Global Postural Re-education
Global Postural Re-education (RPG) is a physiotherapy method discovered by the French biomechanic Philippe Souchard. It consists of light, progressive, global stretching of motor coordination chains. It prevents, improves and solves many movement problems much more effectively than classic methods. It is practised by physiotherapists and doctors who have specliased in this area following their university degree.
In their endless fight against gravity, our static muscles suffer a process of rigidity, contraction and excessive muscular tone. This is common in everybody.
A baby is very elastic while he is lying down. Once he tries to lift the head, sit or stand up, it demands the progressive action of static muscles, which constitute 80% of our muscles. From that moment on, they cannot relax or they will fall down.
This is why our static muscles suffer contraction, rigidity and excessive muscular tone. Contrary to popular belief, a static muscle will never be weak, not even after a splint. The muscle will be hobnail, but rigid and the more exercise we do, the greater the rigidity.
As time goes by, this rigidity produces several problems including pain, contractures, tendonitis, intervertebral hernia, arthrosis, insufficient oxygenation, vertigo and headaches, as well as any postural alterations such as scoliosis, kyphosis, hyperlordosis. These are behind the reasoning of RPG, which stretches, prolongs and decompresses.
Static muscles work in functional chains, i.e., they work on synergy, not in isolation. When a muscle is injured, it affects the whole chain. This is another fundamental reason for the use of RPG over traditional methods - the need to stretch globally and simultaneously. Local stretching is not effective.
This is a concept that requires precision as it involves many theraupetic mistakes.
Besides their anti-gravity function, static muscular chains also work in movement, breathing, organ suspension, etc. In order to guarantee these vital functions, they have a minimum contraction, called muscle tone, which is regulated by the nervous system. Thus, even without moving, they are alert and in permanent contraction, like an idle car. They can never relax.
Alongside these hyper-used muscles are the dynamic muscles, which are in charge of movement. Once their action is complete, they relax. We can feel the difference in our own body in the abdominal (dynamic) muscles. When we are resting we can feel that they are relaxed, while if we touch the paravertebral (static) muscles we can feel their rigidity.
There are several differences between static and dynamic muscles. The main factor is that when we are injured, static muscles tend to exaggerate their natural behaviour and become more rigid, contracted and with more muscle tone. Dynamic muscles become more flaccid, de-contracted and with less muscle tone. This is another characteristic behind RPG: we have to work different muscles in a different way. We need to de-contract static muscles at the same time as we toning dynamic muscles.
During RPG or SGA sessions, we practice specific positions that work globally to stretch the rigid muscles and shorten the flaccid muscles. If we tone static muscles, we just increase their rigidity.
RPG as an anti-aging method
- To diminish blocked breathing and leave ourselves better oxygenated.
- To improve elasticity and stop the aging process of our muscle chains.
- To improve posture and to eliminate pain.
The aging process of muscles is characterised by rigidity, contraction and excessive muscular tone of static muscles and these techniques aim to reverse this.
Besides the important differences already mentioned, there is another fundamental aspect, which is breathing. An RPG session starts, continues and finishes with a long relaxed sigh. Without it, it is impossible to recover elasticity. This is due to another basic concept: centre and periphery.
The thorax and lumbar area is known as the centre and the head and extremities are known as the periphery. Why this distinction? Because human beings have specific means of protecting ourselves from threats; when facing any limitation, pain, muscle lesion or rigidity that affects the periphery, we unconsciously transfer it to the centre via muscle chains.
Here is an example: if we suffer a lesion on an ankle, the muscles close by will contract to protect the area. But if the lesion does not heal quickly, these muscles are unable to retract, thus becoming a contraction. Since contraction limits mobility, we need to transfer the rigidity to the centre, in order to free the foot.
Smoking, cardiopulmonary diseases and intense exercise are causes of blocked breathing. And to complicate things much further, emotional traumas also block breathing.
Blocked breathing happens when our ribs are too high because of rigidity of the breathing muscles (diaphragm, intercostal muscles, etc.). If we pay attention of our breathing without intervening, we notice the small amount of air that comes in and out. However, we are actually full of air. We cannot get this air out unless we do a forced exhalation. We are in inhalation position even when we do breath out. And this leads to a catch-22 situation.
The more rigid our muscles are, the less our ribs descend during exhalation and therefore the less air will be breathed out. If little air is breathed out then little air is also breathed in and we suffer a lack of oxygen. To compensate, we put more effort into inhalation or we increase breathing frequency, leading to more and more contraction of the muscles. We can stop this catch-22 situation, but some of the elasticity that the muscles have suffered following years of contraction can never be regained.