a person who had thought through many of the life's truths. So I have given him my full trust.
My condition gradually improved. I was able to walk twenty kilometers without greater difficulties a little over a month into the therapy. Walking suited me the most, which was a paradox as, a few decades ago, I hadn't been able to walk for a longer time due to tense feeling in my lower back. AEQ teaches us that walking is the most natural way of movement. That was the most definite proof of the effectiveness of AEQ exercises.
That was the moment I completely understood why was my entire right side of the body restrained in trauma reflex after I had fallen from my bicycle ten years earlier. I had ended up in a hospital where they had operated my left elbow. I understood why my right arm went numb as well as how many traumas, some even from my childhood, were causing more tension and entropy in the center of my body, leading to scoliosis and then discus hernia. I was the one who could alleviate the consequences of the past damage and prevent future injuries. Aleš 'just' helped me learn, understand and master the method as much as I can.
My condition improved so well after three months of the therapy that I dared to go on a quite difficult trekking. I was supposed to carry more than ten kilos heavy backpack on my shoulders while climbing thousands of steps, walking kilometers of slippery viaducts over chasms. I was wondering whether I could make it or whether the pain in tension would make me give up.
And then that happened: body started moving, walking in the most economical and pain-free way for the system – saving energy, with caution and with unusually soft movements. It was easier for me to climb the slippery stairs with the load on my back than it had been walking on smooth, easy terrain before. I knew I've succeeded – my soma has learned. * However, it's not over yet. I've made an appointment for a series active therapy with Aleš in few months. I'm sure he'll teach me much more in person if he was able to explain me so much online (what is considered impossible in somatic circles, according to Aleš), and I'll be able to cycle again soon. And the end of my fairytale about cycling around the world will be: „So she cycled happily and pain-free until the end, thanks to AEQ exercises that became her Holy Grail.“
Aleš, my compliments to you and thank you so much.
Snezana Radojicic, Sanqingshi, China