(originally published Dec. 21, 2014 – taosnews.com)
M.L. Abair knows firsthand what Egoscue exercises can do for people with chronic pain.
A certified massage therapist, she watched some of her clients deteriorate over time even though they came to see her regularly and exercised in the gym.
“Something wasn’t working” Abair said. “I didn’t know how to help them. Then one of my clients, an avid golfer who had been diagnosed with degenerative neck disease, found a book she thought might be useful and she sent it to me. It turned out to be the best, most helpful volume I had ever read, a first-aid book that should be in every house.”
The book was “Pain Free, a Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain,” by Pete Egoscue. Abair said the techniques described made perfect sense to her so she decided to try them out on someone who was in excruciating pain after getting out of a cast that had been put on badly.
“That was myself,” Abair said. “I had lost sensation in my foot and felt extremely uncomfortable. I started doing some exercises and the pain began to diminish. By the fourth day, it was totally gone.”
As for her client, she recovered so well she was able to play golf again in a matter of months.
Abair was determined to learn more about the method and its creator, so she called the Egoscue clinic in San Diego, California. Though they were not training new instructors at that time, she was allowed to go and observe their work.
“I was very impressed when I saw all the positive changes in Egoscue’s patients,” she said, “so I began to incorporate his methods into my practice.”
She later became a posture therapist certified by Egoscue University.
“I have taken many classes and gone to summer camps with them,” she said. “One of the biggest benefits of the Egoscue method is that it teaches people to help themselves instead of having to go to someone else all the time.”
So, what exactly is the Egoscue method?
“It’s a non-medical therapeutic approach intended to bring posture back into balance and restore the body’s proper function,” Abair said. “Basically, the exercises help realign the joints of people who are having pain due to constant improper posture. When the realignment happens pain goes away, sometimes all of it, sometimes most of it. The exercises aren’t difficult but the whole process takes time, energy and, above all, commitment.”
She advises her clients to do a set of exercises once a day at first, until the pain is gone, then scale down to five days a week if necessary.
“I also recommend doing at least two or three simple exercises every day — and all the Egoscue exercises are fairly simple — just to remind their bodies to stay in the right shape,” she said.
Spinning the atlas
Everybody has a different “coming to Taos” story and Abair is no exception. In 1985 she had been living in California for seven years, but was tired of big cities and wanted to move to a place with a slower, gentler pace.
“I opened up the atlas, spun it around, closed my eyes and put my finger down,” she said. “It pointed to Taos. I came here and in a week I had found three jobs and a place to stay. I took it as a sign that I was welcomed here. That’s why I am so happy to offer these classes and help people feel better. That’s what Taos means for me.”
Abair teaches an Egoscue class every Friday, from noon to 1 p.m. at Unity Church, 69 Blueberry Hill Road in Taos.
“I began offering it in 2000 at Chamisa High School,” she said. “My son was a student there and the principal asked me to teach the Egoscue method to the staff and other students.”
She stopped teaching for a few years, due to personal circumstances, then resumed the class. It has been going on for six years now.
Abair also offers private sessions.
“I take pictures of people and show them where they are off center,” she said. “I give them a number of Egoscue exercises according to the amount of time they can devote every day to work out. I don’t give them more ‘homework’ than they can handle! And I make sure they understand the importance of commitment in order to get well.”
She gives her clients instructions in person and by email, and is available if they have questions.
“They can also attend my class at Unity Church,” she said. “It’s only $10 a session or $20 for four.”
Causes and symptoms
Many of Abair’s clients simply want to feel better. Others are trying to improve their appearance or athleticism.
“They come here because of the symptoms, which range from living in pain to having a hunched back,” she said. “But once they eliminate the reason behind these problems, which is constant bad posture, the symptoms just go away.”
Victoria Sojourn-Prince is one of Abair’s most enthusiastic students.
“Doing the Egoscue exercises with M. L. gave me my life back,” she said. “I’ve been taking classes with her for several years and my body has changed for the better. I had arthritis and carpal tunnel, I could barely walk … Now I feel stronger and I am able to teach a tai chi class at the Taos Jewish Center.”
Astrid Brouwer has been attending Abair’s classes for two years.
“I was in a lot of pain after a car accident,” she said. “I started coming to the class and the pain went away. Now I’m here almost every week. It’s great.”
Cecelia Torres, a dancer, has been doing Egoscue exercises for 10 years.
“I can tell you something: when I stop, I go back to my old posture habits,” she said. “You have to keep at it every day, but the results are worth it.”