An illustrated manual for using physical movement and alignment to resolve chronic pain and tension and work with the emotions
• Includes 90 exercises to work with emotions through the body and support the neck, shoulders, lower back, feet, and overall posture as well as breathing and voice
• Explains how to listen to the body’s signals to discover our physical and emotional blindspots--the weaknesses and misalignments at the root of our discomfort
• Draws on Zen shiatsu, Rolfing, yoga, and Gestalt psychotherapy to explain how transformation of physical structure corrects imbalances in the unconscious mind
Developed by Cathy Thompson through her many years as a bodywork therapist, the Thompson Method incorporates Zen shiatsu, Rolfing, yoga, and Gestalt psychotherapy to heal pain in the physical body both through bodywork and by recognizing the emotional blockages that often underlie chronic pain, tension, and poor alignment. In this practical manual, Thompson and her protégé-daughter Tara Thompson Lewis provide a deep understanding of body mechanics and how to work with emotions through the body. They explore how to listen to the body’s signals to discover our physical and emotional blindspots--the weaknesses and misalignments at the root of our discomfort--and explain how transformation of your physical structure can correct imbalances in the unconscious mind caused by repressed memories and emotional traumas.
Offering illustrated instructions for 90 corrective alignment exercises, the authors show how to release body tensions, realign the body’s dynamic structure, work with the deep postural muscles, and support the neck, shoulders, lower back, and feet to strengthen the emotional and physical body as well as improve singing, dancing, yoga, and posture while sitting at the computer. They also explore breathing and bodywork practices to release the vocal mechanism and free the voice for more fluid and powerful self-expression.
By recognizing and releasing the deeper emotional triggers beneath our physical complaints, the Thompson Method allows you to resolve chronic pains, increase body awareness and free movement, and create the foundation for good health and well-being.
There are lots of excellent and easy-to-follow exercise books and programs you can buy; they seem to multiply daily. The intention of this book is not to add to the collection but to make any other books and programs you choose easier to follow.
The exercises you’ll find here are all corrective in nature; in other words their aim is to balance and realign you. That is why I have written so extensively on the specific way you should do each one and suggested lots of props. It’s really important that you do each exercise correctly. That may be tedious but the payoff will be that you’ll feel a lot better and, hopefully, you’ll reduce both pain and your risk of injury.
I’d much rather you do one exercise exactly right than lots of them with poor alignment, so please follow along and do them as prescribed!
Most of us have numerous imbalances that are reflected in everything we do. The imbalances feel right to us over time because they’re familiar to us. Anything we’re used to starts to feel right, even to the point where the correct movements and more balanced alignment feel 8 wrong. And mostly it’s these chronic imbalances that cause pain and aging. It can also set us up for injury.
Perhaps you chronically stand on one leg--no wonder that hip is tight. Or you sit all day at a desk with your head tilted to see the computer screen; that’s why you have a neck pain. More subtly, you see better with one eye than the other, so you keep your head at the optimal angle for seeing but not for structural health. You may be able to change some of your physical imbalances just by realizing how your habits create them. However, the chances are that even though you become aware of some habits, you don’t know how to correct the imbalances they set up. You may have not used certain muscle groups for so long that your brain doesn’t register them and you don’t know how to engage them consciously. This is not a lack of physical strength--it’s a neurological blind spot; we generally develop more and more of these as we get older and accumulate injuries and compensations. Some people, healthy in all other respects, end up with only a few restricted movement patterns. This is where the corrective exercises come in.
The Importance of Corrective Exercise
Corrective exercise is different from other types of exercise in that it targets the specific muscle pathway you need to activate. This isn’t easy at all. A compound exercise, like a pushup, uses a lot of muscles, and if you have some “switched-off,” that is, inactive muscles, your instinctive body wisdom, wishing to avoid injury, won’t let you use them. Unused muscles tend to be hard to feel and use not only because they are weak but because the nerve pathways that conduct the impulses from the muscle to the brain are not developed.
It takes careful attention to the placing of your body, your alignment, focus on the area you want to help, and a slow pace to change the reflex to avoid the inactive muscle pathway. Mental focus will send blood and nerve energy to the area, helping to connect the nervous system to the muscle. The exercises in this book will force you to use the weak muscles and not any others, which can be very hard to differentiate on your own. It may take some practice to do them easily, but with patience you will learn to feel and work the inactive muscles. You will then be able to transfer this feel for the muscle to your everyday life.
Shoulder Alignment and Rotator Cuff Injuries
The design of the shoulder joint makes it vulnerable to injury unless we strengthen the internal muscles, primarily the rotators, but also some parts of the larger muscles. Since the joint is designed to move through such a wide range of motion, it is held together by soft tissues: ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The joints are shallow and not tightly connected. So the design that makes it possible for us to do all those amazing things with our arms also makes the shoulder susceptible to tension and injury.
The most important aspect of shoulder health is the relationship between the head of the arm bone and the joints. For a well-functioning shoulder and also to correct a lot of neck problems, you need to be able to keep the head of the humerus within the confines of the shoulder joint, especially when lifting and carrying things.
Exercise for Shoulder Alignment
This exercise will help to correct rounded, internally rotated shoulders, tight chest, and “winged” shoulders that do not lie flush on the back. It corrects muscle imbalance in the rhomboids (weak and loose), serratus anterior (tight, weak, or strong) and pectoralis minor (tight, probably weak).
1. Bring your palms over your ears at a right angle to your forearm. Engage the bottom of the shoulder blades to pull both shoulders down, and keep them dropped (you will have to keep thinking about this). Make sure both shoulders are even and your head is in line with the spine. Gaze straight ahead or slightly upward.
2. Now, keep the alignment and draw the elbows back as far as you can. Make sure the upper arm comes back with them.
3. Engage the muscles between the shoulder blades (rhomboids) tightly; squeeze hard. Use these muscles to press the shoulders down farther.
4. Hold this and check your position--head in line, palms pressed into ears, shoulders even and down, chest open, back straight. Try to bring the inner wrists to the ears.
To modify: Take the same position, but this time bring the wrists away from the ears as far as you need to keeping the fingertips on the sides of your head. Hold as long as you can.
Cathy Thompson (1957-2008) was an innovative bodywork practitioner with a private practice in Manhattan for 30 years. She worked with many famous singers, actors, athletes, and dancers. She studied Ohashiatsu at the Ohashi Institute and Gestalt psychotherapy at the Gestalt Institute of New York. She also taught workshops and trained students in the Thompson Method.
Tara Thompson Lewis studied the Thompson Method intensively with her mother Cathy Thompson and was a Brooke Scholar at Oxford University before taking over her mother’s private bodywork practice. She lives in New York City.
“The Thompson Method of Bodywork gives you the tools to understand how your body works when conducting, singing, teaching, acting, or just walking down a street. It is invaluable. It has helped me become a better teacher and conductor.”
– Judith Clurman, conductor for Essential Voices USA
“Tara Thompson Lewis has done a masterful job in completing this ambitious book begun by her late mentor and mother, Cathy Thompson, thus making these brilliant teachings available to anyone. The Thompson Method of Bodywork presents mountains of useful information (much of it drawn from Zen Shiatsu) and offers a banquet of exercises for healing the kyo/jitsu relationship within ourselves, whether the triggers happen to be physical injury, structural misalignment, or psychological, spiritual, or emotional pain.”
– Kathleen Porter, author of Natural Posture for Pain-Free Living
“Cathy’s extraordinary gift began in her brain, traveled to her heart, and continued through the tips of her fingers.”
– Kathie Lee Gifford, TV personality and author
“Throughout my professional operatic and teaching careers, I have been blessed with many who have supported and enabled my vocal strength and health. Cathy Thompson and now Tara Thompson Lewis have been instrumental in my success as a singer and teacher. Specializing in physical manipulation for professional singers, actors, and dancers, they are able to relieve pain, tension, and realign the body to achieve optimal health and performance. Here in New York City in my own professional voice studio, I am able to utilize their techniques to help my students understand the importance of proper physical organization as it applies especially to singing. I urge anyone who wants to be a better, healthier performer to read this book. I enthusiastically recommend their techniques, and I continue to be a delighted and grateful client.”
– Candace Goetz, opera singer and founder of the Candace Goetz Voice Studio
“I spent many years working with Cathy Thompson (and then with Tara), and reading this material reminded me of Cathy’s very specific genius: her profound understanding of the body and, may I say, much more. Working with both of them had a profound effect on my singing, and indeed my life, and it’s a great pleasure to be able to reconnect with Cathy’s way of thinking and working while reading this book. I recommend it highly for anyone interested in changing, improving, and enriching their lives. It certainly did mine.”
– Steven Lutvak, singer-songwriter, composer and lyricist
“I first began seeing Cathy Thompson in my 20s, while starting on Broadway. Both my physical life and emotional life were quite demanding, and I needed all around customtailored care. After each and every session I’ve had, I’ve walked out feeling calmer, yet more energized, as well as open. As a vocalist and performer, being a clear channel is of the utmost importance.”
– Debbie Gibson, American singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress
“I began working with Cathy Thompson over 20 years ago, as a young singer with chronic throat tension. At the time, I thought her work was magical, her intuition uncanny. Over the years, I began to understand how the Thompson Method works and what Cathy was doing when she worked on my body and encouraged me to explore on my own. Now, two decades later, I am thrilled that Cathy’s work is available to everyone who is interested in learning about how to take care of their bodies, voices, and minds. In addition to singing, I teach voice to a wide range of students. Access to the Thompson Method will add a great deal of value to their practice routines. In each chapter, Cathy explores and explains possible reasons for tension or lack of strength and mobility and then offers well-explained and illustrated exercises to address each of these aspects. Twenty plus years after being introduced to it, I am still reaping benefits from and learning about the Thompson Method, and I am grateful for it.”
– Jamie Leonhart, singer, songwriter, and voice teacher
“Cathy Thompson turns bodywork into art.”
– Darren Aronofsky, director of Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, and Noah
“A major resource for performing artists, Cathy Thompson has had a profound impact on my work with singers. She recognizes the mind-body-voice connection is what it’s all about. Let this priceless book be your guide.”
– Joan Lader, Tony Award-winning voice therapist and teacher
Get our latest book recommendations, author news, and sweepstakes right to your inbox.
Thank you for signing up, fellow book lover!
Tell us what you like, so we can send you books you'll love.