Tag Archives: Awareness

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.

Functional Integration – Processing

I am in post-training processing mode.

I can’t say that I have “completed” the second segment of my Feldenkrais Method training. I can’t say that because I will be integrating the information I received for a very long time.

Moving in my body is quite different than it was before I began on May 26.

My sense of myself is different – or as Moshe Feldenkrais would call it, my “self image” is different. How I perceive myself has changed.

My classes have changed. I don’t know if it’s noticeable to my students, but I am a different Nia teacher.

In the beginning of this training last October I wondered how I would integrate the Feldenkrais work with:

movement in daily life

specific movements

familiar movement patterns in my Nia classes and my personal dance practice

difficult movements

painful movements

With every dance practice and every class I gain a better understanding; I see and feel where the Feldenkrais work and my search become more connected.

An increased availability to myself.

I never really thought much about that. I reproduced movement. I did as I was told (mostly) – or I didn’t. I created and considered what I could do. What I can do and what is available to me are not the same thing. What is available to me is far more valuable and for me, a much more internal process.


to “listen” to my body with ears that haven’t “heard it all before”

to “hear” the blank spaces in my movements; the missing information

to “look” with eyes that are looking for habits and looking without contempt

to release the need to “know” why

to be aware that what I “know” and what I “believe” can be more of a hindrance than a help

to take pleasure in “I don’t know”.

About the places that move and let go more easily.

That I have the ability to choose what, until recently, did not seem available.

That I am developing an increased clarity of movement.

The increased clarity of  my intention to move.

The HOW.


Inside the Dance

Fire Woman

This morning I was gifted the opportunity to dance with 2 generous, curious and open women, who held the space for me to be both teacher and student.

I shared a mix of music, from the haunting I See Fire (Ed Sheeran) to tribal Reconfluence (Bob Holroyd) to perky What Do You Say? (Haley). We moved to percussive Summertime (Chris Coco) and underground Intruder (Collide) with the focus of Sensation.

For myself, I was listening for the sensation of effort. When am I using more effort than I need to? When am I creating tension that is unnecessary and even detrimental? When and where am I “holding”?

When I find myself faced with a move that is part of existing choreography or choreography I’m creating and the move or moves and my body do not seem to be a fit, I have to look and see with new eyes – with fresh self-awareness. Is this movement new to me? Do I need to give myself more time to learn? Is this movement that I can take apart and move through its constituents for an unhindered view? What if the fit is no better upon reassembly? What if the fit does not improve as the move is utilized. What if pain arrives associated with this move? I have a choice:

1- I can stop doing the thing that doesn’t seem to fit and figure I just wasn’t meant to do that.

2- I can keep doing it and see what happens.

3- I can stop doing that thing until the pain goes away and then bring it back in later on.

4- I can go inside the dance and see if I can’t have a better view or a fresh perspective and make a choice based on what I uncover.

Recently I found myself performing familiar movements but in ways that felt jarring and physically uncomfortable. I’m a pretty stubborn human, so number 1 didn’t even cross my mind. Number two resulted in a bit of frustration and more pain. I skipped number 3 (for now) and this morning, choose number 4.

I learned that my low back/pelvis-shoulder relationship on my right side is different from the same relationship on my left side. Not only is arm movement from my left shoulder more fluid and relaxed, but the connection with my spine and pelvis more responsive and alive.

I learned that I can take stiff, sharp, percussive, quick, start-stop movements, slow them down and soften them so that I can look inside –  to see how the move works and how I do it.  My body feels different when I return to the moves; I feel as though I have more room inside from which to dance. I can also accommodate the same speed with less effort, stress and tension.

I learned that when a bit more stability is required than the usual standing on both feet looking forward, I tend to tighten and “hold” the muscles in my low back. It was also reinforced for me that when it is mobility I’m after, I tend to over-mobilize my low back. So I’m either in high tension or over mobile. Good for generating a sore low back. Like many, I have less mobility in my thoracic spine then is healthy. To compensate, I create mobility where it seems to be available – my low back.

When the dance comes from inside, it comes as a separate even unfamiliar dance. Fast or slow, it is another facet of movement communication. As I consciously observe the action of my shoulder-pelvis relationship and diligently quiet and differentiate my low back mobility from the mobility in my thoracic spine, I’m going to be dancing in a body that doesn’t always feel like mine.

Shadowy or previously unseen information is revealed in soft light. Misunderstanding is defused by clarity. Revelation and clarity that will, in all likelihood manifest in awkward, disconnected movement and emotional discomfort until my nervous system catches up. I know from experience that nearly everything I do will feel somewhat off. Little by little, the interfering habitual movement will fade and I will feel more “normal”.

All revealed and made perfectly clear. Probably not.

Enough to keep me busy more deeply investigating the new information I have for a little while, though.

I Can Teach Through Injury

Mortons Neuroma Feels Like This

For a long time when an injury was taken to medical care, the prescription was to stop doing whatever caused the injury.

Makes sense. Like the hammer thing.

Then we shifted to the idea that we might continue to do what we want, but at a different level. To stop moving at all isn’t a solution either.

In another realm of our social existence came the proclamation that to admit to pain is bad enough, to modify our activity stood us on the precipice of public humiliation, but  to stop to rest – turn in your jock strap ’cause it’s over. Unless you want to lose your social standing or even be shunned you’d better suck it up and play through it, run through it, dance through it – get through it. So what if you have debilitating pain for the rest of your life? That’s what aging is, isn’t it?

I’m currently teaching injured. A skeleton schedule, but still teaching nonetheless. I’m also considering the wisdom here.

With Morton’s neuroma, I am unable to put weight onto the ball of my right foot without pain that literally stops me. On carpet in 2 pairs of socks and a pair of thick, fuzzy knee-high booties I can walk with relative comfort. On hardwood, nothing is comfortable.

In class, I’m still experimenting with what I can wear to protect my foot without disturbing my alignment. So far, nothing.

What is fascinating to me is how I have been impacted by the compensatory movements I choose in order to avoid pain.

In a simple clock step, stepping to 12 and 6 is a fluid and continuous motion – on my left. On my right, the momentum into 6 o’clock stops rather abruptly so that I don’t

1. put the ball of my foot down

2. fall down.

My low back does not like the abruptness and is confused by the imbalance. My ability to co-create movement with other parts of my body has been compromised. First, the change shifts my natural rhythm and my other body parts don’t know when they’re supposed to do their thing. Second, I am distracted by creating compensatory movements, hoping to avoid pain, and I forget to use the rest of me.

In a cross behind cha-cha-cha, my left knee is unaccustomed to the stress when I don’t put my right foot on the floor in a certain way. If I decide not to put my foot down at all, my knee actually growls at me. With my knee receiving more weight to manage than is usual, shifting my weight to go into the cha-cha-cha is heavy and slow.

What I also find interesting are the moves that my foot will tolerate as long as they’re not specific to the ball of my foot. I can shuffle laterally – to the side – as long as it is to the side. Since there is far less rolling of my foot onto the ball , it works for a while. After that my body begins to realize that there is a laying down and peeling up of the foot from heel to toe, even in lateral stepping or shuffling. Huh! Imagine that.

Like I said before, my back doesn’t really appreciate the choices I’ve been making. My choices result in my back moving quickly in unusual ways, stopping sharply and also in tightening and holding where it would like to be free to move.

When movement cannot occur where it is designed to occur, the body will find another route. I know this too well. The human body is remarkably adaptable. But there is always a price. What moves should be able to move. Our bodies are built to manage stress. We have built in shock absorbers (the discs between each vertebrae and the synovial fluid in certain joints are just two examples), but when they can’t do the job the way design intended damage can be the result. My left knee is reminding me of this fact. My back is reminding me of this fact.

So, what now?

I can design the fast clocks and the cross behinds out. Squish walk out. Bow stance out. Releve’ out. Stepping onto the ball of the foot, out. Rock around the clock, out. Slow clock out. Traveling in Directions – turns – mostly out.

Or, I can do it all on one side only. That’s actually more complicated than it sounds – just ask my students who’ve watched me teach a complete move on one side, only to appear to lose coordination in the modification on the other side. I forgot the direction change I cued 2 minutes ago. Oh, yea, and there were core and arm movements that went along with the feet…

I can teach through this.

Should I?


Yin Yang B 10 Tree of Life

In a previous post, I wrote about BE-ing and creating a balance with DO-ing.

I am here to take my own advice and BE what I say. Walk the talk.

During the past month I have found myself in a mind jam. Much, much, much going on! Half a dozen projects to work on! (I do so love projects.) Music to map and choreograph, books to read, absorb and practice from, speeches to write , practice and deliver, 7 or 8 Nia classes to teach,  blah, blah, blah. Oh, yea, and posts to write.

I’ve DONE all the above, except the one that requires stillness, quiet and rich introspect. That would be the post writing – just in case you weren’t sure!

Experiences whirling around me. Sensations rushing through me. Emotions heightened, speaking in clear voices and in voices I have to strain (or quiet) to understand.  Discoveries arriving and departing without full and conscious acknowledgment. Yes, present to a conversation, but allowing it to be a filable item, not integrated.

All without gratitude.

Frankly, this past month has been a time management and organizational mess and I had to quiet myself in writing this to find the root of the “mess”.



I had to stop.

To Be in my life. To truly live my life.

Rather than the whirling, rushing, straining, striving, arriving, departing and general airport-ness of late, Stop.

Wait. In relaxed awareness. Listen. To what whispers. Look. And see. Be still. And be fully present.

How about those neutrinos?!

Feeling my own vibration; the rhythm that is my way to Be in my life. Inviting the rushing by to become a washing over – Be-ing in the moment, not watching its taillights.

The ability to multitask does not serve me here. Perhaps it is a skill best reserved for rare occasions. I touch many “things” but with no real sense of discrimination. I do not, can not see deeply. In the maelstrom I cannot learn. There is no receiving only an outpouring of energy.

Balance is not to be found in the constant outpouring of energy. Balance will be found in receiving so that I will not find myself gasping for air;  weary in body, mind, spirit and emotions; overwhelmed by the smallest endeavors.

BE-ing. Nourishment for the whole self.

Claiming Choice

Learning 1

This is how I felt over the weekend as my daughter was teaching me her dance team dance. Seriously, we got to the spinal roll and I couldn’t get my body to roll in the right direction for beans. “Swallow the marble and follow it down” was her cue. A great cue. It worked for my head, but when I brought my chest into it, it was my habitual movement that ruled. I couldn’t even feel it wrong. After 5-10 minutes we were both laughing and it was not happening. Even thinking it through before I moved it didn’t work. I never got it. On Saturday.

I kept thinking about it, though. I even woke up in the middle of the night to find my body practicing the spinal roll – still wrong! But not quite as wrong. The next day we worked on it again (since she had practice on Monday). When we got to the point in the music where the roll fit in, I did it without thinking. I wouldn’t have known it was right if Rachel hadn’t been happily yelling, “that was right!” “you did it right!”.

That particular spinal roll pattern still does not belong to me, but every time I do it it makes more sense to my body. I can think it. I can move it. I, however, cannot think it through and move it through at the same time. Not yet. I’m learning. This is giving me a choice to add to my movement vocabulary – even as it is. When it is mine, it will be a jumping off point for variations of the roll and more choices.

Learning is the kind of process where you learn to do the thing you can do in a different way, so that your choice is increased. The difference must be significant. Otherwise your choice isn’t free. No one forces you to do this movement or that movement. But you have your free choice.”

Moshe Feldenkrais, The Master Moves

When we do the same old thing the same old way every day, day after day not only do we lose our gift of awareness, but we forfeit choice.

There is more than one way to do everything.

Don’t believe me, go and discover it for yourself.

Re-define aging?






Learn something new. Really new – not “continuing education”.

Learn how to do something you do in a new and different way. If you don’t feel completely goofy, awkward and confused, keep at it until you do!

Do it backwards.

Do it upside down.

Start from the middle.

Start from the end.

Do it “wrong”.

Do it without tools.

Do it the way someone from another planet would do it!

Refreshed Fall Nia/Movement Alchemy Schedule



And always a laboratory of movement and sensual explorations!

Sunday, 10:15 am  – Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center, Downers Grove

Monday, 9:00 am – The Deck* in Downers Grove

Tuesday, 7:00 pm – The Deck in Downers Grove

Wednesday, 7:15 pm – Downers Grove Park District, Belmont Avenue

Thursday, 9:00 am – The Deck in Downers Grove

Friday, 9:00 am, State Street Dance Studio, 9 N. State Street (at 4th Street), Geneva

Saturday, 9:00 am – The Deck in Downers Grove

*The Deck is attached to my home and this schedule will hold as long as the weather does! Please contact me to get on our email list and for more details.

My business cards say ‘Nia teacher’, but I’m not sure I’m a teacher so much as more of a guide. I’m in the front of the group ’cause I kinda know the choreography – more as a possible source of inspiration – to give ideas for what can be done. I don’t set the standards and I don’t set the limitations – that’s up to each and every individual soul. I’m feeling a bit cheeky this morning; maybe I’ll change my business cards to say “Nia Muse”…

How I Passed the Korn Test. Cultivating “Laziness” for Self-Healing

Body Archives What Mind Believes

Slowing down and paying attention.

Feldenkrais Method lessons to practice and challenge my ability to be in my body and refine my body-listening skills. Nia classes as an extension of these lessons. Further refining my ability to be present and hear and receive the information that my body is sending me.

Leave ego at the door. Yes, dance is pretty. Healing is beautiful!

Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat.

The first good argument for micromanagement ever!

What I Learned About My Body from a Man I Will Never Meet

FM Aim

As most of you are aware, I am reading and moving in preparation for my first semester (of eight) of the Feldenkrais Method training in October.

I’m reading The Master Moves and in going through and doing the first lesson, on Monday, I figured out some exercises that relieve the pain in my hip. I followed Moshe Feldenkrais’ words, “you cannot do it” (correctly) – find a way to do it properly – make the movements smaller and smaller until there is no pain. Do it without preparation movements – if it hurts – make it smaller and smaller until it doesn’t (and at first it was me lying on the floor, feet standing and the only movement was a minuscule push from my feet for there to be no pain).
Over the course of the past 2 year I’ve noticed the movements I do to prepare to move so that there is no pain and I’ve been aware of the fact that some of those compensations are affecting correct function elsewhere. (That crazy dance to perform one simple move!) Yesterday I moved without the preparations. So slowly at first I wasn’t moving at all but then by the end of the day it was more natural. It took a while to get to full speed but I’m practically delirious that the pain isn’t there and at how much more natural my hip movement is.
In lesson one,  Feldenkrais describes sitting cross legged (to ease someone with a sore back) and he says not to force open the knees, just to lift the knees gently rhythmically. I used this and it was helpful. I found that if I wanted to sit cross legged (or in any way that externally rotates my hip in sitting), I needed to keep my knee up and “pulse up” in a smooth and gentle way (w/least amount of effort), for a minute or so, after which I can sit cross-legged without pain.
I got up Tuesday morning and walked around without having to wait for my hip to relax to move. I thought that this must be what it feels like to have this hip respond “normally” to rest!
I also noticed  that I tend to ignore my left hip – the “good” hip – the one that doesn’t hurt. Every now and then I will notice how quietly it moves through my life and how easily it does what is asked of it.  I’m paying more attention to how my left hip does what it does.
In the same vain as I stopped sleeping with a pillow under my head, I’m no longer sitting on strategically arranged pillows. No more favoritism – I’m treating both hips the same!
Moshe Feldenkrais talks, in one of the videos shot of a training moment, about the importance of being lazy.  We’re conditioned to attempt to give 100% to everything every moment of every day. It’s impossible and results in many of the complaints as we go through life: inability to relax and sleep well, chronic fatigue, depression, ulcers, poor movement habits.  If this doesn’t really connect for you, try this:
Every day, walk around with a dumbbell heavy enough for you to notice it’s weight without it exhausting you in 20 minutes. You’re going to carry it around with your elbow held at a 90-degree angle (so that your biceps muscles are constantly contracted to same level). At the end of your day, I’d like for you to pick up dumbbells that you know will fatigue you in 12 to 15 repetitions and perform bicep curl exercises.
Warning: there is a chance that doing this experiment will result in an injury or at the very least some discomfort.  There’s nothing safe or intelligent about this experiment. That said, you’re welcome to try it out but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
To continue, don’t miss The Importance of Cultivating Laziness, coming next.
(Photo quote: “The aim of the (Feldenkrais Method) is a person that is organized to move with minimum effort and maximum efficiency, not through muscular strength, but through increased consciousness of how movement works.”

Think You’re Aware?

Tornado Painting by Toni Grote

How aware are you?

I would almost be willing to bet money (if I was ever willing to bet money on anything), that you are not as aware as you think you are.

On a day you are going to be interacting with more than your family, spend one day noticing how often you interrupt others, then multiply it by 5 per each person you’ve talked with.

My experience with some of you out there, is that you interrupt and you don’t even know you’re doing it. It’s your rhythm.

Nia teachers, check yourselves out – you’re doing it too!

Can you catch yourself?



(Original Landscape Painting by Toni Grote)