September 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
Wonderful video, please, watch, share, and watch again.
A fantastic argument for a radically different approach to education.
“As children grow up we start to educate them progressively from the waist up , and then we focus on their heads, and slightly to one side…”
September 8, 2011 § 1 Comment
Something from Edward Yu‘s book The Art of Slowing Down stays with me, about the difference between listening to the whispers your body tells you, or waiting til you can no longer ignore the screams. How many of us have become expert at waiting for the screams, and then manage to ignore those too. But eventually if we don’t listen long enough we hit the brick wall, our bodies have a way of making us stop in the end, one way or another. Blocking out the signals is an art form for some, a science for others. Drugs, alcohol, work, will power… (For me in my tennis playing days it was always a combination of painkillers and sheer stubbornness.) For some we learn so early not to listen, by not being listened to, that figuring out how to listen is a problem- or knowing where to begin. Generally speaking, it’s good to begin at the beginning.
In Feldenkrais often the biggest obstacle to someone learning how to listen to the more subtle signals is the urge to skip over the beginning. To run before they can walk literally. The information is all there in the beginning- but you need to go slow enough that you can take it all in. The faster you go and the more you blast through the more likely you will again be hearing the screams or hitting the brick wall. In our desire or anxiety to know what’s ahead we rush to the end point without even realising.
Psychologist Harriet Lerner suggests to move at ‘glacial speed’ when making changes in the face of high anxiety, which I think includes all situations of physical, emotional or psychological stress. When we begin at the beginning and move a glacial speed, we can have a chance to hear what our bodies are telling us before we hit the brick wall, and only then can we begin to make some new connections, and some lasting changes.
August 14, 2011 § 3 Comments
The riots and destruction in London and other parts of England over the last week has got me to think about what causes this kind of mentality in society and in the individual. and what we can do about it, as I think many many people were asking themselves this week. It is particularly the kids as young as 11 caught up in the violence which seems to shock people the most. I can’t help but wonder if what I have chosen to do- Feldenkrais- is helpless in the face of this scale of breakdown in society.
Moshe Feldenkrais was interested in what makes us human, how a person matures, is responsible for him or herself. If what we have been witnessing is a display of lack of responsibility how have we as a society fostered this sense of lack of purpose, angst, and disconnection.
Last week I taught Feldenkrais to tango dancers and musicians at a retreat in France. After a lesson with a young, curious guy who wanted to know more I said that the reason I liked to teach Feldenkrais is because I find it a very respectful way of working with people, and that is a ‘difference that makes the difference’ to use a Bateson phrase. There is no sense that the person you work with is not good enough, not talented enough, not clever enough, or not anything enough. Thinking back to my own youth, to friends, and to these kids who have been on the streets this week, I wonder what might have been different if we had all experienced more time of being treated in that kind of respectful way.
A few days ago after a lesson by my partner Bennie, I said that I wished everyone could have Feldenkrais. Later he asked me why, and I realise more and more that it’s not the movement- although that’s always nice- it’s the deeper layers that make Feldenkrais so worthwhile to me. The connectedness, feeling more whole, the non-judgemental acceptance. And the feeling that you can change and improve & learn. After all what can be more worthwhile than something that increases a person’s self-respect.
I’m not suggesting that if these kids did Feldenkrais they wouldn’t be rioting. But maybe, just maybe, an experience of being respected, and of nurturing self-respect is enough to open something in them, however small. Maybe the people running the country, parents and teachers could also benefit- something to teach the kids.
June 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
Staying fit into the millennium may mean working out less for your money. That’s because after doing an ATM class, your body will move as smoothly as the slide of a debit card.
But ATM in this case stands for Awareness Through Movement®, and the classes are part of the Feldenkrais Method, which many say makes exercise as easy and efficient as automatic banking.
Brought to this country in the 1970s by its originator, Moshe Feldenkrais, a Ukrainian-born physicist and engineer plagued by a knee injury, the method has long been a professional secret among dancers, actors and musicians.
But recently the fitness community has gotten hep to the benefits, and a few on the front lines are serving up Feldenkrais as the latest physical elixir. “We like to stay on the cutting edge,” says Karen Joy, general manager of Fitness for Her! In San Diego, one of the health clubs around the country now offering ATM classes alongside step and sculpt.
Basically, Feldenkrais is an educational approach that teaches students to become aware of their bodies and move as seamlessly as possible. For an actor, that can mean getting into character more convincingly; for an Olympian, shaving the winning second off a sprint, for a stroke patient, learning to walk again.
As for the rest of us, it could be just what the trainer ordered. Rather than a replacement for those calorie-blasting workouts that rev the engines, Feldenkrais is the oil that can perfect your performance and stop you from getting rusty over time. “Many people quit exercising because they hurt themselves,” says Andrea Wiener, president of the Feldenkrais Guild®, an organization that regulates its member practitioners. “This method helps you both prevent and recover from injuries, and enjoy what you love to do more.”
Frances Fisher doesn’t need convincing. “Feldenkrais has taken the struggle out of exercise,” says the actress, who used ATM exercises to keep her energy flowing on the set of “Titanic” during long days of filming in a corset.
“Before I did this, I found myself walking around like these guys at the gym who have a lot of muscle but can’t lift their arms. With the Feldenkrais, I’m not thinking about making my muscles stronger. I’m aware of how my skeleton is moving in space and how my muscles and nerves are responding, so my body is much more relaxed, responsive and flexible. As I get older, I’m more interested in flexibility because flexibility is youth.”
There are two ways to study the method. With Functional Integration®, a practitioner works on you privately, gently guiding your body into improved ways of moving as you sit or lie down, fully clothed. The ATM lessons, which you take in group classes or practice at home with tapes, help you make the same kinds of discoveries on your own through thousands of movements-some so subtle that observing them is like watching paint dry.
Both Functional Integration and ATM lessons (many students do only one; others combine the two) are based on the idea that each of us inevitably develops unhealthy movement habits through years of going about life on automatic pilot, overusing the body in repetitive ways and nursing old injuries. Feldenkrais teaches you how to notice these stressful patterns and replace them with more comfortable, efficient ones, so that, as one practitioner put it, you’re not using the force of chewing a steak to eat a cream puff.
In a way, the education is like receiving a Thomas Guide to your body that shows you in detail how you normally move and then lets you find alternate routes to avoid an accident down the road.
Having that full body map, practitioners say, is important because when a knee gives you problems or a shoulder aches, your whole system is affected. Pauline Sugine, co-owner of the Center for Physical Health in Los Angeles, describes working with Martina Navratilova: “I showed her that as the result of an injury to the right ankle, when she moved her head to the right, even just her eyes, she stopped breathing,” says Sugine. “In tennis, if you look in one direction and a part of your body freezes, even subconsciously, then you lose the connection. It’s sort of like driving with a flat tire. Not only is your tire flat, but if you keep driving, more things go wrong.”
Through Functional Integration, Sugine kinesthetically reminded Navratilova how to look right and breathe at the same time, getting her whole body, including the ankle, in top form again.
The beauty of Feldenkrais is, you don’t have to understand it intellectually. “Whether you get it on a conscious level or not, your nervous system is picking it up,” says Sugine. “It’s like we’re smuggling the information in.”
Advocates of Feldenkrais say such movement education has been the missing link in fitness as we know it-which is why, after 25 years of pounding the pavement, many of us are limping toward burnout.
“The Western approach to athletic training is almost exclusively based on overload and compensation,” says Ken Largent, director of Movement Facilitation in Portland, Ore., who works with many athletes. “The Feldenkrais approach looks at movement from a neurological standpoint. So, for example, it looks at how effective you are in using the least amount of effort to accomplish your ends. This is almost the opposite of the concept we’ve all been working under-not that it’s superior, but it is necessary. There is a yin and yang. What we need is the fullness of both.”
Frank Wildman, past president of the Feldenkrais Guild and director of the Movement Studies Institute in Berkeley, goes even further. “The routine, boring exercises people do don’t take into account the human ability for self-reflection and awareness,” he says. “This is what Feldenkrais offers. We’re after physical intelligence.”
Wildman explains that we’ve come to view the body as a machine, measuring our workouts in numbers, clocks and weights. However, when you watch someone like Michael Jordan, what’s really beautiful is not how high he jumps, but the way he slips in so many points without seeming to try, his amazing coordination, his elegance and grace. “Feldenkrais teaches you to pay attention to the quality versus the quantity of motion,” he says. “It expands your physical imagination.”
This, of course, is why performers love the method. When, after years of weight lifting, Fisher needed to play a stripper in a film, she went to choreographer Kim Blank, who uses Feldenkrais in her coaching. “Frances was very strong and muscular,” says Blank, “so I’d start her on the floor with an ATM exercise showing how the pelvis connects to the spine and the sense of fluid, undulating movement appropriate to a stripper doing a routine. And then we went on to the choreography.”
Fisher says this work helped her access an inner, organic sensuality while giving her body a more elongated look. “It’s a great tool for getting into any character,” she adds.
And that’s true whether you’re an actress, athlete-or nowhere close to being either.
Ultimately, Feldenkrais is a way to explore yourself and build the kind of inner fitness that lets you jump into any situation-whether it’s playing a film role, learning a sport or going for a job interview. “Feldenkrais helps you act connected and there’s something so inherently satisfying about that,” says Blank. “When you move with grace and ease, you can’t help but feel joy. There’s a sense of calm, a sense of being more grounded.”
Who wouldn’t want to cash in on that?
Copyright, 1998, Los Angeles Times.
February 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
More from Feldenkrais Practitioner, martial artist and triathlete Edwad Yu- on Habits, Learning and Fitness.
Simple, clear non-jargon explanation.
February 3, 2011 § 1 Comment
What a wonderful explanation by Feldenkrais Practitioner and martial artist Edward Yu – he has a new book- The Art of Slowing Down, A Sense-able Approach to Running Faster… which I am ordering now!
January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
Daily Mail article recommending Feldenkrais to improve posture.
January 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
Feldenkrais workshops for professional musicians with Hagit and Uri Vardi. Injury prevention and musical expansion. This video was shot during the 2010 Feldenkrais for Musicians workshop at the University of Wisconsin – Madison Sc
October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
This article is taken from The Feldenkrais Fix : Experience Life Magazine. One of the best articles I have found on the Method…
The Feldenkrais Fix
Athletes and people with injuries are (finally) discovering the Feldenkrais Method: a gentle rehabilitation system that teaches the body to move as it should.
By Andrew Heffernan, CSCS / November 2009
In 1999, John Dumas, a 52-year-old writer and karate enthusiast from Los Angeles, sat in a doctor’s office and heard four words no active person ever wants to hear: “You’ve blown your ACL.”
The scalpel-shy Dumas wanted to avoid surgery, so the doctor referred him to Stacy Barrows, PT, GCFT, CPI, a physical therapist, Pilates instructor and practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method, a gentle, simple system of teaching and reinforcing healthy, efficient movement patterns. After working with Dumas for three months, Barrows cleared him to return to karate.
A few years later, Dumas found himself in the hospital with an injury to his opposite knee. For comparison’s sake, the doctor performed a “drawer” test — which checks the integrity of the ACL — on Dumas’s previously rehabbed knee. “See, this is how a healthy knee should respond to this test,” the doctor told him, unaware of the prior injury. “There’s no give in your ACL.”
“But I don’t have an ACL on that knee,” Dumas protested.
Skeptical, the doctor repeated the test and got the same result. Only when he saw Dumas’s prior injury on an MRI was he willing to believe that the knee — which seemed to function perfectly — was missing its ACL.
Dumas’s ligament hadn’t magically regrown. Rather, through a combination of physical therapy and Feldenkrais lessons, his body had relearned how to move. His remaining muscles and ligaments were taking up the slack for the missing ACL so effectively that he fooled the doctor’s test. Twice.
Moshé Feldenkrais was a Ukrainian-born physicist and mechanical and electrical engineer who initially devised his system to rehabilitate a recurring knee injury aggravated by years spent practicing judo and playing soccer. Over time, he found that certain precise, effortless movements performed with focus and awareness could have profound effects on healing, on movement efficiency and on health in general.
Feldenkrais is considered a form of somatic education, or a way of learning through and with the body, rather than a passive form of treatment. “The primary focus in Feldenkrais is the brain and its capacity to learn,” says Staffan Elgelid, PhD, PT, GCFT, who practices in Pittsford, N.Y. “You’re constantly learning about your habits and finding other options.”
Feldenkrais movement has been shown to enhance the plasticity of the neuromuscular system, forging new neural pathways throughout the brain, spinal column and muscles. Essentially, the brain and body learn to communicate better, resulting in smoother, more coordinated movements, better posture and, oftentimes, a greater sense of well-being.
“It’s like doing crossword puzzles for the body,” says Barrows, the Los Angeles practitioner who treated Dumas. Just as working the Sunday crossword increases your language fluency by exposing you to new words and subtle shadings of meaning, Barrows suggests, doing Feldenkrais improves your physical functioning and athleticism by introducing the body to nuanced ways of moving.
Exercise in Awareness
We may think we’re experts in moving our own bodies, but physical awareness and learning are noticeably absent in most adult lives: After a childhood spent running, jumping, climbing and exploring, most of us spend the majority of our time engaged in habitual, repetitive movements and rigid postures. We stand, walk, sit at computers. Even diligent exercisers — such as runners, cyclists and swimmers — often repeat the same physical patterns for many hours in a single week.
Feldenkrais practitioners believe that if you do this long enough, your body stops learning. Your swimming stroke, golf swing and bench press no longer improve. Everyday activities like walking, sitting or chopping vegetables become unconscious and habitual. Your body begins to resemble a piano player with a limited repertoire, always pulling out the same old standards.
Previous injuries can compound the problem. “When you get injured, you limit movement to stop the pain. Once the pain is gone, though, you don’t start to move as if you were never injured — the brain still remembers the injury and protects the area,” says Elgelid. Such compensation can lead to further problems. “Unless you retrain those movement abilities, you limit yourself more and more.”
From Pain to Performance
Feldenkrais is not meant to be a substitute for conventional medicine or physical therapy, which remain the preferred avenues for treating the acute stages of injury. But once severe symptoms have subsided, a Feldenkrais practitioner can supply the missing link between the initial healing stages of an injury and normal (or even improved) function and performance.
The applications of Feldenkrais go beyond pain management. Top athletes will often consult a Feldenkrais practitioner when they’ve hit a wall in their training. “Many athletes plateau after five or 10 years in their sport,” says Elgelid. “They’ve taken their individual movement patterns as far as they can. But Feldenkrais work can subtly tweak those patterns and make you even more efficient.”
Movement efficiency is often what separates elite athletes from their competition. They perform their sport with maximum control and efficiency every time: The right muscles fire with the right amount of effort in the right sequence; simultaneously, other muscles lengthen and relax with equal precision.
Elite athletes are usually born with a natural aptitude for streamlined movement, but, according to Barrows, Feldenkrais “brings movement mastery to the masses.”
Unlike standard-issue gym workouts, Feldenkrais lessons almost never involve sweating, straining or pain. Many of the movements are almost imperceptible; some even involve no movement at all, requiring that a client only visualize moving. And, because these movements are unfamiliar and hard to describe, Feldenkrais is best done under a practitioner’s supervision.
A session usually consists of both a hands-on and a hands-off component: Functional Integration (FI) resembles a gentle but highly specialized massage, with the instructor manipulating the client’s body on a padded table. In Awareness Through Movement (ATM), the practitioner leads the client through a series of movements done while lying, sitting or standing. FI is typically done one-on-one; ATM is presented both privately and in classes.
During table work, the practitioner may stay clear of the injured area itself. But the pain at the site of injury will often subside significantly, regardless. “The brain doesn’t understand the concept of isolation,” says Barrows. “The brain understands movements, not muscles. Whatever you do to one part of the body affects the system as a whole.” Studies have shown that when a person just thinks about lifting his arms, for example, the muscles at the front of the shins turn off in preparation for the weight shift. This is as true for bodywork as it is for exercise.
In ATM, clients perform movement “puzzles” applicable to their specific problem or goal. A client with an ankle problem, for example, may lie prone on a mat with a book balanced on the sole of his elevated foot. He then attempts to circle his lower leg while keeping the book level, like a waiter holding a tray of drinks. This is done while attending to small movements in the other parts of the body. Upon standing, his foot and ankle will have greater sensitivity to the floor, to weight and directional shifts, and to movement in general.
Results vary based on the duration and severity of the injury, and on the client’s willingness and ability to learn, practitioners say. But most people will see marked improvement in pain and functioning after two or three sessions, and many will sense an easing of their symptoms right away.
As for clients seeking improved athleticism, results are immediate. “I don’t think anything improves athletic performance as quickly or effectively as Feldenkrais,” says Elgelid. A long-distance runner himself, he’s careful to add that Feldenkrais isn’t a substitute for a good training plan, which will likely be grueling, regardless: “If you want to run a marathon in 2:10, it’s going to hurt; I don’t care how much Feldenkrais you do.”
Is it possible, though, that at least some of the time we’ve spent grunting and sweating to get better, stronger and faster would have been better spent doing nothing more than attending to subtle, often very relaxing movements?
Arton Baleci, 24, a recent university graduate from Stockton-on-Tees, England, is a believer. Last September, the self-confessed “below-average” athlete embarked on an odyssey to transform himself into an elite-level soccer player with the help of a team of experts (a journey he chronicles at http://www.thebeautifulaim.com). Included in his handpicked team of coaches, nutritionists, sports-vision experts and therapists are two Feldenkrais practitioners.
“I wouldn’t have started this project without Feldenkrais,” he says. “I was having serious knee pain when I began. A practitioner cleared that up in two sessions. Since then I’ve had a session about every three weeks to help both with injury recovery and performance enhancement, and it’s gone very well.”
Very well, indeed: After just six months, his results on most speed and agility tests fell into the midrange among pro footballers; now he’s shooting for the upper echelons.
Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, is a fitness coach and writer based in Los Angeles. He blogs atwww.malepatternfitness.com.
Feeling Is Believing
Not quite ready to believe that gentle, easy movements can really make a difference in your body? Try this test, adapted from a Feldenkrais Method Awareness Through Movement lesson. It improves most people’s rotational flexibility by 10 percent (or more) in about one minute.
- Stand relaxed, feet parallel at hip width, arms hanging naturally at your sides.
- Lift your right arm directly out to your side, thumb up.
- Keeping your arm straight and your hand at shoulder height, reach your right arm as far behind you as you can by rotating your torso. Be sure your hips face forward the whole time. Using a spot on the wall behind you as a reference point, note how far back you were able to reach your hand. Return to a neutral stance.
- Standing relaxed again, perform a series of five to 10 slow hip circles (think hula-hoop motion) in both directions. Keep circles slow and easy. Don’t stretch! Simply feel the hips gently rotating.
- Repeat the test.
- From a neutral stance, now perform a series of five to 10 easy turns of the head, first looking right, then left. Again, don’t stretch the neck muscles or strain in either direction; simply bring your awareness to the action of the neck and head as it rotates on top of your spine.
- Repeat the test.
- Finally, keeping your posture erect and your head still, now turn your eyes as far to the right as you can, then as far to the left as you can. Move your eyes back and forth five to 10 times.
- Repeat the test, noting the difference in reach from the first test.
October 4, 2010 § Leave a comment
Thought it was really relevant to the kind of Inclusive vs Exclusive attention Feldenkrais talks about. He discusses the ‘lantern of attention’ babies have as opposed to the focused beam of an adult. Could this explain the accelerated learning capabilities of the infant? And it helps to explain the kind of attention that Feldenkrais was cultivating in his students.
We all know what attention is. William James said it best:
Attention is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration, of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called distraction, and Zerstreutheit in German.
James is describing the spotlight model of attention: If the world is a vast stage, then we only notice things that fall within the narrow circle of illumination. Everything outside the spotlight remains invisible. This is because, as James pointed out, the act of attention is intertwined with the act of withdrawal; to concentrate on one thing is to ignore everything else.
And this brings me to my question: How do babies pay attention? What is it like to look at the world like an infant? The question is particularly interesting because the ability to pay attention, focusing that spotlight on a thin slice of the stage, depends on the frontal cortex, that lobe of brain behind the forehead. Alas, the frontal cortex isn’t fully formed until late adolescence – ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny – which means that it’s just beginning to solidify in babies. The end result is that little kids struggle to focus.
This has led the UC-Berkeley developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik – I’m a huge fan of her latest book, The Philosophical Baby – to suggest that babies don’t have a spotlight of attention: They have a lantern. If attention is like a focused beam in adults, then it’s more like a glowing bulb in babies, casting a diffuse radiance across the world. This crucial difference in attention has been demonstrated indirectly in a variety of experiments. For instance, when preschoolers are shown a photograph of someone – let’s call her Jane— looking at a picture, and asked questions about what Jane is paying attention to, the weirdness of their attention becomes clear. Not surprisingly, the kids agree that Jane is thinking about the picture she’s staring at. But they also insist that she’s thinking about the picture frame, and the wall behind the picture, and the chair lurking in her peripheral vision. In other words, they believe that Jane is attending to whatever she can see.
Or consider this memory task designed by John Hagen, a developmental psychologist at the University of Michigan. A child is given a deck of cards and shown two cards at a time. The child is told to remember the card on the right and to ignore the card on the left. Not surprisingly, older children and adults are much better at remembering the cards they were told to focus on, since they’re able to direct their attention. However, young children are often better at remembering the cards on the left, which they were supposed to ignore. The lantern casts its light everywhere.
And now there’s a brand new paper in Psychological Science by Faraz Farzin, Susan Rivera and David Whitney that provides some of the best evidence yet for the lantern hypothesis. The experiment itself involved tracking the eye movements of infants between 6 and 15 months of age. The researchers used a special stimuli known as a Mooney face. What makes these images useful is that they can’t be perceived using bottom-up sensory processes. Instead, the only way to see the shadowed faces is to stare straight at them – unless we pay attention the faces remain incomprehensible, just a mass of black and white splotches. In this experiment, however, the babies were able to perceive the faces even when they were located in the periphery of their visual field. (Trust me: You can’t do this.) Because their lantern was so diffuse, they were able to notice stimuli on a much vaster sensory stage. In subsequent experiments, the researchers found that this lantern of attention came with a tradeoff. While babies notice more, they see with less precision. In fact, the “effective spatial resolution” of infants’ visual perception was only half that of adults, although it steadily increased with age.
In The Philosophical Baby, Gopnik speculates that, while we often assume the inability to pay attention is a failing, a limitation imposed on infants by their mushy frontal lobes, it also confers certain advantages. For starters, it allows young children to figure out the world at an incredibly fast pace. Although babies are born utterly helpless, within a few years they’ve mastered everything from language – a toddler learns 10 new words every day – to complex motor skills such as walking. According to this new view of the baby brain, many of the mental traits that used to seem like developmental shortcomings, such as infants’ inability to focus their attention, are actually crucial assets in the learning process. Because babies notice everything, they’re better able to figure out how it all hangs together. So the next time you look at a baby, remember: They can see more than you.
Note: Sometimes, of course, it’s helpful for adults to engage in lantern-like attention. See, for instance, this recent post on latent inhibition and creativity.