Circumduction - King of Healing Movements

A pioneering book on healing was authored by Moshe Feldenkrais. The book’s title was “Awareness Through Movement”, and that title was well chosen. His observation was that movement leads to awareness, and awareness leads to healing. Exercise alone is incomplete. Exercise coupled to awareness is the healing path.

Feldenkrais was right. His perceptions are widely integrated into today’s best health practices.

Exercise is recommended for everyone, but exercise alone has a potential problem. All movements are not created equal. If someone has a joint problem, exercise may (or may not) help. It could make things worse. Without awareness, exercise might simply reinforce the same faulty movement pattern that caused the problem. That’s not helpful in a healing context. More isn’t necessarily better.

Here’s a general observation: The number of independent movements that a joint can perform is an index of joint health. The more, the better. Let’s unpack this statement.

Consider your elbow. Suppose that you can extend and contract the right elbow joint. But when you extend, the whole right arm rotates inward; when you contract, the whole right arm rotates outward. Try as you will, you can’t decouple the motions. Extension and contraction are no longer independent of rotation. The inverse statement will also hold. Rotation of the arm will be accompanied by involuntary contraction or extension at the elbow joint.

This is restricting. Freedom of independent joint movement is lost. Pain is likely to follow as muscles struggle against each other day-after-day. Restriction can occur anywhere in the body.

Restrictions routinely cover long distances. You’ve probably seen this. Maybe a weight lifter flexes her neck every time a weight is curled. Every time the weight moves up, the head moves forward. When the weight is lowered, the head moves backward. Separate movements became unconsciously locked together. This supports a known fact: symptoms and causes are seldom at the same place.

I could go on with common examples. The jaw tightens when someone turns the neck; knees twist when walking straight ahead; etc.

Circumduction, combined with awareness, can separate restricted motions and lead to healing.

Why is circumduction the gold-standard healing movement? Because there is no one muscle that performs circumduction. Instead, circumduction requires all muscles around the joint to work independently and together. Restriction is signaled when the joint clicks or lacks smoothness at a repeatable position. Sometimes the movement seems to “jump over a dead spot.” Awareness is the meter. Target smoothness. It guides the return to flexibility and health.

Continue circumduction and periodically return to the clicking, awkward or dead spots. Try to find continuity and smoothness. As clicking, awkward or dead spots decrease, you are moving in the healthy direction. Stay with it and give it time. You can’t bully a healing with force of will.


Jack Menear