That sweet, sweet feeling

cuppacoffeeFebruary. The shortest month is more than halfway through. When I was a child, I remember February as a blessedly short passage through the dark doldrums of a seemingly unending Midwestern winter. February “sagged and dragged.” We buckled down on our homework, caught up on our reading, and stayed inside to clean out closets and drawers. In more modern times, our culture disdains any “down time.” In the post-modern February, we are inundated with cuteness. From the adorable and furry rodentian weather-watcher, to the flying weaponized baby, February now pulls its weight on the calendar with two credible reasons to party down. The movie “Groundhog Day” inspires weekend watch parties, and Valentine’s Day is filled with dinner dates and chocolate. I admit it, I indulged! And yesterday, I contemplated where we get our sweetness in life.

Last week, I traveled to Fort Worth to share the Feldenkrais Method with undergraduate and graduate students in a conservatory-style music department. Outstanding singers, pianists, and instrumentalists experienced the ease of movement and release of unnecessary muscular effort that many observe after a Feldenkrais session. Their music-making became more expressive, more beautiful, more accurate, and more sustainable. They were fascinated by the idea that the Feldenkrais Method has nothing to do with music; just as it has nothing to do with back pain relief, or sports, or individuals with special-needs. I explained that the Method is about LIVING. Living life with a sense of freedom and agency, the ability to create positive change in one’s own habits, the discovery of new possibilities for enjoyment and expression – THAT is (part of) what the Feldenkrais Method is “for,” or “about.” As a teacher, it is sweet indeed to witness the changes that occur in my students’ quality of life: whether that means playing better, walking without pain or restriction, finding more energy for daily living, or simply FEELING more capable in something that is important to them. A ripple-effect then travels throughout, potentially improving relationships, surroundings, and communities. Life itself can indeed be sweet.

The Feldenkrais Method is not all sweetness and fun (although it has a lot of both!). Like life, sometimes it also includes challenge, confusion, and frustration. Our little movement laboratory allows us to experiment with low-level difficulties, like internal puzzles. As we successfully surmount these mini-obstacles through creative and gentle means, over time we develop the skill and perseverance to stick with solution-seeking when faced with bigger challenges.

If these ideas resonate with you, if they strike a chord of recognition within, if they pique your curiosity – then it might be time to return to a Feldenkrais lesson, class, or workshop in the near future – or to try one for the first time! We look forward to seeing you at any of our upcoming opportunities. Here’s to more sweets for the sweet!

Walking and Talking: How Feldenkrais Helps When the Unexpected Happens

slippery-98821_640Walking the talk. Practicing what you preach. I had a chance to do just that over the weekend. I am here to tell you that the Feldenkrais Method makes a difference when the unexpected happens.

Last Friday morning, I was tending to my grandson. I accidentally slipped on a wet floor and fell into the splits – sort of. Having taught many people how to “fall well,” I had no choice but to surrender to gravity. But friction was my enemy! My right heel slid, my left foot stuck – and my left knee twisted sickeningly. Although it was painful, I was quickly reassured to discover that nothing appeared to be broken or torn. I could straighten and bend my knee in most trajectories without any pain. I had to crawl to get my phone to call my son-in-law for help. I figured out how to stand up, and discovered that walking was very difficult and painful. Eventually I got myself up onto the couch, elevated my leg with a large pillow, and waited. Thankfully, my 3-year-old companion was content to play quietly and help as best he could!

While I waited, and almost every waking moment since, I have been “doing Feldenkrais.” I made gentle, easy dragging movements with my heel along the floor, supported by a scarf-sling, so that I could find speeds and pathways for movement that were painless. I explored soft bending of my ankle, while feeling the effects in my knee. I experimented with weight-bearing on my left foot, while sitting: outer edge, inner edge, ball, heel. I thought little circles of pressure around the perimeter of my foot. I luxuriated in slow frog-leg moves, and pushing through the foot to roll my pelvis. With each experiment, my awareness and my confidence grew.

I’m writing this on the following Tuesday morning. I was able to keep an out-of-town work commitment on Saturday, rested on Sunday, and rescheduled yesterday’s appointments so that I could continue to rest. Today, I still have a few twinges, BUT I am walking and planning to fulfill my entire schedule for the week. In just a few more days, I expect my slight limp will no longer be necessary. I am so grateful for this work, and for the resilience and resourcefulness that emerges over time – especially in emergencies!

Life can be unpredictable, and accidents do happen. The Feldenkrais Method did not make me immune or impervious to injury. Instead, the Method has helped to accelerate my recovery, and return me to functioning in my daily life. I know it can do the same for you!

Find out how the Feldenkrais Method can help you. Call us today.
Not in Houston? Find a practitioner near you.

 

Good Posture Should FEEL Good!

Medieval statue, female in robes with braided hairI’ve never met anyone who had a positive association with the word “posture” when they were growing up. Oh, this is a hot topic for me, and for Feldenkrais teachers in general. On my blog, I have ranted addressed the issue in posts here and here. May I share my own troubled posture history with you?

My well-meaning parents were determined that I should have “good posture,” as all proper young ladies should; or perhaps they were determined that they should not have a slumping daughter. When I remember my young self, I remember seemingly constant reminders, correction, and plain old nagging. “Stand up STRAIGHT.” “You are SLOUCHING again!” I started biting my nails. Equally determined that I should have some self-confidence, I was enrolled in elocution and “comportment” lessons, which included – yes, you guessed it – walking with a book on top of my head. Ballet lessons followed shortly thereafter, because everyone knows ballerinas have excellent posture. I became more and more self-conscious, partly because even in the third grade, I was already the tallest girl in my class. When I fell on the playground and broke the knuckles on my right hand, I had to miss my ballet recital. While in 2016 we see videos of dancers in wheelchairs and the Invictus games, attitudes were different in the mid-1960s. Nine-year-old butterflies did not wear plaster casts on their diaphanous arms — or at least this butterfly was not allowed to. That’s show-biz! Secretly, I was relieved to escape my ballet teacher, who further reinforced my attitudes about posture: it was hard, it took constant attention, and mine was terrible. While I am grateful to my parents for giving me wonderful opportunities, and for preparing me (unintentionally but inevitably) for a career in the arts, I acquired a lot of baggage at the crossroads of society, self-acceptance, and posture.

While my story may not be typical, I have learned that it is not unusual. You can probably chime in right now with your own posture story. Many people internalize shame about their posture, originating in childhood. They carry old and negative judgments and a flawed self-image far into adulthood. Listen to your interior dialogue right now. Are you self-correcting, bringing attention to your posture, and finding yourself coming up lacking?

The Feldenkrais experience of posture is absolutely liberating. No rules to follow, no grid to line up with, and no stiff standing around trying to be “correct.” It was a revelation to me that I could learn to move in any direction and in multiple planes, all while breathing and enjoying my surroundings. Simultaneously, my range of motion, balance, and strength also improved. A new, deeper self-confidence emerged, a sense of really being comfortable in my own skin. I am often asked if it is hard to “remember to stand up straight.” The honest answer is, no!  I don’t have to remember anything! I’ve learned to feel what feels good, and what will allow me to move freely. I’m living proof that “posture” is a a felt skill that can be learned, and improved at any level.

If you’d like to experience easy, effortless posture, sign up NOW for this Saturday’s workshop, “The Posture Puzzle.” Register by Wednesday to qualify for the Early Bird price. Workshop details and registration via the Green Puzzle Piece.

Green Jigsaw Puzzle Piece

To Begin Again

happy-new-year-1063797_1280The year is new, still shiny, no dents in it, fresh off the showroom floor, with that New Year smell. I was chatting with a friend yesterday around the idea of resolutions and planning the year, figuring out how each of us would move forward on projects and intentions. My friend briefly shared the situation of one of his clients who had recently experienced a series of setbacks in her business. She was going to have to start over, he said. But, having created a successful business before, she knew the process and could rebuild using the same steps.

I know the feeling and the experience of starting over. When one endures losses and leaves an old way of life behind, the prospect of “starting over” is daunting. As I reflected more, it came to me that I sense a subtle difference between two ideas that seem the same on the surface. My visceral response is qualitatively different when I think, “Start over,” compared to when I think, “Begin again.” Do those feel different to you?

When I think, “Start over,” I think of poor Sisyphus pushing the gigantic boulder up the hill – only to slide back to the very bottom again and again. Indeed, “Backsliding” has some judgment loaded into it. Stop! Everything you just did was wrong. Irredemable. Trash it. You’ll have to start over. I hear the voice of my old piano teacher, or some other authority figure who knew the standard and determined that I had not met it.

But “Begin again” feels better somehow. Whatever I did before, even if it didn’t work, contains nuggets of information and learning that I can build upon, fine-tune, and improve. “Begin again” doesn’t stipulate WHAT I am to begin – it could be something entirely different, just begin. “Start over” makes it likely that I will make the same mistakes, because I am doing the same thing, again. Begin something, anything. Don’t stop beginning. When I begin again, I do it at my own pace and in my own way, not compelled by some outer influence.

The Feldenkrais Method has within it the notion of being a beginner every time one comes to practice. In the Method, one is a beginner every day, because there is always something new to learn, always a new circumstance to adapt to, always a different constraint or “wrinkle” in the system that wasn’t there before. Even the expert or master teacher is a beginner, having become expert at beginning. We work according to an iterative process: begin a movement. Begin it again, and add to it. Begin again, and vary it in some way. Through the process of many beginnings, improvements emerge and grow. In the Feldenkrais Method, there’s no need to reach the pinnacle of achievement or the height of one’s potential on the first attempt. We’re in it for the duration. Successive approximations, baby steps, will get us there.

One comes to understand the Zen idea of “the beginner’s mind.” In one way, a beginner is a novice, an innocent, someone with humility because they have no expertise or prior knowledge in the domain they are studying. This freedom from preconceptions enables one to see things with fresh eyes. The beginner comes with an “empty cup,” an open mind, ready to learn. My understanding of the beginner’s mind has evolved to include another aspiration: a beginner is one who begins, who makes beginnings like a potter makes pots, or a watchmaker makes watches. A beginner is someone who is willing to move out of physical, emotional, or ideological stasis and begin on some path, even if it’s not perfect. You can always adjust course as you go. How does one think before beginning? The mind of one who begins things is creative and courageous. In the face of seeming failure, of discouragement, or confusion, one can always make a new beginning.

What would you like to begin?

 

 

Did You Feel the Shift In The Force?

bluebellreBy the time you read this, millions of Texans will be happy. Completely, blissfully happy. It has been a cranky and upsetting summer, but not because of the myriad social, cultural, and economic flashpoints that rear their ugly heads all too often in the Lone Star State. For the past six (almost seven!) months, Texans have been forced to live in a world without Blue Bell ice cream. Troubling lysteria contamination resulted in three deaths and numerous illnesses around the country, so the main processing plant up the road in Brenham, as well as one in Oklahoma, was closed down in early April. Great was the distress, since Blue Bell is considered to be a major Summer Food Group in Texas. And, since summer goes on almost all year – well, you get the idea. But on Monday, August 31, 2015, the supply of frosty goodness finally will be restored. Texans will heave a collective and heartfelt sigh of relief as our National Ice Cream is slurped, licked, and lapped with a celebratory abandon worthy of the end of such a drought. THAT is the shift in The Force you felt.

Since I don’t do well these days when I eat dairy products, I don’t have a horse in this race. Or a cow. However, I still feel the pride and loyalty that all Texans feel toward Blue Bell. It looks like the brand is set for a big recovery. People love their Blue Bell, and don’t even suggest that they eat another brand. THERE IS NO OTHER BRAND OF ICE CREAM. Love for Blue Bell unites Texans across all demographic categories. It’s an amazing phenomenon.

I’ve used this dead-serious/humorous example as an illustration of the fact that we humans like life the way we like it. We don’t like change, we don’t like to change, and we don’t like it when our routines are disrupted. It is difficult to change our preferences and habits, and we experience loss when our choices seem to disappear. Physical pain and injury, or a decline in one’s ability to function, are examples of serious circumstances that affect basic quality of life.

The Feldenkrais Method helps people to improve their quality of life. We help people with movement difficulties who want to LEARN how to recover, re-group, or even re-invent themselves to be better than ever. The practice of the Method grows the skills of resilience, focus, creativity, and adaptation across multiple domains in life. Best of all, it can elevate your mood without increasing your waistline!

So a new day dawns over Texas. While peace, harmony, and caloric levels will peak throughout the land as the first delicious scoops are served, perhaps your difficulties are not so easily dispatched. It might be time for you to try the Feldenkrais Method.

Find a practitioner near you at feldenkrais.com.
In Houston, TX, Schedule a F*R*E*E* consultation to find out if the Feldenkrais Method can help you.

Why learn to move better?

cartwheelIt’s human nature to adapt to whatever is “good enough.” People will seek help with movement if there is a problem. Pain, excessive exertion, perceived weakness, or lack of coordination in the aftermath of an injury or in the midst of some other difficulty frequently drive people to try the Feldenkrais Method. But why bother to improve if there’s no problem?

1) Feldenkrais lessons are useful because they expand your “movement vocabulary.” Another way to think of it is to expand your “database” of available movements for any activity. Why is this important? Because it’s good to have alternatives if one way of doing something stops working! Think of the Major League Baseball switch pitcher Pat Venditte, who can throw a baseball right or left-handed with equal skill and power. When he experienced an injury to one shoulder a few years ago, he simply threw with the other arm. He continued to play that season, instead of going on the injured list. With more movement options, you can stay active and avoid being on the sidelines for the pastimes you enjoy.
2) Feldenkrais lessons can help you learn to prevent injuries. As you become more attuned to yourself, to where your body is in space, and to the nice sensations of efficient movement, your brain gets a higher quality of “real-time reporting” from your body. If you are creating shearing forces through a joint, or straining in a muscle group, or simply experiencing fatigue and inattention, you will feel it sooner and be able to adjust your position, effort, or trajectory, thereby averting disaster.
3) Feldenkrais lessons improve all of your senses, including your sense of balance (literally and metaphorically) and your sense of humor. As you bring your attention to the simple and basic sensations of movement, your appreciation of life and your capacity for enjoyment will soar! Results may vary: unpredictable outcomes can surprise and delight!
4) Feldenkrais lessons can restore your faith in yourself, and in your capacity to learn, adapt, and change. Whatever your situation, there are aspects that are still under your control, where you have agency and ability to affect the quality of the present moment. As you catch glimpses of your potential and your capacity, your ability to improve is ongoing and virtually unlimited.

If you enjoy learning new things, and if you want to enjoy all your experiences to the fullest, then the Feldenkrais Method has much to offer you. Call us to find out how to get started.

Where it’s never rush hour

Image from my290.com
Image from my290.com

From my office window, I can see Houston traffic coursing along US 290. I’m close to one of the businest freeway interchanges in the USA, so the traffic can be roaring along at maniacal speeds, or creeping  at a near standstill. Then, I had an unusual thought.  Houston doesn’t just have heavy traffic at “rush hour.” We have rush hourS. And, at the Feldenkrais Center of Houston, it’s never rush hour.

We’re known for small, gentle, unhurried movements, “performed” with developing awareness. People frequently comment about how pleasant it is to take a rare respite from rushing and tearing about to do everything RIGHT NOW. There’s no pounding music, not much coversation, and no perspiration. People are surprised that so little can do so much, and can be so satisfying.

Moshe Feldenkrais would frequently tell people to see if they could move quickly, without hurrying. When I first heard this, I thought it was a paradox, a zen koan. Then I realized that it’s the spirit of hurrying – the urgency, the pressure, the preoccupation – that permeates almost every moment of modern life.  To move quickly, but in a spirit of calm, of competence, and of curiosity, is appealing and intensely practical. The Feldenkrais Method is about function. It is useful, applicable in everyday life, and reality-based. We get things done.

The power of the Feldenkrais Method comes with practicing on your own a litle bit every day. You learn to be with yourself, to observe without judgment, to think and feel and sense and move as a living being, full of potential. Who would want to rush that?

Many roads to the destination

It’s an exciting time for me, featuring a major lifestyle change: I moved my office out of my home, and now rent a space in a real office building. Today is the first day that I will see clients there. A big e-blast goes out to my clients and followers in about 90 minutes. The move will be disruptive, in that it requires a bit of a change from the familiar. The first change is that my commute will no longer be “just down the hall.”

Ah, yes, getting there. My office is located just off one of the busiest freeway interchanges in Houston. I really don’t like driving on the freeways, so to be functional I develop alternate routes almost everywhere I need to go. Perhaps it’s the Feldenkrais teacher in me that remembers that the “direct route” or solution to a problem is not always the best. Wonderful results are often obtained more quickly by using a seemingly indirect approach.

Google Maps is very clear on the direct route, but I delight in telling people my work-arounds to get to my office. In the last three days, I have explored the area, and now know how to get there via multiple alternatives. I will experience the drive on a weekday today for the first time, arriving at my office around 1:00 p.m. and leaving at 5 p.m. My clients have received a Google Doc link from me that details the best, lowest stress routes to take from various approaches. I expect to learn other shortcuts and hacks as I learn more about the new neighborhood and what’s where.  Yesterday, a pretty Sunday afternoon,  one of the major freeways by my office was completely shut down. One would have expected that some of that traffic would have taken one of MY alternate routes. Yet, I got to my office in about ten minutes. This bodes well.

Moshe Feldenkrais encouraged his students to develop at least three ways of doing anything. If you only have one way, you are stuck. If you have two options, you have a dilemma. But if you have three options, you are actively making a choice in that moment. Even if you choose the original way, you will do so not out of compulsion, but from a place of freedom and understanding.

How might you create more options for yourself?  Please leave a comment.

Habitual Holidays

The Westheimer
Image via fansshare.com

Ah, the holidays. No matter what you celebrate – or even if you don’t celebrate at all – this time of year affects everyone. My home in Houston is roughly two blocks from the city’s premier shopping area, the Galleria. Traffic is congested here year-round, but during the run-up to Christmas it is particularly chaotic.

The Feldenkrais Method helps us to learn resilience and adaptability to changing conditions and circumstances. Some of that is learned by simply observing one’s present state. What muscle groups are tensed? Has pain appeared anywhere?  Is there emotional upset or anxiety? Do I have a habitual or preferred way of doing a particular thing? In the case of holiday traffic, I notice every bit of “Bah, Humbug!” crankiness arising from deep within. My shoulders tense, my eyes squint, my jaw tightens. This translates into behaviors. For years, I have simply chosen not to go near the Galleria between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I take alternate routes around the area, skirting the traffic, and avoiding the difficulty.

Perhaps this is an extreme adaptation. I could observe traffic conditions, and notice when there is less traffic, perhaps around 10 a.m.  I could go to the Galleria then. I could actually walk over there and back. Avoidance is rarely a good tactic for dealing with life’s challenges. Just knowing that I have options for action helps me to lower my stress and improve my attitude, whether I go out into traffic or not.

Through the Feldenkrais Method, we also learn how to eliminate superfluous effort from movement. This “streamlining” leads to more efficiency, grace, power, enjoyment, and capability in movement. Pain often disappears completely, as I recognize how I obstruct myself, how I interfere with the realization of my intentions. This process of simplification carries over from movement into other aspects of life. What could be streamlined? What is essential, and what is unnecessary?

Here’s wishing you a holiday season that maximizes the essentials – goodwill, cheer, love, joy. And here’s to the knowledge that we can learn to let go of everything else.

Perturb the Pattern

Are you a creature of habit?

Most of us are. We like to do certain things in a certain way. We agree that some habits are good, such as brushing your teeth twice a day, fastening your seat belt, and going to the gym. Other habits are considered bad, like smoking cigarettes, biting your nails, or constantly looking at your smartphone. The ability to form habits helps us to organize life and routine tasks so that we can turn our attention elsewhere.

And that, of course, is the down-side of habits: your attention is elsewhere. Habits can lead to mindless and repetitive behavior, whether or not the habit is a “good” one. For that reason, Moshe Feldenkrais said, “Do not make your habit a compulsion.”

Even good habits need to be dusted off and re-examined every so often. One interesting way to explore your habits is to simply notice moments during the day when you are doing something — anything. Which coffee cup do you select for your morning jolt? Which shoe do you put on first? How many squirts of soap for hand washing? You will be amazed at how many choices you make during the course of a day, without even thinking about it!

Then, change something. Anything. Pause a moment before putting on your shoes, and see if it feels strange to put the other one on first. Park your car in a different spot, sit in a different booth at the diner, shake things up a little. You might discover something new, if only that you are more versatile and resilient than you realized. Even if you return to your habitual way of doing things, the quality will be improved, you will understand more about yourself, and you will appreciate the strength of your habits.

Some people experience a bit of anxiety when they diverge from their patterns. I remember my first encounter with the idea of noticing, and then gently disrupting my personal patterns. I was on a college campus for a conference, and by the second day I had already established my walking route from my room to the conference center. I noticed that in the public restroom, I always chose the third stall on the left, if it was available. I started making different choices on those little, insignificant patterns. I felt exhilarated, as if the world had completely opened up with new possibilities. What ELSE was I doing without thinking, I wondered? What ELSE could I improve, even if I thought it was “engraved in stone?”

I ran into someone recently who said, “I guess I’ve just always done what I thought I was supposed to do.” Now, in vibrant mid-life, she is questioning and considering her habits, letting go of those which no longer serve their original purpose, and forming new ones that will potentially bring her joy and satisfaction. There is great value in perturbing habitual patterns – even good ones.

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