Listening to other people describe the origins of their back pain is usually beyond tedious -- or so I'm regularly informed when I start reciting mine. Steve Timm's story, however, is different. Not just because (unlike me) he tells the tale of his injury without a trace of self-pity, but also because he is one of those rare individuals who not only took complete responsibility for his affliction but, most importantly, arrived at a more than satisfactory solution.
I met Steve last Friday morning at Noel O'Neill's new Ayurveda Centre on Dublin's Lower Stephen Street. Tall, lithe, and good-looking, it's difficult to believe that this charming Chilean man is 70 years old. He's here in Dublin for the next month and will be working at the Ayurveda Centre, teaching all of us who are martyrs to our backs what we can do simply and effectively to make things better.
Of course, this sounds too good to be true to me. Ten years ago I went through the gamut of therapies -- physio, osteopathy, drugs, traction, heat therapy, more drugs -- in an attempt to heal a badly damaged back.
Believe me, I can out-martyr Elizabeth Taylor where back pain is concerned.
Eventually I succumbed to surgery, with a warning from the surgeon that, in time, the old problems would resurface. So a few times a year I find myself crippled, unable to move from the bed to the bathroom without the aid of copious amounts of painkillers.
Steve had a similar experience: as a young man he thought he was invincible, that nothing could ever harm him, and he pushed his body to the limits without regard for its safety. But while working as an engineer at IBM, an accident left him frozen with pain and unable to do anything but sacrifice himself to the best efforts of medical practitioners. Eventually, after trying all of the accepted therapies, they told him to "get a new body".
Steve was on his own.
But, amazingly, after a long period spent practising intuitive techniques, based on co-ordinating the mind, body and prana (breathing), he managed to discover a process that healed him completely.
"It wasn't until after all the healing had taken place that I retraced my steps of recovery and began to understand intellectually the mechanics of the process that healed me," he says.
He tells me that would have been the end of it, until his daughter was involved in a car crash and went through months of agonising back-pain, which the medical profession was unable to cure.
Eventually she agreed to try his techniques and, voila, within a year she was once again able to lead a full and healthy life.
Cecilia's journey gave Steve the impetus he needed to develop his cure for others to use safely and effectively.
Which brings us to where we are today. Steve tells me he now travels the world constantly teaching people his simple method of eliminating back pain -- his Mind Your Own Back technique.
"Where do you live?" I ask. "Everywhere." He spreads his hands expansively and smiles. "I am a citizen of the world."
Once we get through all the science bit, it's time to try out the exercises. I am feeling a bit anxious now, as, in all truth, I'm the type of person whose idea of a good warm-up is to sit on a radiator with a cup of tea in my hand.
But after five minutes I realise I can actually do this.
And after 10 minutes I can achieve simple positions I've only ever seen done in yoga DVDs (that I've watched while sitting on my couch).
"Do you feel blissful?" asks Steve. "That can often happen when your body is happy."
Fifteen minutes later, and we're done, and I get up to have a walk around. Unbelievably, I feel taller, lighter: as if my bones are all in their right place and humming along happily.
"Now you know how to mind your own back," he says.
And, amazingly, that's it. No need for more teaching or training. I now know the simple exercises and can easily do them in 10 minutes at home. There is a book and DVD I can use to remind me, but, essentially, that's it.
Bliss? I walk out feeling ecstatic -- and I kiss Steve twice before I leave.
Steve Timm will give a public lecture at 7.30pm on Tuesday in the Oakland Suite, Mount Herbert Hotel, Dublin. After his month at the Ayurvedic Centre, he will leave specially trained experts to continue the work there on his behalf.