This is the fourth edition of my Tigerfeeling book on the pelvic floor in German, the first in English. I have reviewed it completely to include all my latest – and strictly empirical – insights. This edition and my first Tigerfeeling from 1997 have only three basic concepts in common: Firstly our pelvic floor musculature is crucial for our health, posture, and beauty; secondly the right exercises and workout make it easy to train the pelvic floor muscles sensibly and with lasting results; thirdly the training is fun and helps develop great physical awareness.
I used to believe that anatomy was an exact science. Dissecting and mapping the human body. Exploring it to the tiniest detail. Defining. Analyzing. My first doubts arose in the 1980s, when I worked as a journalist and tried to research an article on why there are different skin colors. I wanted to know the evolutionary reasons for this wide range of phenotypes within one and the same species. I found a lot of racist ideology and nothing of substance. Nothing at all. My article turned out to be about my fruitless search.
Years later, I started thinking about and researching my own body. My interest was born of personal suffering. I was no longer willing to accept that there was nothing I could do about my curved spine, that I should just accept it as my painful fate. I didn’t want a future in which my back would become more and more twisted as I got older. At first, I searched outside my body. I tried every method, every technique, and every kind of body therapy. I read articles and books, interviewed physicians and therapists. Somehow, none of that worked for me. Either my body was uniquely different from everyone else’s or I was too ignorant to use it properly.
So I turned inside. I journeyed to and through my body. I wanted to feel, to experience, to discover. It was a journey from chronic, ceaseless pain to a world of wellbeing. A journey from body hell to body heaven. The more I let go of theoretical concepts of my physiology and anatomy, the more I just observed, perceived, noticed, experienced, and experimented, the better, lighter, more unencumbered by body felt.
For 42 years, my body had been my enemy. Now I’m 63, and my body is my best friend. I know that I can look forward to discovering many more body treasures in the years still ahead. My journey towards body ease and lightness has not yet ended.
In practice, this means that all my insights about the body are the result of my own observations. I observed first my own body and then the bodies of all the men and women who came to my classes. And the bodies of those who wanted to learn from me and came to my instructor trainings. My work method is unchanged: I believe anything is possible and nothing should be ruled out. I don’t assume anything, so my work doesn’t have to fit a specific mould. Whenever I discover something new, either in myself or through the work with others, I want to verify this discovery. It is only after the initial discovery that I start searching for anatomical explanations or potential relationships and connections.
So far, this approach is working beautifully. As soon as I know what I’m searching for, I go ahead and find proof for my concept. One example, taken from my exploration of the pelvic floor, is the insight that pelvic floor training only makes sense if you address the innermost, largest pelvic floor layer. Overtraining the outermost layer will only damage the sphincter and erectile muscles. Once I realized this, I found anatomical illustrations that perfectly harmonized with my concept – even though they came from very different contexts.
Another example: over the years, I developed the concept of two pelvises, a right one and a left one. These two pelvis halves move independently, yet in resonance with one another. With every step I take, the respective pelvis half acts as a conductor and coordinator for my bones. Now I understood why these pelvis halves are each equipped symmetrically and independently with a vertical and diagonal ligament system.
And a third example: the discovery that the adult spine doesn’t have to act as a shock absorber if it is kept straight and upright by the autochthonous musculature – the same natural way that healthy children’s spines are supported.Taking such a radically autodidactic and pioneering road has its dangers. When you leave the well-trodden paths to discover new and unknown territory you may get lost. I am and always have been well aware of this fact, especially since I do not have any formal training in anatomy, medicine, or physiotherapy. At the onset, this was the cause for great inner conflict – could I really dare speak my mind in a field where I had no formal credentials? But as time went by, I realized that it was precisely this lack of preconceptions that allowed me to think and observe freely. Having no idea of the concept of agonists and antagonists in muscle physiology, I could look at and deal with musculature in a new way. Not knowing that hip dysplasia is considered incurable, I can just assume that our bones are able to alter their shapes as long as we are alive.
I used to be terrified of making mistakes. Over the years, I made many small mistakes because I wrongly interpreted what I observed or simplified my findings too radically. Let me illustrate that with yet another example: 15 years ago, I wanted to offer you, dear reader, an explanation of how your pelvic musculature might have turned into a blind spot early in your adult life. I ventured the hypothesis that the functionality of the pelvic floor is tied to our learning the diagonal movement of our contralateral gait. This meant that infants could not get potty-trained before they were able to at least crawl. The functions of the pelvic floor would then be an acquired ability, not something available from birth. This hypothesis seemed to make sense and remained unchallenged for 13 years. Today I know that more and more parents learn to recognize the signs when their babies need “to go” from very close observation, starting right after birth. From the very beginning, then, the baby can learn to consciously restrain urination and bowel movements. Using their pelvic floor musculature is therefore part of our “starter kit” – it is available immediately, just like grasping and pushing. Great!
Every mistake I made was also a progress – for me, my students, and my clients. Nowadays I am happy about any mistake that forces physicians and anatomists to prove me wrong and convince me. This always leads to something new, either a more precise concept or a ground-breaking discovery. The clash of concept and counter-concept often results in a new, third option that surpasses even my wildest dreams to date. The testimonials written by people who practice my method bear witness to this.
The interesting thing is that errors online occur on the level of theoretic interpretation, that is, when I try to match my approach of a “living and lively anatomy” with old and accepted ana-tomical concepts. There have never been mistakes on the level of practiced CANTIENICA®. In practice, my method is astonishingly simple and breathtakingly logical: first, you bring your bones into optimal alignment. This alignment will bring 100% of your musculature into an ideal basic stretch, which is the best starting point for good movement. If performed correctly, all the exercises are absolutely safe, even if I’m not always entirely sure in my explanation why they work. The morphology I’m interested in hasn’t been widely studied as most dissections and anatomical illustrations are performed on older persons with the typical deformities and damages to the skeletal system. For “conventional medicine” – please allow me this generalization just this once – “normal” is defined by common occurrence, and in elderly persons (and their skeletons) this means ailment, deformity, and illness. Solveig Hoffmann is a doctor practicing in a health center in Tenerife who works intensely with the CANTIENICA® method and has become my “go-to doctor” over the past few years. She points out errors in interpretation, explains medical and physiological concepts in a way that I understand, and she never dampens my joy in questioning seemingly proven and irrefutable facts. She is the one who inspired me to rethink the term “sphincter muscles” in this book and to not just call them “sphincter muscles” because that’s what everyone else calls them. Instead, we now differentiate between sphincter muscles and erectile muscles. And all of a sudden it becomes much clearer and more logical which parts of the female and male anatomies we’re referring to.
With almost superhuman patience, my sister Sandra Cantieni combed through anatomy books and anatomy programs online to find proof for my assumptions. With her life partner Ernst Gamper she created illustrations that are different from all anatomical images you may have seen so far. My deepest thanks to both of them. I feel inspired – to make more errors, better and bolder ones that will lead to new insights. All my insights share this one goal: to give people – you! – more courage and joy with their bodies.
This said, please accept all my errors as gifts.