Experiencing flow during physiotherapy…

Article by Adele Ang


Senior Sports and Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

About the Author : Adele specialize in Sports and Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy.  She also pursued the Polestar Pilates Method, which is a comprehensive method using Pilates as exercise therapy for rehabilitation of injuries.

Flow is a concept coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explained in detail in his book of the same name. Flow is the state of being which every professional athlete, dancer and musician wants to be in when executing an exquisite skill or art form. It is the state whereby the abilities and skills of an individual perfectly fits the task at hand. When this happens, the individual is totally present and immersed in the doing of the task, a sense of calm and being in full control without the presence of tension, doubt or anxiety. The individual in flow is fully committed to the process of the task without any expectation or concern for the results. It is in that moment when you feel that time stood still and yet ironically time flew past so quickly that hours felt like minutes. At the end of which you would probably feel that you just experienced heaven on earth.

The concept and best conditions to experience flow captivated my attention and interest since I read its book when it was first published more than 10 years ago. I found that the harder I try in wanting to experience it, the more elusive flow becomes. Flow is not something that happens with trying or pushing too hard, it requires one to be able to know when to push and when to pull back. This is probably similar to what the martial arts strive to achieve when executing precise and effortless forms and moves to defeat their opponent. The regular practice of skills with attentiveness is the key in preparation for the flow experience. However it cannot be forced or coerced, it happens when the individual is ready. Hence the experience of flow comes when ‘preparation meets opportunity’ (a phrase borrowed from Oprah Winfrey) and it happens when it happens, usually not when you want it to happen very badly.

In my work as a physiotherapist, I crave for flow. Simply because it makes everything better and of course, who doesn’t want to feel time fly past quickly at work. I see patients who come with their prime goal of getting rid of their pain, whether it’s a painful back, neck, shoulder, knee or ankle. As part of their experiencing pain, there is usually some level of anxiety and muscle tension that comes with it, there is an absence of calmness and in the patient feeling fully in control of the situation they are in.

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