by Craig Williamson

There are three basic techniques I use for repatterning: muscle isolation, whole-body movement and visualization (known as ideokinesis).

Muscle isolations are not really natural movements (because functional movement involves the action of many muscles groups, not muscle isolation), yet they are helpful in developing kinesthetic awareness.

Whole-body movements teach how to move with greater ease and fluidity.

Visualization of movement in the body goes right to the sensory-motor system to create the possibility of a
new pattern of movement.

Below are three movement exercises that correct dysfunctional movement patterns by incorporating muscle isolation, whole-body movement and visualization.

  1. Abdominal Oblique Isolation
    Objective:To improve the movement pattern of upper body rotation.
    Position: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Your arms are across the chest, so that
    your hands are hanging along the side of your chest.
    • Slowly roll your chest to the left as far as you can. The goal is to isolate the abdominal oblique muscles, in
    this case to rotate your chest.
    • Next, rotate your chest to the right. Continue rolling your chest left and right.
    • Remember, you are rolling, not lifting your back off the ground. Your head stays in contact with the
    ground. Do not move your pelvis, keep your lumbar spine rooted to the ground and do not engage any
    muscles along the spine.
    • Completely relax your shoulders, arms and neck (imagine you have the upper body of a floppy puppet),
    so they are carried by the action of the abdominal obliques. Your head will roll a little from side to side,
    not because you are engaging the neck muscles, but because it is moved by the turning of the spine.
    • Repeat slowly 10 times to each side.
  2. Lengthening the Whole Side
    Objective: To sense how the arms and legs can relax when they are moved by the lengthening and
    shortening of the torso.
    Position: Lie on your back with your legs extended straight and your arms on the floor, above your shoulders.
    • Begin by lengthening the right side of your waist. This is done by using your left side waist muscles to
    shorten the left side of your waist. As the right side lengthens, extend your right arm and right leg in the
    directions they are pointing. Then relax.
    • Next, lengthen the left side of your waist and extend your left arm and left leg in the directions they are
    pointing. Then relax.
    • Alternate slowly, extending one side, then the other. Keep your neck completely relaxed, so your head rolls side to side as the arms and legs are being extended.
    • Repeat slowly, six times on each side.
  3. Standing Up, Sitting Down
    Objective: Improve the movement pattern of getting down and up, to minimize the strain on the spine.
    Position: Seated on a chair, with your feet flat on the floor.
    • Rock forward on your sit bones (ischial tuberosity) as you press the entire sole of each foot into the floor.
    Imagine your entire spine is lengthening, both toward your head and toward your tailbone, as you come to a standing position. Keep the back of your neck long the entire way up.
    • Next, sit down in the same fashion. That is, let your ankles, knees and hips bend simultaneously while
    keeping the distance from your sit bones to your head as long as you can. Your waist and neck remain long
    the entire way down.
    • Repeat six times.
    —Craig Williamson

To learn how to work more safely as a massage therapist, visit to read
“How to Correct 2 Movement Patterns While You Work.” Also read, “Therapist Self-Care: Understanding Movement Patterns.”

Craig Williamson has been a massage therapist since 1980 and is also an occupational therapist. He developed Williamson Somatic Integration, an awareness-based method of muscular retraining used for musculoskeletal pain issues. He is the author of Muscular Retraining for Pain-Free Living (Shambhala Publications, 2007). For more information, visit