Five Best Feldenkrais Moves for Back Pain Relief

With well over 1,000 different movement sequences, for every part of you from your eyeballs to your toes, the Feldenkrais Method is the best way I know of to really get to know your body.  Not “get to know your body” in some abstract, woo-woo, anaesthetizing way, but to get to know  “it” — YOU — as someONE real, alive, moving — animated.  Your body, in action.  Real action, that is useful to you in your life.  That’s what the Feldenkrais Method is for. If you like to do yoga, pilates, running, dance, workouts, competitive sports, performing arts or just LIVING — the Feldenkrais Method can help you to feel your way toward doing it better.

One of the things we think we know best is our pain.  The American Chiropractic Association reports that 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time. (article link) And yet, our sensation of pain dulls all of our other sensations.  We go on “auto-pilot,” go-go-go, trying to ignore or conquer ourselves — and then wonder why we feel worse instead of better.

Here’s an interesting idea — what if your current discomfort is something that you are experiencing right now, rather than something that you “have?” Ever notice that when you try to “get rid of something,”  it just sticks to you like velcro?  The Feldenkrais Method uses your own ability to learn and pay attention to yourself as you do slow subtle movements.  You always have the power to change the quality of your experience.

If you have low-back pain, try these gentle movements from the Feldenkrais Method.

Each one takes less than five minutes — but the “catch” is — you have to pay attention. Do one, or two, and save the rest for later.  Guidelines: resist the urge to “exercise,” at least for this moment.  Go gently and easily, don’t push into or through a painful range.   The Method uses these gentle movements as a way to improve the communication and connection between your brain and your body.  The best way to get your brain to stop sending a repetitive “pain message” is to help it learn what a “comfort message” FEELS like.  You can’t do that if you keep pushing yourself into pain.  SO here’s my list.

  1. Tilting legs.  Lie on your back, with your knees bent and soles of your feet in contact with the floor.   Gently let your knees tilt a little bit to the left, and then smoothly move to tilt them to the right.  Do this movement many times.  Don’t go as far as you can — consciously AVOID a stretching sensation for right now.  Just a few inches to either side is plenty.  Make each repetition a little bit different — smoother, softer, easier, more comfortable.  Try slowing down your breathing so that you are inhaling when you tilt your knees, and exhaling when you bring them back to the middle.  Smooth, continuous movement is your intention.  Feel yourself gently rolling over the back of your pelvis.  Is it possible to pay attention to the parts of yourself that contact the floor as you roll?  What parts of your back do not contact the floor?  Could they?  Go easily, and rest (STOP MOVING) after every few movements, whether you are tired or not.  VARIATION 1:  try the movement a few times with your knees very close together.  Try the movements with your knees comfortably apart.  Which movement feels more comfortable? VARIATION 2: Cross your right knee over the left.  Re-position your foot on the floor if you need to so that you can be comfortable.  Begin to tilt your knees slowly and easily to the right.  Don’t go as far as you can.  Pay attention to the way your left side peels up off of the floor, and then sticks back down.  Make it feel good.  Rest.  Slowly stand up, walk around a little.  How do you feel?  Same or different?  (Total time expenditure:  5 minutes or LESS.)
  2. Pelvic tilt. This movement has been appropriated by other modalities as an “exercise” to strengthen or stretch something.  In the Feldenkrais Method, our intention is different:  simply to have you feel yourself as you do the movement. That. Is. All.  You’ll find that is a lot!  Lie on your back, with knees bent and soles of your feet in contact with the floor.  Notice how closely your low back comes toward the floor.  Can you flatten your low back into the floor a little bit?  You’ll find that you actually roll on the back of your pelvis, along the bone called the sacrum — your back will come closer to the floor, or even press into it slightly — notice how your pelvis has rolled.  Then, roll downward along your sacrum until you feel “neutral” again — your starting point.  You can explore rolling your pelvis a bit farther in this direction, so that your low back lifts up off of the floor a little bit.  Only do this if it is comfortable.  Don’t stretch or go to extremes.  You are simply reminding your spine that it can change shape.  The muscles will get the message and relax for you — no pounding, stretching, strengthening, or heroic intervention required!  Slowly and easily stand up, walk around a bit.  How do you feel?   Same or different? (Total time expenditure:  5 minutes or LESS.)
  3. Spine like a chain. This is kind of a continuation of #2.  As you roll your pelvis so that your low back begins to flatten into the floor, keep going a little farther in that direction.  You’ll feel your tailbone peek out into the room a little bit.  Roll back down, take an easy breath, and then rolll again, but a bit farther this time.  Perhaps you can feel your sacrum is now angled relative to the floor, with the tailbone end clearly off of the floor!  Roll back down, slowly and easily.  Next roll — see how you might BEGIN to allow your pelvis to get lighter and begin to leave the floor.  Your feet will feel heavier as they press into the floor to take the weight of your pelvis, and you will come to rest on a different vertebra each time you roll up.  Roll back down, and continue with the idea that you simply lift one more vertebra each time.  Don’t worry about doing this perfectly.  Feel which vertebrae like to travel in groups.  Feel where the movement is easy and distinct.  Do not force anything to be anything other than the way you find it. Be gentle and curious with yourself.  Only continue as long as this is interesting AND comfortable, then rest.  Stand up, notice how you feel.  Same or different?  (Total time expenditure:  5 minutes or LESS.)
  4. On all fours.  Get on your hands and  knees.  See if you can have your arms at a right angle to the floor and at a right angle to your torso.  Protect your hands by resting on fists if you need to.   See if your knees, likewise, can be directly below your hip joints, so that the angle of your thigh to your torso is as close to a right angle as you can get it and be comfortable.  Let your belly loosen and hang down toward the floor.  Did that change the shape of your back? Could it?  Then, gently pull your belly in.  Does your back round, like a cat’s, toward the ceiling?  Could it?  Let this be easy, and keep the movement small enough and gentle enough that you feel entirely comfortable the whole time.  Just do a few movements, then rest, lying on your back once again.  Walk around a bit.  How do you feel?  Same or different?  (Total time expenditure:  5 minutes or LESS.)
  5. Gekko.  Lie on your front.  (If you are not comfortable when you lie on your front, don’t do this movement.) Turn your face to the right.  (If it’s more comfortable, turn your head the other way.  Just adjust these instructions accordingly.) Rest your arms on the floor on either side of your head. Let your legs be long and extended, comfortably apart, with feet resting so that you can feel your toenails on the floor.  Gently begin to turn your heels to the left, and then to the right, slowly rolling across the tops of your feet.  Can you feel that your legs are rolling along their entire length as you do this?  Just be easy, no speed or strength, no struggle.  Notice that letting your heels turn from side to side also rolls your pelvis a bit, as you roll across your tummy from one hip-bone to the other.  Then, keep rolling across your tummy to roll your pelvis, and see how your heels can follow.  When your heels are pointing to the left and your right leg has rolled onto its inner edge, see how you can easily draw up your knee toward your abdomen.  Then, easily let it straighten again.  Do this several times, rest.  See how this is on your other side. Be sure to turn your head so that you face in the opposite direction. Feel how your pelvis rolls across your tummy, and when you can easily drag the knee on that side toward your middle. Go very easily, and stop at the first sign of discomfort.  You can either stop completely, or do a smaller or slower movement next time. Roll onto your back and notice how you contact the floor now.  Stand up easily, walk around a bit.  How do you feel?  Same or different?  (Total time expenditure:  5 minutes or LESS.)

The effects are subtle.  Be curious, and notice what you notice.  If you were my client, coming to me with low back pain, I would start with these movements.  I believe they will start you on a path out of pain.

Have you done Feldenkrais movements for low-back pain?  What would you add to my list?

Special thanks to Geoff Smith for demonstrating these movements.
You can view the podcast version on
YouTube here.

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One Thing I Learned Recently

It’s the kind of phone call you dread.

My cellphone rang yesterday morning. It was sitting right by me, not lost in the bottom of my purse, or left in the car.

I answered and heard the voice of an acquaintance. She said she was sorry to call with bad news. Our mutual friend had collapsed at home. Her husband found her on the floor and had been unable to revive her. Our friend was dead, she said.

We exchanged a few teary words, requests for information, promises of help and support. Shock, disbelief, confusion.

I always feel uncomfortable when I read a story like this, and I feel a bit frustrated in writing it.To write about her, her interests, her life, or her family seems strangely exploitive. To write about how her death has affected me seems stupidly narcissistic.

Ah, Narcissus! Self-absorbed little brat of lore, who couldn’t stop admiring his own reflection in the pond. ZAP! he got turned into the flower that bears his name. There’s a cautionary tale for you! Narcissus, archetype of the self-absorbed, hoarded the reflection for his own admiration.

But here’s my question for the morning — if you share your reflections — or the act of reflection — doesn’t the sharing take on a deeper meaning? Does this sharing actually “prevent” narcissism from taking root? By sharing reflections, we have a basis for empathy, understanding, perhaps even intimacy.

My friend was the consummate hostess in every situation. She welcomed everyone, everywhere, and drew them in with her laughter, wide-ranging conversation, and always fabulous food. Wherever she was, there would be a party — or it would feel like one. She had recently begun to train to become a Feldenkrais teacher — work that had helped her to recover from back pain while living abroad, listening to recordings of my lessons. She threw herself into the process of learning via immersion, eager to learn and know and do all she could to benefit from the work and share it with others. As I talk to some of her other friends, this is how she approached everything. What a great way to be remembered!

Many friends from around the globe are reflecting publicly, posting their thoughts, prayers, and condolences on her Facebook page. How ironic that this contemporary tool, often held up as a flagrant contributor to the development of narcissistic personalities, should be used for such an ancient purpose. Apparently, we are made to connect with one another. Whether it is in person or through a computer screen, people are in pursuit of that basic human need. We will establish connection by any means available — and we miss the connection when it is gone.

Yesterday I enacted my habitual pattern for times of duress. I organized a telephone tree to notify members of our Feldenkrais training. I paid a short visit to my friend’s daughter. And I did my own work– lots and lots of work.. My new behavior is letting the emotion and the words come when they will. This piece is part of that process.

What started this train of thought? Monday morning routine database management before sending my newsletter. I saw her name, clicked on it. I selected “Remove from list.” The other choice was “Unsubscribe.” A little info window popped up that said, “This action is irreversible. It cannot be undone. Do you wish to proceed?”

Now the tears are flowing. I couldn’t do it. Not this morning. I can deal with her death, but banishing her to the “Do Not Send” list? Isn’t that worse, somehow? Not worse for her, finally free of email madness — but much, much worse for me. I’m not quite ready to let her go yet.

So I learned, once again, that emotions WILL find their way into expression. Occasions to feel grief and sorrow come on their own — we don’t have to seek them, nor create them for others. However, in their presence, there is such sweetness in remembering the fan – f@#!-ing-tastic times I had with my friend.

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Make the “Switch”

Switch is the title of a new book by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, with the subtitle, “How to Change Things When Change is Hard.”    The book is full of real-life stories of how organizations, communities, and even social problems can CHANGE — and the approach they have in common. Since the Feldenkrais Method teaches, in part, how to create conditions so that positive change can occur in and for individuals, I was curious to see what the Heath brothers had to say about change on a personal level. Interestingly, three of their suggestions struck me as being particularly in alignment with the Method.

1.  Find the Bright Spots. When we want to change something, it’s usually because we have identified a problem. It’s a problem because there is a “trend line” that represents the overall state of affairs.  We focus on the trend line because it is strong, and — a trend. However, every trend line also has outliers.  Researchers  will usually remove the outliers, considering them to be statistical anomalies. However, the Heaths believe these outliers have something to teach us.  If you focus on the problem, it gets bigger and more complex.  To focus on a bright spot means to find what is working well, having a positive result, going the right direction.  hen you can feel confident that by emulating their success tactics, you can begin to get a handle on making a change.  The Feldenkrais Method helps to build awareness of your own “bright spots.”

2.  Shrink the change.  In the Feldenkrais Method, we often talk about finding “the smallest difference that will make a difference.”  Systems Theory is known, but not widely applied.  If you change one element within a system, everything else will change, too.  You don’t have to make a drastic change.  Just a small change sets in motion a process throughout the system.

3.  Tweak the environment.  create the conditions.  If you play the guitar but can’t find enough time to practice, do what Shawn Achor did.   He put his guitar into the case and into a closet whenever he finished playing.  He noticed that he rarely took the time to unpack the guitar.  He changed the environment.  When he left the guitar out of the case, and easily accessible in his living room, he found that he played his guitar almost every day for the next month!  He created the conditions so that he could do MORE of what he wanted to be doing.  You can, too.  For example a friend recently  re-arranged her workspace so that the paper is near the printer.   It seems obvious, and yet this simple “tweak” improved her efficiency and her comfort.  The Feldenkrais Method is full of  personal ergonomic improvements, as well as powerful neurological changes to improve the connection and communication between your brain and body.

The biggest “Switch” seems to be to choose to do more of “what works,” and less of what doesn’t.  The wisdom to know the difference is gained through awareness.

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The Next Big Trend

Rendering of human brain.
Image via Wikipedia

A new trand is emerging.  Not surprisingly, the Feldenkrais Method is on the leading edge:  by about 50 years!

According to a recent article in Psychiatric News, “Brain Training May Be Next Fitness Craze.”   Sounds great, right?  Read the article here, and then come back to join us.

It’s confusing.  Especially when you read other data, like the study that says “brain games” don’t work. Who is right?

Physical exercise, especially moderate aerobics, has been shown to have a high positive correlation with keeping your marbles.  So do activities that provide you with an experience of “flow:”  those absorbing, engaging moments and hours spent in discovery, action, novelty, and mastery.  Musicians with their instruments, stamp collectors and model makers, writers, athletes, gardeners  — this “flow state” can be experienced by anyone, from any walk of life. Feldenkrais classes and lessons create this experience of “flow,” or “being in the zone,” through gentle movement and attention.  And that is the secret ingredient.

Rather than looking for a remedy or a treatment as your first response, look first to what you enjoy, and what you do well.  There’s no sense in taking a sudoku puzzle like a pill, if you don’t enjoy it.  Even Moshe Feldenkrais said, “These movements are nothing.”  It’s not the WHAT, it’s the HOW.  It’s your own attention that creates the change and makes the improvement.  It’s your attention and consciousness that stimulates your brain’s own neuroplasticity, adaptability, and capacity to learn.  Attention is what indicates that you are here, now.  Isn’t that the primary criteria for mental competence?  It’s a good place to start, anyway.

So — play video games if you enjoy them.  Do puzzles, learn languages if they make you happy and open up your life.  By all means, exercise, move, enjoy your body and all that it can do. Be a life-long learner.  BUT:  Don’t do these things out of fear, or out for some misplaced faith in the latest expert or gadget.

I don’t have data to back this up  — however, my sense is that boredom is the first step on the slippery slope of mental decline.  I frequently see updates on my Facebook wall or Twitter feed from some  acquaintance  who says, “I am so bored,” or a variation on that.  There is a spoken or unspoken demand and expectation that someone else supply a solution, an activity, a rescue for the intractable and unacceptable  state of boredom.

The statement, “I’m bored” brings out the worst in me.  Ooooh!  It is a hot button, pet peeve — wow.  I become my most brittle and judgmental self.  “Are you completely incapable of finding even one idea for how to entertain yourself?”  I want to scold.  “Do you know how to read?  Do you know how to walk? Cook?  Clean your house? Go to a movie?  Is there anything you could do on your own to solve your problem in this moment without whining about it?”  Thankfully, I reserve that speech for private rants, take a deep breath, and further develop my theory:  Frequent feelings of boredom indicate a lack of engagement with whatever is happening in the present moment.  As far as I can tell, the present moment is all we have for sure.

The Feldenkrais Method teaches you how to pay attention. NOW.  It uses movement, touch, and a lot of humor to achieve this.  It reduces the noise and distraction that overwhelm and cause you to “tune out” and disconnect  in self-defense.  It teaches you to be curious, to explore, to enjoy, to invent.  It shows you that you are capable in ways that were not immediately obvious to you.   THAT is “brain training” that actually works.

^^^^^^^

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Feldenkrais — The Ultimate “Life Hack”

D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr
Image by D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr

Seems like people are always seeking the advice of “life hackers.”  You know, the ones who always have great tips, techniques, or “work arounds” — “Hacks” — for doing life better.  That got me thinking about Moshe Feldenkrais, and the Feldenkrais Method, and that if he were alive today, perhaps we’d have a more direct and contemporary way to talk about him and his work.  My idea:  that the Feldenkrais Method is the ultimate “life hack,” providing a means of discovering how, in any aspect of one’s life, to create an experience of the highest possible quality.

So I wrote this little promotion as part of a party invitation.  You’re invited, too — since May 6 is the 106th anniversary of Moshe’s birth.  I was inspired by the venue:  my regular Thursday evening class meets at the much-loved Caroline Collective in the Museum District of Houston, Texas.  It is  simultaneously a co-working space, art gallery, office building, party venue, community center, and the coolest gathering space for geeks, hipsters, music lovers, technology buffs, entrepreneurs, and young mover/shakers in town.  Seemed like a good fit for a Feldenkrais class, since the target audience of the Caroline Collective is anyone on the leading edge of culture, business, or innovation.  If you’re looking for a “life hack,” it’s a pretty good place to find one.

Here’s the invitation:

Join us at 6:30 p.m. SHARP on Thursday, May 6 to celebrate the birth of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais.

“Do I know him?”

“Was he at that SxSW thing?”

“Is he that celebrity chef with the new place in the warehouse district?”

Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) was arguably the most brilliant thinker of the 20th century that you’ve never heard of.

If he were alive today, he would totally be speaking at the TED Conference. He would be on the cover of Wired Magazine.  He would be interviewed by Stephen Colbert, definitely. Why?  Because he was our kind of guy.  An uber-geek, polyglot, engineer, physicist, athlete, music-lover, judo black belt, and advisor to celebrities of his day. Oh yeah — he worked in the famous Curie lab that won the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry! He was interested in freakin’ EVERYTHING: anatomy, physiology, psychology, technology, neuroscience, yoga, martial arts, esoteric practices, altered states, literature, science, performance — and that’s just the beginning.  What made him such a badass?

He devised the best, coolest, most amazing “life hack,” EVER.

It’s called the Feldenkrais Method(R), appropriately enough.

It uses gentle, small body movements to improve awareness and every aspect of your being — thinking, sensing, moving, and feeling.

You gotta try it.  I’m just sayin’.

At the birthday party, you’ll experience one of his “signature works:” an Awareness Through Movement(R) lesson that will leave you amazed — as well as feeling  strong, vital, graceful, flexible, coordinated, balanced, oxygenated, pain-free, relaxed,  and REFRESHED.  Ready to go.

SO come and try it.  Wear comfortable street clothes or workout gear.  There will be NO PERSPIRING, we promise (unless the A/C isn’t working), so you’ll be able to go to your next “thing” fresh as a daisy.  But you’ll feel DIFFERENT.

Have a little cake.  Drink a little punch (or brew).  Get down tonight.

*****

Events are planned in various locations around the US and Canada for that week, in observance of the occasion.  Throughout the month of May,  international organizations also launch “Feldenrkais Awareness” day, week, and month.  The Feldenkrais Center of Houston will be involved in ALL of it, in person, through social media, and wherever we can be, do, and have some fun with movement and people.

To attend our party (or have a look at the invitation), click here.

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Comfortable, Beautiful Posture with the Feldenkrais Method(R)

Sunday afternoon at the NiaMoves Studio, it happened again.

“It” was the quiet, rapt attention of complete absorption in the present moment, shared simultaneously and individually by ten people.  The topic was posture — probably the one aspect of our beings for which we criticize and judge ourselves the most. “It” was a gentle, profound transformation, brought about by new ideas and new experiences. “It” is the reason why someone would keep coming back, again and again, after their first Feldenkrais class.

Watch the video:

It’s interesting to note that the Feldenkrais Method produces these changes without stretching, strengthening, or struggling.  Just easy, gentle movements, done with great awareness.  When you can sense yourself more fully, feel the force of gravity traveling through your bones, and easily expand your movement choices (nothing is forbidden, anything is permitted), it seems that natural, elegant, graceful carriage just EMERGES.  What a great feeling!

Here are the “take-aways” from the workshop:

Posture Myth #1:  Your spine should be straight.
How much back pain and awkwardness have resulted from this misconception?  Viewed from the side, your spine has curves that are “architecturally” necessary for proper cushioning against shocks, and for freedom of movement.  Our aesthetic of “good posture,” which we describe as “standing up straight,” is actually a spine that is long and vertical — but not straight.

Posture Myth #2:  You should have “good posture” all the time.
We looked at pictures of a professional golfer at various stages of his swing; of Lance Armstrong riding in the 2009 Tour de France; of a martial artist in “ready” position; and of an opera singer as Mimi in La Boheme, in the last scene, where she is lying in bed and dying of tuberculosis (as she floats a beautiful high B-flat!).  NONE of these pictures illustrated a traditional notion of “good posture.”  Clearly, there is a disconnect between our ideas about posture, and the realities of peak performance.  Moshe Feldenkrais actually coined a word, “acture,” (in contrast to “posture”) to reflect the active and dynamic attributes of graceful movement.

Posture Myth #3:  “Bad posture” must be corrected, or you risk long-term problems.
This is a tricky one.  I would argue that the correction and criticism about posture that many endure, unceasingly, from a young age, is anxiety producing, emotionally damaging, and does as much harm if not more so than a little slouching would ever cause.   Criticism from our parents, teachers, and other authority figures is soon incorporated so that the disapproval comes from within.  A person subject to constant criticism will not have the self-confidence and sturdy self-esteem that produces upright and strong posture.  Not gonna happen.

The Feldenkrais Method does not correct.  Rather, it provides a process of experimentation and exploration, guided by sensing, that allows one to self-regulate, adjust, and adapt to changing situational demands, and according to one’s internal, subjective experience of pleasure, comfort, and ease. There is no position that is judged to be bad, or good.  The problem is not in the position itself, but in the lack of variety in movements. It’s the getting stuck that causes the problems.  So many contraptions, braces, devices, and exercises reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of posture, movement, and dynamic living — and cause more problems than they solve.  No change in posture — or anything else — can happen without awareness and sensation of what you are doing.

How to have good posture?  Of course, I recommend you get yourself to a Feldenkrais class, and change your posture for GOOD.  In the meantime —

DO experience and sense yourself — DON’T judge
DO remain flexible — DON’T “fix” or become rigid
DO include your whole self in movement — DON’T have tunnel vision of just one body part
DO explore options — DON’T limit your choices
DO pursue sustainability — DON’T settle for a short-term solution

Good posture can be graceful, fluid, easy, sensual, and pleasurable.  Come and learn how!

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‘Tis the “Season”

Mint leaves.
Image via Wikipedia

Lovely new pots of herbs grace my back patio, and I’m enjoying the morning routine of surveying the landholdings and watering each one.  Parsley, rosemary, basil, oregano, mint, and cilantro are getting used to their new and comparatively spacious surroundings, adjusting to the daily rhythm of light and shade.  The plants are already contributing their dash of dazzling flavors in our favorite recipes.

The existence of mint on my patio inspires me to find recipes that need mint.  The possibility was not immediately available previously, but now it is, and it requires action.  I trimmed off the excess from a gift oregano plant so the smallish root could more easily support less foliage as it adjusts to its new pot.  The addition of ultra-fresh oregano in simple pasta with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes is beyond delicious.  Salads, sauces, and most of all, my imagination, begin to tingle with the new possibilities. I envision a bumper crop of basil, and the glorious prospect of fresh pesto with EVERYTHING. . .

Often, after an Awareness Through Movement lesson, people will walk around with a strange, yet pleasant, expression on their faces.  Some look as if they are listening intently to a quiet and distant voice.  Others have a curious look, as though they’ve just tasted a fascinating flavor that they can’t quite classify.  I’ve come to appreciate “that look” as the look of someone encountering the surprise of their own hidden potential.  Sometimes, the “flavor” is the presence of a new and fluid quality in walking or reaching.  For some, it is the absence of a long-present discomfort for the first time in recent or long memory.  You can see the confidence, the grace, the refreshed outlook as the impossible becomes possible; the possible becomes easy, and the easy becomes elegant, delightful, and fascinating.

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Houston, we have a training!

Hermann Park in Houston, Texas. Photograph by ...
Image via Wikipedia

Biggest news to hit the Feldyverse today is the birth of a new training program in Houston.  The first-ever Texas-based program for the training and certification of future Feldenkrais teachers will begin May 3, 2010.

My dream for hosting a Feldenkrais training in Houston began around 2004, shortly before I graduated from my own training in Chicago.  The Feldenkrais Method is much better known in Europe, Australia, and on the US coasts (east, west, and Great Lakes) than in the vast middle and southern states.  We’ve been in a chicken-an-egg situation:  are there so few teachers because nobody has heard of the Feldenkrais Method, or has nobody heard of the Feldenkrais Method because there are so few teachers?

Well, in Houston, anyway, it’s NOT true that “nobody has heard of it.”  Nancy Wozny, my wonderful colleague turned freelance writer, labored here virtually alone for many years and made huge strides in advancing public awareness of the method.  However, with the advent of social media and because of a few key enthusiastic students, people are finally beginning to talk about how much they love the work, how they have benefited — and they have recommended it to others.

Musicians report improved technique and expressivity, a new creative spark and embodiment of their musicality.  Dancers begin to move without pain. People in the healing and helping professions find new resources and depth in their ability to bring about positive changes in the lives of their clients.    If someone is motivated to follow their curiosity and experiment a bit with a few Feldenkrais classes, they quickly find much of vallue.

Some people begin a Feldenkrais training with the clear intention of becoming a teacher, and/or incorporating it into their current profession or setting.  Others begin for personal reasons — a special-needs child, elderly parent, desire for personal growth , or to explore solutions to their own movement difficulties.  The learning is profound.  The results are surprising, even unpredictable.  New capabilities, new possibilities, new aptitudes, new ideas emerge from the fluid space of discovery and experimentation.  People are surprised at how much fun learning can be.

One of my clients recently said, “I’ve been looking for Feldenkrais my whole life, without knowing what it was.”  Have you, too?

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When Everything Is New

2001-2002 Mitsubishi Montero photographed in USA.
Image via Wikipedia

It has been a week of many changes.

My first blog, in 2005, was called “Embracing Change.”  The past week has been so full, I wonder if my arms can encircle all of it!

Three weeks after a wreck which totaled my car (but thankfully resulted in no serious injuries), I purchased a new vehicle.  My Mitsubishi Montero captures the essence of what I wanted — to have good visibility, safety, reasonable fuel economy, plenty of cargo space, lower mileage, and a little something unexpected.  The unexpected is that I came in “on time and under budget,” with four-wheel drive and a sun roof!  The Feldenkrais bumper sticker (purple and white, “movement is life”) looks good, and “Mitsi” already knows the way home.  A new car marks the beginning of a new era.

Some of my most powerful and transformational dreams have featured transportation.  As I type, it seems obvious:  the prefix “trans,” meaning “across,” coupled with “Formation;”  that which is the essence of a building character; and “Portation,”  the way one carries oneself from Point A to Point B.  Dreams of travel on a train, chugging down the track with countless faceless others, brought to awareness my desire to be an individual and go my own way.  Dreams of cars, or an “auto-mobile” or “Self- mover,” always focused my attention on where I was going in life, and how I was going about getting there.  When dreams and reality converge, new possibilities emerge.

Our cats have been different this week.  Perhaps it has been the unpredictable weather and big temperature swings:  the cats have wanted full-body contact and companionship.  Most cats are “cool,” aloof, and disinterested.  Not ours! Serving cheerfully as our courteous and professional staff, they thrive on attention, just as humans do.  Companion animals are so delightful, and time spent with them can lower your blood pressure and stress levels.  There’s a special sweetness and resonance to inter-species bonding.  Bean and Yoda’s behaviors are an endless source of amusement and novelty, not to mention sheer silliness.  Silliness is the great equalizer, and adjuster of perspective.  It’s hard to be self-absorbed, serious, and self important when a pet is trying to sit on your head.  Deal with it.  It will make you a better person.

Spring comes to Houston.  New ideas and new energy abound.  From community initiatives like the “#SLGT Support Local, Grow Together” movement, to the SXSW conference in Austin, to the new Feldenkrais training which will begin here in May, there is much that is new.  New ideas come from imagination.  Your imagination is your greatest asset.  It’s working all the time, so put it to use!  Focus your energies and attention on imagining what you want, rather than what you don’t want.  YOU control your imagination, so it can function as a compass to point you in the direction of accomplishment and achievement.

Unfortunately, many people don’t define themselves as “imaginative.”  What they don’t know is that imagination always has roots in reality.  Feldenkrais lessons help you to develop this resource by re-connecting you to your innate abilities to move, sense, think, and feel.  You’ll be surprised at how much feels brand new.  Seems appropriate for Spring, doesn’t it?

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How to Feel Younger

Lucas Cranach "The Fountain Of Youth"Image by Sebastian Niedlich (Grabthar) via Flickr

That title got your attention!

The Pepsi Generation, those of us who grew up saying “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” eventually decided that hanging in there for the long haul was vastly better than the alternative. We spend a lot of money and energy to look and feel our best — and to many, that means wanting to feel younger.

We can’t know for sure if we felt great when we were younger. It’s possible that we were fine: it just looks so much better now, from a distance, and through the rosy lenses of nostalgia. “I wish I could have the wisdom I have now, with the body I had when I was 25” is a frequent lament.

Beauty may be skin deep, but youthful energy and “zip” comes from the inside. Your best bets for looking and feeling younger?

Live. Do the best you can with what you have. Count your blessings. If you’re away a lot, get home more. If you’re home a lot — get out more. Welcome variety and fun into your life. Enjoy — really enjoy the people in your life.

Laugh. Cultivate your sense of humor. Be gentle and forgiving, especially with yourself. Rekindle your own ability to be surprised and delighted. Laughter improves your breathing, your complexion, and your outlook.

Learn. There’s probably nothing more absorbing and energizing than learning something new, taking on a new project, and expanding your capabilities. Classes or lessons in the Feldenkrais Method can reconnect you with that time in your life when everything was new. When you improve the quality and gracefulness of your movements you also improve your thinking, feeling and sensing. Then, you’ll be ready to take on the world — or at least your corner of it — refreshed.

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