SomaQuest Blog

The Rant That Wasn’t

Last Tuesday morning, I did something non-habitual.

Feldenkrais teachers often say that we help people to notice their habitual patterns of action, and then to explore non-habitual patterns to expand one’s choices for action in the future. This statement flies past most people, but it’s a really big deal. And it’s a big deal to notice when it’s happening. Usually, I facilitate this for my clients. Tuesday offered an opportunity to practice it for myself.

It was a tad before 8 a.m., and I had just had the first glance of the day at my Facebook feed. I can usually scroll past the annoying stuff, but Tuesday morning I got hooked by a pet peeve. In a flash, I typed a brief and brilliant slam of this type of post, and indirectly of those who post them. I was fully cranked and ready to give the world a piece of my mind. So there! And then, I took a breath.

I read over what I had typed – it really was good! And then I thought: do I really need to post this? Is this how I want to start my day? Can I just let this go? And you know what? I did.

What was really shocking was that this post received 95 “Likes” and stimulated 16 comments. Usually I have to post a picture of food, or my grandson, or one of my cats to get that kind of engagement.  While the comments ranged from “Oh come on! Let us hear it!” to “I’ve done that myself,” several expressed appreciation and admiration of my restraint. That sentiment intrigued me. Was this behavior so extraordinary, so noteworthy?

We live in a “Just Do It” culture. No guts, no glory. Stand your ground. My parents’ generation would say, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” But the ability to NOT do something – to inhibit action – is a greatly undervalued human capacity. This choice of doing or not-doing is called self-regulation. The toddler must learn to manage complex emotions of frustration and anger, and find ways other than temper tantrums to get her needs met. Teenagers push the limits and learn how to deal with authority to avoid adverse consequences and loss of privileges. As adults, we must regulate our appetites for food, sleep, alcohol, sex, and being right at all costs. The ability to intercept one’s habitual actions, and choose a better one, a more useful one, a more constructive one, is an ability worth developing.

As humans, we constantly navigate between the poles of engagement and detachment. Both are valuable, as are all the gradations of the spectrum. Each person must find a comfort zone in which they can function best. Moments of extraordinary courage or greatness will carry us outside of the comfort zone. For that reason, Moshe Feldenkrais advises that one should learn to move with efficiency, clarity, and minimal effort, to conserve vital energies for when they are needed.

Even though I have been a teacher of the Feldenkrais Method for over a decade, I am still amazed at the power of this work to break in and infiltrate my life in unexpected ways. The practice of teaching the non-habitual can become routine. And then, a revelation emerges – not on the floor in the midst of a lesson, but in the midst of life, lived. I noticed my available choices in a seemingly insignificant moment, and was able to shift out of “piece of mind” mode into peace of mind. I dare say my day likely changed course as a result.

The news, social media, our families and co-workers can all elicit strong reactions. Our increasingly chaotic, discordant, and violent world adds internal and external stress. If each of us could learn to shift from “piece of mind” to “peace of mind,” what effect might that have in our relationships, our communities, our nation, our world? I believe this idea is at the core of the Feldenkrais Method.  Who knows? This self-regulation stuff might just be the next big thing.

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.

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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.

Too Much of A Good Thing

Weather clipIf you live in the Houston Metro area, you know that our region has experienced torrential rains and record-breaking flooding in recent days. If you live elsewhere, the chances are good that you caught a glimpse of Houston, or some other part of Texas, on the national (or international) news. The years 2010-2014 were marked by record-breaking drought conditions, so you’d think the rain would be welcome. But 35 TRILLION gallons within a month, across the state of Texas? Devastating. As those who practice the Feldenkrais Method know, it’s not just the “What.” It’s the “How,” and sometimes the “When.” Who among us deals gracefully with too much of a good thing?

In my office, I regularly see people who have gone overboard with something and have injured themselves. Some people take pride in “giving their all” working out, cycling, running, doing yoga or Pilates, managing a busy schedule for multiple family members, or other activities they truly enjoy. Others spend hours in high-stress jobs, rarely pausing or taking moments for self-awareness and care. They all have lost track of themselves and how much effort they routinely expend. Their ambition or pursuit of a goal or a “should” causes them to ignore the telltale signs of distress and impending injury. They become swamped, it’s hard to stay afloat, they are swimming upstream — you get the idea. The gentle approach of the Feldenkrais Method can help!

Do you”deluge yourself” with too much of too much – even if it’s a good thing? Let yourself “absorb” improvements gradually. Be patient with yourself, make time for rest and recovery. I know you’re thinking, “Yeah, yeah, you don’t understand my life!” Or perhaps, “Wow, I’d LOVE TO. How do I do that?” Well, it takes a little practice.

In the Feldenkrais Method, we teach people how to pay attention and learn what’s really important. We DO try to understand your life, and we can show you how to create the “life preservers” you need. I help people who want to learn how to recover, re-organize, or re-invent themselves to be better than ever. Come rain or come shine, hell or high water, you CAN live your best life.

Many thanks to all of our readers around the world who sent emails or notes of concern on Facebook during our weather woes! Happily, we sustained no damage, and are deeply grateful to see the return of the sun. 

A New Discovery

Revisiting recent #Feldenkrais discoveries.

The Feldenkrais® Center of Houston

[April 1, 2010] Feldenkrais practitioners worldwide reacted with excitement today at news of the discovery of lost lessons and notes by the founder of the Feldenkrais Method, Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984).

Workers discovered a box of manuscripts and reel-to-reel tapes in an upstairs broom closet at the Alexander Yanai studio in Tel Aviv, where Moshe Feldenkrais field-tested the majority of his group lessons, called Awareness Through Movement. Previously, 550 lessons in eleven volumes and over 4,000 pages were believed to comprise the complete opus known as the “Alexander Yanai lessons.”  While practitioners and former protegees of Dr. Feldenkrais sort through the new material, unnamed sources report that several reams of documents will keep translators and transcribers busy for years. In addition to the new lessons, numerous personal notations in the margins, in Dr. Feldenkrais’s handwriting,  provide scholars with insights that show the Feldenkrais Method in a new light.


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Your Personal Superpower

Moshe Feldenkrais (Credit: © International Feldenkrais Federation Archive/Photo montage by
Moshe Feldenkrais (Credit: © International Feldenkrais Federation Archive/Photo montage by

The newest book by Norman Doidge, “The Brain’s Way of Healing,” has caused much excitement in Feldenkrais circles worldwide.  I’m excited for the Feldenkrais Method to become more widely known because of the book’s popularity. However, I’m even more excited at the possibility that the idea of neuroplasticity – that the brain changes its structure in response to learning – will finally find acceptance among the general public, including those within the mainstream medical community.

I first heard about neuroplasticity in the year 2000, in my earliest Feldenkrais lessons.  I’ve probably thought about neuroplasticity almost every day for the past fifteen years, as I became immersed in the Feldenkrais Method, and began to work with students and clients. With accumulating experience, I have come to understand that neuroplasticity is a sort of superpower that we all have. And, like all superpowers, it can be a double-edged sword.

Neuroplasticity operates whether you are aware of it or not. We humans are built to learn, almost “straight out of the chute.” Our unconscious actions – those that we call “habits” – are constantly causing neurons to be recruited, strengthening neural pathways to strengthen the habitual patterns. This formation of neural pathways is sometimes stated as,”Things that fire together, wire together.” However, this innate capacity can have devastating consequences for some musicians, for example, who spend thousands of hours practicing fine-motor dexterity and agility, only to develop a lack of control and precision, and potentially jeopardizing their careers.

So if you have this superpower, you might as well learn to use it, and use it well. You can’t just assume that it’s going to work FOR you. You have to practice, and pay attention. Think of Luke Skywalker in his first encounter with the light saber. Obi-Wan was undoubtedly a patient teacher (in a short but memorable scene) so that Luke could learn to use this tool with skill and precision to match his intentions.

The Feldenkrais Method and neuroplasticity as metaphorical light sabers? Your Feldenkrais teacher as your personal Obi-Wan? Am I shamelessly exploiting Star Wars for my own literary convenience and amusement? YOU BETCHA I AM.

In lightness and with gentle humor, we learn and grow. There’s more to be said about all of this, but for now, I must practice my light saber. . .

Before and After

Workshop at the Feldenkrais Center of Houston on 02/21/2014.
Workshop at the Feldenkrais Center of Houston on 02/21/2015.

What happened to these people? In the top photo, they look distressed. In the bottom photo, a transformation has clearly occurred!

We had a bit of fun taking these snaps at Saturday’s workshop, “Ease for YOUR Neck & Shoulders.” The photos may have been a teeny bit staged, the people may have received a bit of direction. But despite the levity of the moment, everyone agreed that, indeed, they felt noticeably different — and better — after the gentle movement explorations provided in the workshop.

So, what happened? What did they do? How might YOU create the conditions for transformation?

In the Feldenkrais Method, we teach people how to pay attention. That’s it.

Good luck with that! See ya!

Obviously, it would be helpful to say a bit more about that. What happened was, the workshop participants arrived in a state of curiosity, with a willingness to experiment, hopeful that CHANGE WAS POSSIBLE. They understood that the change would come from them, from what they learned, and not from any outside source. They set aside some time to be quiet, and they enlisted the help of a “tour guide” — yours truly, an intrepid Feldenkrais teacher — to interpret the unfamiliar terrain and point out the interesting insider information. With just a little guidance and just enough time, they found new ways of moving comfortably, and they learned new ways to care for themselves.

What sets the Feldenkrais Method apart from other modes of exercise and self-improvement in our “Just Do It” culture, I think, is that opportunities for reflection are embedded in the process. Students are challenged to make distinctions: how did this movement feel before? How does it feel now? “Same? Or different?” is one of the most powerful reflective questions one can ask. In this climate of attention and inquiry, you can experiment your way to a better state. You can create your own well-being.

It takes a little practice and a little help, but you’ll get the hang of it fairly quickly. Change is not only possible, it is inevitable. We facilitate change for people in profound and quiet ways. What would you like to see in your own “Before and After” picture?

Where it’s never rush hour

Image from
Image from

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.