Category Archives: Awareness Through Movement

Pay Attention to Me!!

Pay Attention 1

Attend to the quality of your movements.

What do you find in yourself when you attend – when you earnestly and intently pay attention to the characteristics of your movements?

Try this:

Sit down on the edge of a seat. Rest your hands on your thighs. Now move ONLY your right shoulder toward the wall in front of you (or tree or horse, if you’re outside), without turning yourself and move it back to where you started. Your right hand stays resting on your thigh throughout the entire movement. Do that a couple of times at any speed you wish.

NOTE: these are very, very small movements – very small.

How would you describe your movements?

Smooth? Gritty? Fluid? Uneven? Jumpy? Clear?

Whatever you find, don’t change it, just take in what you find.

Then, do the same movements but slow them down?

Now what would you describe your movements? Is the quality the same?

Same movements and slow them down more then before. What do you find?

Slow them down until you’re doing these movements so slowly that someone walking by might not know you’re moving! What does it feel like now? Besides frustrating?

It’s possible that as you get slower, your movements don’t get smoother or more fluid at first. They might, in fact, feel jumpy. It might feel as though it’s more difficult to control the quality of your movements when you’re moving that slowly.

If you discover this jumpiness, don’t try and change it or make it go away. Just continue to move with your full attention at this very slow pace. Your attention, itself will create change.

Pause and don’t do anything but breathe for a couple of seconds.

Now begin moving just your left shoulder forward and back to start. It’s a very small movement. Attend to the quality of the movement of your second shoulder. It’s a different shoulder with different musculature and coordination, so do not expect the same results.

What quality do you find in the movements of this shoulder? How is it different from the first movements you made with your right shoulder?

Gradually make the movement of your left shoulder slower and slower until it’s almost imperceptible.

How would you describe these movements? How are they different from when you first started moving your left shoulder AND how are they different from the similar movements you did with your right shoulder?

Pause for a moment.

This time move first your right shoulder and then your left, (still small) forward and back to start.

Are you only doing that movement?

Or is there a slight lift in your shoulders?

Slight tightening in your chest?

How do you breathe when you do these movements?

Do you hold you breath at any time?

Are your hands active when you’re moving only your shoulders?

Is there any tension in your jaw?

Around your eyes?

In your throat and neck?

The next time you move your shoulders, see how relaxed you can be in your body as you do this – only using the muscles that are absolutely necessary for these small but informative movements.

How is the quality now?

If you’re curious, you can repeat this moving one shoulder at a time back (without turning yourself) and returning to start. Take your time to be clear about what you intend to do. This is a pretty unusual movement, in and of itself.

You can also explore these other very small movements:

moving one shoulder at a time up and back to start

moving one shoulder at a time down toward your pelvis and back to start (without leaning)

small, small movements that gradually get slower and slower.

What are the differences? What changes?

Feel what you learn about yourself.

Pay Attention 4

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A Happier Back

Yoga Triangle 2

Returned to yoga class today after month-long Feldenkrais Method teacher training. Our guide, Marina, invited us to focus on self-knowing. With each asana, she asked us to listen  to ourselves and to feel.

“What does this feel like?”

I discovered yoga before I started teaching fitness. Blessed with tight, well-used hip joints, yoga has never been an easy practice for me. Nor has it been regular. Over the past 25 years I’ve regularly and irregularly practiced. I hoped to maintain strength and flexibility for dance through a yoga practice. While I did find an occasional class that did not annoy my hips, more times than not I left in more pain usually lasting for several days.

I recognize that not every practice is for everyone. I also believe that yoga may just be the exception. (Except for dance, of course, which is also for everyone!) I have considered that finding a teacher who is a fit for me may also make a difference. It has.

Today’s class pace offered me a chance to explore myself within the asanas. Not just to create the “right” shape, but to feel into the shape and then feel around within that shape. To discover how that shape can be both “firm and relaxed” (Patanjali) and how it breathes. Today I connected to patience and the power of softening.

To both of the above, I credit my Feldenkrais practice.

Patience and the power of softening.

To be clear, when I say “softening” in this context I do not mean melting and being loosey-goosey. I mean finding where tension and muscular work are preventing me from going any further (in this case, a yoga pose or asana) – where working hard has become an obstacle. Then I find out if I can breathe a little in this place and at first I may not be able to bring an breath or space. This takes a little patience since I have been conditioned to “make” more space by using more muscular work, by force. This might give me some immediate gratification, but the next time I come to this or something like it I am facing the same challenge. Force gave me temporary space, but the second I left it, my body returned to the same tense state.

After leaving it and returning a few times (maybe over the course of several classes and without force), I noticed that there was something different. My triangle pose felt more stable through my legs and when I asked for rotation from my spine, I received it – more than in previous classes. At this point I had to wonder if I could ask for a little more rotation since this was comfortable and for once, my low back was not doing all the turning. I brought breath and thought about how long my spine was and instead of working harder for more twist, I relaxed my torso some and just asked if more twist/rotation was possible. (For a change, I decided that I would take “no” for an answer if more was not available to me today.)

The middle of my back responded by giving me another couple of inches.

Breathable inches. Inches that were not just for that asana and that class, but inches that I would be able to take with me and use, off the mat, when I needed them.

Who can’t use a more comfortably supple spine?

For backing out of your drive way or parking spot.

For turning to respond more easily and gracefully to your children.

For more efficient, whole-body running.

For more fluid walking.

For easier bending and straightening.

For a better coordinated tennis serve.

For a firm and relaxed triangle pose in yoga!

Yoga Triangle 1

The Feldenkrais Method gave me this approach – these tools.

That is what the Feldenkrais Method does:

it gives you tools so that you can

-do more of what you need to do

-do more of what you want to do

To explore how the Feldenkrais Method can help you do more of what you want to do, email me: MovementAlchemyHeals@gmail.com for class days and times. Group classes and one-on-one sessions available.