This article was originally published in Positive Health Aug/Sept 2008
Originalité de la Méthode Mézières is the title of a little book written by Françoise Mézières, published in 1984. She wrote it in an attempt to clarify the confusion that reigned about her method once it had become popular. The tone of her book left no doubt about her annoyance at the media which demonstrated its lack of understanding of the revolutionary nature of her work by lumping it together with totally irrelevant systems of exercise or physical therapies.
Journalists are not the only ones who like to amalgamate completely unrelated techniques and therapies systems. Practitioners are also sometimes guilty of the same offence. At the moment, the enormous popularity of the Pilates method has drawn diverse other systems of exercise into unholy alliance. Thus we have something called Yogalates which, for the chocolate addicts amongst you, is not a new brand of chocolate but a sort of hybrid between Yoga and Pilates. This is another proof that the Western world finds it difficult, generally speaking, to understand Yoga. Some Alexander technique teachers have also been misguided enough to jump onto the Pilates bandwagon. A secret admission of the inefficiency of one’s technique, a wish to be trendy, or the lure of money is the usual motive in creating hotch-potch forms of treatments.
I know that the word unique is regularly abused, but I do believe that the Mézières’ method is truly unique. It is also innovative, revolutionary and efficient and I would like here to stress the several ways in which it differs from other forms of physical therapies or fitness regimes.
In Mézières’ paradigm, shape determines function. As any departure from normal shape will eventually cause musculo-skeletal problems, it is necessary to adopt a template or model of what constitutes the ideal shape. Mézières called it the paragon which she described in detail. The first session of a Mézières’ treatment always contains an in-depth study of the patient’s shape which is then recorded, analysed and interpreted. This is an essential part of the treatment as it conditions the way the sessions will be conducted. Classically, physiotherapy and many other physical therapies exercise function in order to restore function. For example, to treat a frozen shoulder (an impaired function with severe movement limitation), a physiotherapist would exercise or passively mobilize the shoulder in an attempt to regain normal functioning. In contrast, a practitioner of the Mézières’ method would restore shape in order to restore function without even touching the painful shoulder. By redistributing muscle tone throughout the whole body, normal shape is progressively restored and pain disappears.
The modus operandi of the Mézières’ method is to decrease muscle tone – and this really flies in the face of the modern quasi-obsession with toning up. A Mézières practitioner never attempts directly to tone up or strengthen muscles, not even the so-called ‘core muscles’. Contrary to popular belief, back pain is not caused by weak muscles. In fact, the majority of our muscles have too much tone; only a few exhibit a lack of it, for example the abdominal and front of thighs muscles. Body-builder, couch or mouse potato, we all end up muscle bound! This excess of muscle tone is always found in groups of muscles that overlap like tiles on a roof (named Muscular Chains by F. Mézières). Too much muscle tone causes physical distortions and the pains that ensue. The Mézières’ method uses subtle neuro-muscular techniques designed to redistribute the tone throughout the whole body. This in turn allows the body to return towards a much improved shape and posture. Since shape determines function, pains and disorders of musculoskeletal origins disappear.
The Mézières’ method is not a system of exercise.
The Méziéres’ method does not use manipulation.
The Mézières’ method is not a massage treatment even though some massage may be used as an auxiliary technique.
The Mézières’ method is not another form of stretching. Due to the 3 actions of our Muscular Chains (backward-bending, side-bending and rotating) and the large number of muscles which make them up, our distortions are always 3-dimensional. Stretching exercises cannot lengthen such complex groups of muscles.
During a Mézières’ session, breathing is used as a ‘tool’ to facilitate the decrease of muscle tone and the focus is on breathing out rather than breathing in.
The Mézières’ method is not a symptomatic or a palliative treatment. It goes to the root of the problem by removing the primary cause of musculo-skeletal problems, namely the excess of muscle tone found in what Mézières called the Muscular Chains.
The Mézières’ method works!
The Mézières’ method is a unique and effective form of physical therapy. Its techniques and results are of a neuro-muscular nature and do not rely on strengthening, toning up, stretching or manipulation.