Are You an Owl?

baby-owl

When you turn to look over your shoulder,

when someone calls your name

to back your car out of a driveway or parking place

in your movement practice

do you feel like you just don’t have enough neck to do the job?

If you are not an owl, keep reading.

Imagine a tornado or twister in your mind.

The twister doesn’t just twist at the top. If it did, it would do far less damage. It turns all along its length. It’s pretty efficient. It twists, it sucks up stuff and moves on.

Our power to turn easily and efficiently doesn’t come from the top of us, or our necks. That’s only the beginning. Our necks are just not designed for that kind of range of motion. Remember: owl, not us.

Our neck is only a few inches worth of ability to turn.

Below that is the remaining length of our spine, the stability of our pelvis and mobility of our feet and ankles.

Try this and see how you might make turning more useful:

Find something to sit on that is firm-to-hard, and allows you to place both of your feet solidly flat on the floor. Sit comfortably at the edge.

Without holding yourself rigidly upright, s l o w l y roll forward and backward, just a very little bit to find your sitting bones.Might feel a little like sitting on walnuts. Then slowly roll right and left, that very little bit, noticing when one sitting bone wants to lighten or lift from your seat, then the other.

Come back to the middle. Feel how you sit in the middle.

Repeat the above, but this time, as your weight shifts in your sitting bones, notice how your weight shifts in your feet.

Does your weight come a little more into your feet as you roll your pelvis (and belly button) forward?

What about when you roll your pelvis back (and your belly button pulls s o f t l y toward your spine)? Does your weight lighten? Or move toward the back of your feet?

And when you roll right and left? When you roll to the right does the weight in your feet shift toward the outer edge of your right foot and to the inner edge of your left foot?

Does the opposite happen when you roll your pelvis to the left?

Practice these sequences a few times today, then tomorrow and maybe the day after, each time noticing what you notice.

Resist the urge to speed up your movements or to make them bigger. Keep it slow and in a range that’s easy to feel not only what happens in your pelvis, but what happens in your feet as well.

Is it easier to roll forward or backward? Right or left?

What happens to your breathing as you move through these sequences? Does your normal breathing change? Do you hold your breath? See if you can allow yourself to just breathe naturally as you move through the sequences.

See you Thursday or Friday for more.

Because I Said So

Hummingbirds and Hands

It’s a bit of a different paradigm from the way we relate to incoming information:

Notice what you notice.*

Instead what I remind you to notice. As if what I notice is of more relevance than what you might notice on your own.

There will be Not knowing.*

We can’t know all the answers all the time. The answers don’t always help us. They can actually become barriers to our learning. “If I know, I don’t have to pay attention anymore”, and learning stops.

Follow what is interesting to you.*

What someone else finds interesting may leave you ready for a nap. To keep learning, it is helpful to find what draws us in, rather than what someone else tells us we should be interested in.

You don’t need to understand.*

There’s a difference between knowing and understanding. What you know you may not understand. Knowing takes time, understanding, even more time. No need to rush to know or understand.

 Feel what you feel.*

Give yourself the gift of this. Simplicity. No one else can feel what you feel – ever. No one else can have your experience. Your experience is unique to you. No one can tell you how you should feel. They might, then it is no longer yours.

No one can argue with this. They have no grounds – no leg to stand on (so to speak). No one can legitimately invalidate what you feel, unless you allow them to.

*From by a post from a Feldenkrais cohort. Thank you, Sarah.

 

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

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.

Metallic Sociability

Chicago Traffic 2

For 1 month, twice a year, 5 days a week, I drive into and out of the city of Chicago to attend and participate in the Feldenkrais Method teacher training program.

During those days my morning drive can take any where from 55 minutes to 120 minutes and my drive home in the afternoon 120 to 180 minutes. My training experience is beyond worth the drive for me. I still have to employ a kind of zen frame of mind. I know it’s going to be long and in many spots, s l o w.

During these drives I spend a lot of my time with trucks – big trucks – the ones that have 18 wheels. I’ve discovered that when I need a space to merge and one is not readily available, I can look for a truck and chances are good that one will become available. When these behemoths behave according to standard driving mores, there is flow. When they don’t, it can be terrifying.

I’ve come to realize that I no longer  view this experience as just being in traffic. I’ve begun to see relationships and interactions. Cars move or dance in between and around the boundaries the trucks provide, not entirely unlike watching parents setting physical boundaries while walking down the street with their playing children.

My perspective has shifted so much, to regarding this as organic, that yesterday morning at an unexpected location in the highway, I saw that we were gradually coming to a complete stop. I laughed to myself as I thought:

“Oh, look, a gathering!”

Chicago Traffic 3

Preserving Personal Peace during the Holidays (and Beyond)

Holiday Stress 1

I suspect that I m not the only one who finds holidays with family more than a little stressful.

Every year I make sure that I pack clothes to dance/exercise/move in, a mat for yoga or stretching or for collapsing on the floor in an emotional heap.

To put it plainly and shamelessly:

this year, my Awareness Through Movement® practice kept me sane and calm in the face of challenging family circumstances.

In other words, this daily practice helped me to avoid losing my temper after being told that

first, my mother had been moved to another facility without my having been made aware and

second, no one had any idea who approved it or

finally, who moved her – AGAIN.

My practice helped me to avoid a meltdown  when the nurses caring for my parents STILL had no idea who I am and thought that my parents’ daughter is their accountant named Susan.

It also helped prevent me from making a snide, snarky and possibly regrettable phone call to said accountant.

This practice soothed my jangled nervous system so that what was usually the heart-wrenching experience of watching a shocking downhill decline became more manageable.

While I  experienced some the usual emotional roller coastal ride that usually occurs during my visits “home”, it wasn’t as dramatic a ride this year.

My heart could be quiet rather than constantly foreseeing imminent  tragedy. My mind was less occupied with future loss and could be more present, making the time I spent with my parents richer.

I am grateful.

Perception, Not Just for Breakfast Anymore.

Perception 1

Limitation is defined as “a limiting rule or circumstance; a restriction”.

Obstacle is defined as “a thing that blocks one’s way and hinders or prevents progress”.

Weakness is defined as “a state or condition of lacking strength”, also “a quality or feature regarded as a disadvantage or fault”.

These are merely words. Sounds, and shapes that are combined to convey attitudes and beliefs. Our perceptions.

They are not truth.

They are what we make them.

We fuel them simultaneously  with belief and doubt.

And we make them real.

We feed them and nurture them.

Until they almost exist independently of us.

Almost.

But without us, they do not exist.

Without our belief, they would disappear; cease to exist.

Perception is not reality.

It is only belief.

Belief is not truth. It is belief.

Reality is fluid.

Our brain shapes our world and all of our senses.

Change your brain.

If you know that you do not have to believe the things you do,

you can change your world.

Revisit: A Little Transformation – Baby Steps

Puddle PlayI love learning. I especially love learning when it results in reducing pain and finding what was difficult is no longer so difficult.

The day after brought with it learning of a different, but no less valuable sort.  I woke up with a movement hangover.

I woke up thinking to myself: “why am I still working so hard?!” followed by dramatic sighing, eye rolling and as much slumping as my sore back would tolerate.

How l o n g is it going to take for me to learn this and change what I do?

More dramatic sighing.

So this is going to be a multi-part learning thing.

And more dramatic sighing.

(Better than whining!)

So it’s going to be a while before this Awareness Through Movement® lesson is comfortable; before my mind and body can move through the lesson with less and less effort.

Every time I go to the floor and move through this lesson it will be different. I will be different and hopefully each time I will be able to bring less and less effort to my practice.

How long will it take?

As long as it takes – as long as I explore without struggle and striving. With struggle and striving (ambition)?

Much, much longer!!

Daily Practice: Movement IQ

Stretching Puppy in the Grass

As I was going through my Awareness Through Movement® practice earlier today, here’s what occurred to me:

I talk and write a lot about body awareness (it’s what this site is all about) and we hear and read about body awareness on a daily basis. So what is body awareness?

-How do I feel myself in whole and in specific areas in any given moment?

-What sensations are available to me?

-Where am I, as an entire body in space?

-Where are each of my limbs in space?

-How am I organized or arranged as I am sitting, standing, lying, running, walking, jumping, etc.?

-Where do I notice tension?

-Where is there an absence of tension?

-Where do I notice discomfort?

-Where is there an absence of discomfort?

With increased body awareness comes the opportunity to make better physical, mental and emotional choices for ourselves.

We have to know how things are before we can go about changing them, right?!

Choice can come in more flavors than “do this/don’t do this”. The more refined our awareness, the more choices are available to us.

For example, if my low back is painful as I walk, I can stop walking. Or I can pay attention to how I walk and do something else – I can walk more slowly being mindful to how I contact the floor with each foot, if I’m limping I can consciously and gently put solid weight down, I can look for tension and release it, if I tend to look down as I walk I look up and out instead and more.

 These choices can either keep us on the side lines or keep us in the thick of life.

Having more than one way to go about anything gives us a valuable tool. It gives us a tool that can go a long way towards making activities of daily life easier and even enjoyable. A tool that can increase our ability in a specialized skill or activity. It is a tool that can feel as though the clock has been turned back.

Sitting, standing, walking, bending in the one familiar way may be comfortable today. For whatever reason. Many people believe that they can only do these things one way.

“This is how I walk; it’s how I’ve always walked.” There might even be a “because” followed by a structural issue.

Our structure (bones mainly in this context) are not made of concrete and they are not unchangeable. Believe it or not, bone, like muscle is considered tissue. It has it’s own blood flow and it is affected to a large degree by what we do with ourselves every day.

For example, you can look at the bones of someone who did manual labor and someone who did not and clearly see how differently the bones are shaped.

Since our bones are pulled by our muscles, the way we use our muscles will affect how we move.  We all have some structural issues, but because we are so much more than a structure, we may not be conscious of it. Even if we are, that doesn’t mean that we are relegated to only moving in one certain way.

All that to say that even the way we walk is changeable.

Tension (whether it be physical, mental or emotional) is a powerful indicator of function and, therefore, comfort.

If we move or hold ourselves constantly in tension (and there are soooo many reason why we do), then what needs to move can’t move properly. Our bodies are remarkably adaptable and will find another avenue – or set of muscles – through which to achieve movement. If short-lived, hopefully it’s not an problem. However over time if we move, for example, our neck instead of the middle of our spine (that area between our shoulder blades sometimes referred to as a sensorial black hole), we can end up with chronic headaches, neck pain even lower back pain. With enough time, we will even forget how to move the middle of our spine – known as sensory-motor amnesia.

With neck and low back pain, we can become less and less excited about moving and move less and less. And the less we move the less we can move.

Sound a little bit like what we think of as “old age”?

Why practice body awareness?

Quality of performance.

Quality of pleasure.

Quality of life.