If life is fair in anything, it is in settling accounts for our relationship with ourselves, our body, and our psyche. Everything we neglect while taking care of our body and mind with the excuse that it’s not important, that we don’t have time for it – in the naive belief that we will take it away with impunity – all this eventually catches up with us. Older people would say: for everything comes a time of payment with interest. Sooner or later, life presents us with a bill that is accurate to the penny.
I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was thirteen. They sent me for electrotherapy, and afterward, I did exercises with a physiotherapist. I tolerated the electrotherapy but stopped exercising after the second or third therapy. I didn’t like exerting myself so much, but the adults’ warnings that I would have big problems in my fifties didn’t touch me. When does a thirteen-year-old think about what awaits them when they turn fifty, which is supposed to be a period when people slow and calm down?
In the following decades, until the ‘age when people settle down,’ I had a predominantly sedentary life with intermediate periods of greater physical activity (recreational cycling, mountain climbing, indoor aerobics). I never felt any pain; sometimes, my back in the lumbar area warned me with a vague, unpleasant feeling that something was wrong. However, almost everyone around me had these or even worse problems: one day, they woke up stiff, semi-mobile, or even immobile. I believed that over the years, such problems must also arise. I also believed that I probably had a good predisposition for such problems, which never bothered me too much because so many people around me, even much younger, had severe and chronic problems. When I was a little over forty years old, I started traveling around the world by bicycle. Right from the start, I had pain in my right hand. Sometimes my arm went numb overnight, and I needed more than half an hour of exercise in the morning to bring it back to life. I thought the problem was the position on the bike, but the pain and stiffness did not go away even after countless changes in the seat position and balance. I have come to terms with the fact that this is ‘the price I pay to be a free cycling nomad.’
My back was also signaling to me that something wasn’t right, but it was not as clear and not as painful. It became difficult for me to sit on the ground for longer periods without something to lean on, and I sometimes had problems with trying to stand up and leave my tent. It annoyed me that my back behaved like the back of older people (in the meantime, I realized that the fifties are not nearly the age to die) because I had enough strength and energy to cross the Himalayas with a loaded bicycle. That’s why I ignored these signals. I also ignored the stiffness in the lower back that I occasionally felt after cycling. And also the fact that sometimes I couldn’t even get on the other side of the bike to sit on it. But then, one morning, I woke up, ironically, just on the threshold of fifty, with a cramped, painful back. This was during my tour in the Pamirs, which is considered the holy grail of cyclists. Instead of conquering the Holy Grail, my dream goal for a long time, I ended up in the hospital and undergoing an MRI scan. The results showed that I had a herniated disc.
I found out about Aleš Ernst by coincidence while searching on the internet about ‘’herniated disc and cycling.’’ I was worried about what was waiting for me in the future and then the news I would receive regarding traveling with my bike and my nomad lifestyle. Google recommended me a page with a forum where Aleš had debated a few years earlier about sensory-motor amnesia, clinical somatics, and a method he developed himself and called AEQ. This was completely unknown territory to me, and I would never have paid more attention to it if it weren’t for two facts: Aleš is a former cyclist, and his method gives incredible results. The opinions of people on the forums cannot be trusted, however, the opinions of people who Aleš has treated testify as if they had experienced a miracle.
I thoroughly read everything I could find, visited the AEQ website, and contacted Aleš through Facebook. I sent him my diagnosis and a question about how serious it was and whether he could help me. I received a concise, clear, and logical explanation about the causes of my condition and instructions for two exercises. The instructions were longer than all the explanations combined. In addition, it was also clearly written that clinical somatics, especially the AEQ method, is taught exclusively live because, in this method, almost everything is more important than just the mechanical repetition of movements. Unfortunately, I was stuck in central Asia, where the doctors were generally stuck in the ‘’witch doctor’’ age. I was in such severe pain that I could barely take the twenty steps required to reach the store next to the hostel I was staying in. I think that it was for this reason that Aleš tried helping me online.
The first thing I immediately understood was that the AEQ method includes learning about mechanisms that allow us to move and live (survive) and that take place in the relationship between the brain and the neuromuscular system. The fact that our body remembers everything, not only physical but also emotional stress, was a great discovery for someone who spent his whole life almost exclusively with spiritual self-knowledge. When the truth is so obvious before your eyes that you wonder how it is possible that you did not see and know this before.
My whole perspective suddenly changed. It was like a prediction of what could be achieved when I walked for a few moments, as if it were the first time in my life, or as I had done long ago, when I was learning to walk as a baby. I felt my movements and was aware of them during execution. Cheerful and light, like walking on clouds, probably. Well, it was only for a short time. It will take a lot of dedicated work, study and practice to master it permanently.
But now this path was clear to me. I knew I had found the right thing.
Pain is not good. Pain does not appear for us to overcome it, to go through it like a bulldozer. Pain is a warning to the system that we are doing something wrong, and that the system can no longer tolerate this pressure. Pain is a representative of entropy, and if unheeded, it leads to exhaustion and injury.
When we experience physical or emotional pain, our muscles contract and our system becomes rigid to withstand the pressure. This is the body’s defensive reaction. However, once the danger has passed, the muscles must relax. If this doesn’t happen, movement becomes stuck in the trauma reflex and eventually become automatic due to sensory-motor amnesia.
It is important to change the relationship between the mind-subconscious-body. Because physics will always defeat the mind.
By slowly performing light, simple movements, like in a slow-motion video, we can regain the feeling and control over muscles and once again know when we need to expand (relax) or contract (tense) them. That way we can rewire our brain and allow it to once again send conscious orders to our muscles.
Among other things, that is what the AEQ method also teaches us.
No miracle occurred overnight. I performed exercises daily. Again and again, I also read the explanations of these exercises, researched clinical somatics on the Internet, but I paid the most attention to listening to my body. My condition was improving daily. I felt progress, and then the pain reappeared.
Aleš, with an infinite amount of patience, always calmly and attentively, monitored my condition through these peculiar correspondence therapies. For a while, I unconsciously had a distance from his method, namely on my travels I met many so-called teachers, whom I quickly overlooked. But Aleš was not one of them. With each new explanation, new answer to my question, a lot of knowledge and complete mastery of the subject he teaches was revealed. It also turned out that my teacher is a very smart person who has learned many important truths of life. And that’s why I trust him completely.
My condition gradually improved. After over a month, I could walk twenty kilometers without serious issues. I actually liked walking the most, which felt like a paradox because decades ago, I couldn’t walk for longer periods due to the feeling of tension in the lumbar area of the back. The AEQ method teaches us that walking is the natural way of movement. In a very short time after my injury, I could walk great distances, which for me, is irrefutable proof that the exercises are helping my body the same way my understanding of what is happening to my body helps me understand myself and the world.
I now clearly understand that the fall from my bike a decade ago caused the whole right side of my body to remain in a trauma reflex. The fall landed me in a hospital, where they did surgery on my left elbow. Now I understand why my right arm became numb. I understand how the countless traumas from my childhood continually provoked an ever-increasing tension and caused entropy in the center of my body, first with scoliosis and then with disc hernia. I am the one who can mitigate the consequences of already-caused damage and prevent new ones. Aleš’ only’ helped me understand how it is done and master it as much as possible.
After three months, my condition had already improved greatly, so I dared to go on a rather demanding trek. I would have to carry a backpack weighing more than ten kilograms, climb thousands of steps, and walk miles of slippery viaducts over chasms. I wondered if I would last or if the pain and tension in my back would force me to give up.
And then, the following happened: my body began walking in the most economic and painless way possible. It was saving energy and was careful while also keeping movement incredibly soft. It was now easier for me to climb the narrow, slippery stairs with all my luggage than walking on the safe level surface before. I knew I had succeeded – my body had learned.
But it wasn’t over yet. I arranged for an active session with Aleš a few months later. If he managed to teach me all this via the Internet (which, according to Aleš, is considered impossible in somatic circles), then I am sure that soon after the therapies (which I will find out and learn there), I will be able to ride a bike again. And that the end of my cycling journey around the world sounded something like this: “And so she happily and without pain spun the pedals until the end of her days, thanks to AEQ exercises which have become her Holy grail.”
Aleš, thank you with all my heart.
Snežana Radojičič, Sanqingshi, China