Blending the Feldenkrais Method into my Physical Therapy Practice

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My article “Blending the Feldenkrais Method into my Physical Therapy Practice” was published on the Feldenkrais Guild Website. In this article, I shared my experiences during the 4 year Professional Feldenkrais Training period and how I’ve transformed and how I’ve adapted the Feldenkrais Method in my physical therapy practice (I am a licensed physical therapist assistance in WA as well as a certified athletic trainer). If you’re in healthcare business (PT, OT, AT, personal trainers, body workers, chiropractors, etc) and are starting your career as a Feldenkrais practitioner, you may find my article helpful. This is only my own experience, which you may or may not agree with, but hopefully this is helpful for some people.

Here’s a link to my article: https://www.feldenkraisguild.com/article_content.asp?edition=9&section=43&article=462

Top 25 Feldenkrais Blogs on the Web

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I woke up this morning to a great news: I was selected as one of 25 Feldenkrais Blogs on the internet!! These blogs were based on: google reputation, google search ranking, influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites, quality and consistency of posts, and Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review.

https://blog.feedspot.com/feldenkrais_blogs/

I still cannot believe how I made it to the list, but I am very grateful and honored to receive such recognition for just simply sharing my passion with other people!

Thank you very much for all support from my blog readers! This has motivated me to keep sharing what I love as it’s reminded me that there are people who benefit from my blogs.

Movement is Life

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"Life without movement is unthinkable." - Moshe Feldenkrais

What is movement? Is it just movement of the body? What about changes in thinking, feeling, and sensation? I think these are all movement. And these movements are happening simultaneously and influencing each other. Our thinking moves and emotions and body move at the same time. Our emotions change, and that movement/change move our thinking and body. In other words, we are constantly moving even at rest. Thus, improving movement means improving life. This is why I teach movement.

If you are feeling “stuck” in your life, try Awareness Through Movement class or Functional Integration session with me to “move” out of the state and start moving forward.

Feldenkrais Method and Developmental Movement

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Feldenkrais Method uses developmental movement.  

Do you have any guess why??

There are several reasons but I will explain one here.  

Children rely on their own kinesthetic senses (subjective) to make a decision.  Adults, on the other hand often make a decision based on objective information (norms of the society, opinions of others).  

This happens as we learn to act in accordance with the rules set by our society.  As a result, we move away from our own senses to make a decision.

Then what happens?  

When our senses do not match our decision that was made based on objective information, stress (physical and emotional) will be created.  What we are doing is basically trying to make our senses fit into the norms of the society and others.  

So what can we do?

We can re-learn how to connect to our own senses, ourselves like children so we can make a decision based on our senses, which will free your tension (muscular and emotional). 

We use developmental movement to create similar learning conditions and processes to the first few years of our life when the only thing we could rely on was kinesthetic senses, which has nothing to do with the norms of the society or opinions of others.  During Feldenkrais class, a teacher does not show students how they need to move.  Instead, students will be verbally directed to their own kinesthetic senses.  As you practice more, you will become more sensitive and you will be able to recognize when you go back to your old habitual pattern of relying on objective information to make a decision, which may not match your senses.  At this moment, you have a new choice, that is, to tap into your own kinesthetic senses to make a decision.  Then you have more freedom than you did before.  

Improve Posture Exercise #1

Improve Posture Exercise #1

In this video I am showing you an exercise that will help you improve your posture.

Here’s what you need for this exercise:

  1. Floor space to lie down

  2. Yoga mat or blanket

  3. Towel/Cushion for head support

  4. Your attention

Now let’s begin!

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How to Improve Your Posture

How to Improve Your Posture

Have you tried to change your posture consciously and tried some stretching/strengthening exercises to correct your posture yet you find yourself with the same posture? Why is it so hard to change posture? Here, I talk about posture from a different perspective.

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Paradigm Shift in "Fixing" Posture

Paradigm Shift in "Fixing" Posture

Have you tried to fix your posture by strengthening and stretching muscles or by adjusting the spine or by consciously trying to correct your posture but you still have the same posture as before?  And do you wonder why you can’t change your posture?

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Floor as a Tool for Learning and Teaching

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One of (many)my favorite teaching "tools" for my clients: The floor
I often invite my clients to lie on the floor or my Feldenkrais table during a session to give them a chance to sense and observe how they contact and dont contact the floor and how their contact with the floor changes during a session.

Here are a few reasons why I like having people lie on the floor during a session:

1. In standing we carry our habitual muscular tone and effort, which makes it difficult for the nervous system to inhibit the habitual patterns and allow new movement patterns to emerge.

2. Standing increases center of gravity. As center of gravity increases, the fear of falling increases, which increases habitual muscular tone. This is particularly obvious for people who have poor balance and have a high risk fall. As they maintain habitual patterns in an effort to prevent falls, their balance becomes even more compromised because habitual muscular tone decreases freedom of movement and it becomes harder to counter-balance. Thus, lying on the floor reduces fear of falling (you are already on the ground!) and you can adapt new patterns more easily.

3. The floor acts as a feedback device that provides us proprioceptive input and enhance kinesthetic awareness. As you lie on the floor, you can notice what body parts have more weight and what parts dont and while you move, you can notice where you initiate movement and how you sequence your movement by "listening" to the floor, which I call "kinesthetic listening." Developing this skill is very important to fine-tune your body awareness and motor performance.

4. Accessible and Inexpensive (Free)! I am a big fan of no fancy, low tech equipments, and the floor is the king of them!

Trans4Move

Trans4Move is the name of my website and business.  It took me several weeks to come up with this name.  I'd like to share with you about why I chose this name for my business.  

I have been involved with "movement" all my life:  I am a martial artist, an athlete, an athletic trainer, a personal trainer, a physical therapist assistant, a Feldenkrais practitioner.  Apparently movement is my passion and obsession.  As I started working with movement as a professional, I've realized movement can empower people when it's changed positively, and at the same time movement can also negatively impact people's lives when it's compromised due to injuries/illnesses and/or aging.

Since movement directly impacts our lives, I thought I could really help people with my expertise, that is MOVEMENT.  As a movement expert, I am able to identify people's habitual sub-optimal movement patterns that are contributing to their injuries or unsatisfying athletic performance, and I am able to teach them more efficient movement patterns that will allow them to recover from injuries and prevent injuries and to improve athletic performance, which will empower them and TRANSFORM their lives.  Transformation through movement; thus, the name "Trans4Move."  

Emotional Security and Pain

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If you have been dealing with pain for years, there’s a very good chance that you have seen several health care professionals and been given several diagnoses (e.g., spinal stenosis, arthritis, herniated discs, pinched nerves, scoliosis, SI dysfunctions, spondylolosis, etc).  And, perhaps, after years,  those “labels” (diagnoses) may be so ingrained that they became a part of your identity and they may even provide some sort of security for them.  If someone you never met tell you that you don’t have those labels/diagnoses, you may somehow feel offended and uncomfortable and may even argue with him/her that you have all those diagnoses because maybe you feel very insecure by the thought of detaching your diagnoses (which became your identity and emotionally attached) from you?  If you lost your identity, who would you be and how would you identify yourself?  A scary thought, isn’t it?  This may sound strange, but I think this happens more often than you realize.  Despite the fact pain is an unpleasant feeling and experience that no one wants in general, our nervous system always tries to stabilize and secure itself in this case by associating pain with you and your life.

 

Just remember you are not your diagnoses, you are not what someone else said.  You don’t have be the person others describe you as, but you can also be the person who you want to become.  Who do you want to become?

 

Enjoy the sunshine!

Right Exercise and Wrong Exercise

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What makes something right or wrong? It depends on what perspective you view "something" from. It is possible for “something” to be right and wrong at the same time. For example, eating with hands is completely acceptable and normal in some cultures, while it’s considered inappropriate and wrong in other cultures. The same thing can be said when it comes to physical training/conditioning/rehabilitation. This is why some trainers/therapists argue that particular treatment and training models are the right ones, while others may argue different models are the right ones. Does that mean that some people are right, and some people are wrong? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what perspective you are viewing something from. But, you also have to remember your clients’ perspective as well. You may believe you have the best knowledge and clinical experience and have the research that supports your belief, but your clients may not agree with you intellectually or kinesthetically. What would your reaction and response be?? Who is right and who is wrong? Maybe both are right? Maybe both are wrong? A situation where there’s a difference in opinions and beliefs can certainly create a friction and tension as long as you believe that something can either be right or wrong and you hold onto your belief. When you come across this situation, can you let go of your beliefs for a moment and notice what will happen to a response from the person you’re interacting with, and the relationship with the person?

By the way, a “tension” created by a situation manifests itself as muscular tension. How do you address your clients’ complaint of “tight muscles?”

Is Sitting on the Floor Better than Sitting on the Chair?

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When my friends see me sit on the floor instead of couch, they often ask me why I sit on the floor because it's not comfortable.  

First of all, it's much more comfortable for me to sit on the floor than to sit on a chair or couch no matter how fancy or ergonomically designed they are.  Besides my personal comfort, there are several reasons why I advocate floor sitting.  

It is not so much a surface you sit on, or a position you are in.  For me, the biggest difference is in movement variability from floor sitting vs chair sitting.  When you look at all possible movements that can take place during transitions from sitting to standing, standing to sitting, and compare floor sitting and chair sitting, you will notice right away that there aren't that many variety in the way you move from chair.  Sitting on the floor, on the other hand can provide many more options in a sitting position and movement options from each position.  

So, why does movement variability matter?  To understand it you will have to put in a context.  Here are a few contexts:  1) Flexibility/Mobility 2) Strength 3) Coordination/Balance 4) Health of Joints

1) Flexibility/Mobility:  Let's experiment to understand this:  Try SLOWLY sit on the floor and SLOWLY get up and notice how much movement this action involves at toes, ankles, knees, hips, spine, ribs, arms. Now, try do this from a chair.  I think the difference is very obvious.  Imagine how much of difference this could make over months and years.  Our bodies adapt to demands placed on, thus those that are used more become flexible and mobile, and those that are not lose flexibility and mobility over time.  No wonder why those who grow up in countries where sitting on the floor is common have, in general, good flexibility and mobility even when they are in their 80's.

2) Strength:  Do the same experiment as above, and notice any differences in muscles you engage.  Moving from the floor and to the floor requires more movements at all joints, meaning it also requires more muscle engagement, particularly in hip muscles, which is the "powerhouse" as it generates the greatest power in our bodies.  "Use it or Lose it" principle applies to this.  

3) Coordination/Balance:  This may not be as obvious as the first two.  To illustrate this domain, observe toddlers and/or judo/aikido masters how they move to the floor and from the floor.  You will notice gracefulness, softness, smoothness, ease, and elegance, which are some of the characteristics of coordinated, balanced movement.  What gives movement such quality is the use of the entire body and coordination among the body parts so all parts are working in harmony.  Movements from the floor involve more body parts than from a chair and to make transitional movements easier requires improvements in coordination among all body parts, which is essentially improving your balance.  

4) Health of Joints:  There's a saying "Motion is Lotion."  Joints naturally produce lubricants for themselves, and the production of joint lubricants is stimulated by movement.  Thus, as movement decreases, joints produce less lubricants and eventually dry up.  Movement is literally essential to our life as movement increases circulation and all joints receive essential oxygen and nutrients through blood.  When joints are deprived of movement, they are deprived of nutrients.  It's very obvious what will happen, isn't it?  

While there are many benefits in floor sitting, I'd like to mention to you that floor sitting may not be appropriate for everyone, especially if you haven't sat down on the floor for many years for some reasons.

In conclusion, from my perspective, the real value of floor sitting is in movement potential it creates rather than a position.

The Nervous System Optimizes Itself

If you’re a PT/OT/ATC/personal trainer, my guess is that you’ve come across a moment at least once where you put a blame on your clients for a lack of progress because they haven’t been doing their “homework” consistently and it’s their fault.

As a Feldenkrais practitioner, we practice on the premise that the nervous system is always doing its best to optimize our functions, thus our job is only to create a condition for learning to take place.  Once we create such a condition and provide what’s possible, we simply let their nervous system take care of itself.  

I’ve come from athletic training background and outpatient PT clinic, and most clients had high level of functions and were cognitively intact.  Then I moved to a home health PT setting where most clients were elderly and many have cognitive deficits.  I could not rely on them to remember what I taught.  No matter how many times I give them the same verbal cues/visual cues, they are very unlikely to show a carryover to a next session.  Some of them cannot even comprehend verbal instructions.  Yet, sometimes I noticed changes in their gait and other movement patterns.  Those changes were spontaneous and subconscious as apparently they didn’t remember anything from previous sessions.  After I have observed these changes in many people, I’ve come to understand the meaning of the premise that the nervous system is always doing its best to optimize our functions.  It really is.  

When you see your clients making the same “mistake” again or not making a progress, you may ask yourself what if their nervous system is optimizing their functions by doing what it’s doing because it’s serving them well, or maybe it’s not ready to accept what you present??  I’ve come to realize that our nervous system is truly smarter than we are.  I find this very fascinating.  What do you think??

What kinds of results do I reasonably expect for my money and time from ATM class or FI lesson?

Many people naturally wonder about this question especially if they have never taken any Feldenkrais class or Functional Integration lessons before.  

I do have slight hesitation to answer this question because I am a Feldenkrais practitioner.  As a Feldenkrais practitioner, we try to shift people away from a goal oriented-mindset and shift them towards a self-directed learner because our society and culture tend to influence us to become more goal-oriented, which is not a bad thing.  However, when we become fixated on achieving a goal, we tend to lose our awareness and attention from our own internal senses.  And, as a result, we often overexert ourselves to a point we suffer both physically and emotionally.  Setting expectations may cause you to look for and try to achieve those expectations.  At that point, you've already lost your interest and curiosity about learning something new about you that may serve you well.  

That being said, I will tell you what you should reasonably expect from ATM and/or FI.  Both ATM and FI will provide you with opportunities to discover something new about you that will help you overcome your difficulties/challenges.  That may be a new pattern (or new image) of movements, and that new pattern of movements (such as new way of breathing, walking, bending, running, swimming, singing, painting, dancing, etc) can have a profound effect on your life as it becomes integrated in your daily life.  Anyone regardless of age, physical/mental conditions can learn and improve from their current state.  There is no limit to learning and improvements.  Even if you don't have any physical difficulties, you can improve yourself further and feel stronger, more agile, and younger than ever before.  I can guarantee that you haven't reached your full potential yet.  Why not move towards your full potential?  ATM and FI can certainly help you with that.  I don't know any other work besides the Feldenkrais Method that approaches from this perspective.  Discovering possibilities and your full potential is definitely worth your time and is priceless if you ask me.  If this work didn't have such a huge impact on my life, I would not have become a Feldenkrais practitioner in the first place.  My answer may not satisfy you.  I suggest you come to my class or FI session, or another practitioner's class in your area and immerse yourself in this sensory experience to decide whether it's worth your time and money.  

Movement Exploration vs Exercise

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In the Feldenkrais Method we, Feldenkrais practitioners invite our students to explore movements during ATM (Awareness Through Movement) class and FI (Functional Integration) lesson.  Our students are not exercising, but exploring movements.  This sounds confusing, but this separates the Feldenkrais Method from other disciplines such as Yoga or Pilates.

Let me explain the difference between movement exploration and exercise in a simple way.  This is only my own interpretation and other Feldenkrais practitioners may explain differently.  

Movement exploration is process-oriented while exercise is goal-oriented.  Movement exploration is open-ended while exercise is close-ended.  Because of this nature, exercise tends to narrow down a pathway directly to its goal, which becomes a correct way and makes other pathways incorrect ways and discouraged, sort of.  Movement exploration, on the other hand, leads to multiple pathways as there is no specific goal/destination.  As you can imagine it's easy to get lost, but there's a very good chance you will discover something along your way of getting lost that you would not if you were only going towards a very specific destination.  This is like the difference between hiking a mountain to get to the top (exercise) and hiking to get lost in the nature (movement exploration).  You're much more likely to make surprising discoveries if you were wandering and exploring the nature.  

I am not suggesting one form is better the other.  I am explaining this difference only to highlight the difference between the Feldenkrais Method and the other disciplines as there is confusion and misunderstanding about the Feldenkrais Method.  

If you're ready to explore some movements, join ATM class or come to FI session!

Why is movement important?

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As my website's name and business (Trans4move) name imply, I consider movement to be vital and essential to our life.  Everything we do involves movement.  From the day we're brought to our life to the day we die, we are moving 24/7.  Movement allows us to develop all our senses so we can make sense of the world.  When we were born, we didn't even know what our own hands were.  It is through movements of our own bodies that we relate ourselves to the world and slowly start to make sense of the world.  Our ability to sense, feel, think, and move develops simultaneously from the day we are born.  These domains (feeling, sensing, thinking, and moving) are interconnected and they influence each other.  No wonder why we feel depressed when we get ill or injured, or no wonder why we cannot think well when we feel angry.

We can of course try to improve any of these domains to improve overall quality of our life, but I choose to work with movement because changes in movement quality is much easier to notice than changes in the other domains.  Thus, movement is a very powerful means to influence one's life.  

Let's join weekly Awareness Through Movement class to improve your life!

Listening as a Powerful Therapy Tool

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In my Feldenkrais training, my trainers have told us many times that it's very important for us to meet our students/clients where they are at.  At first, I didn't really understand the significance of that. 

Over the last few years, I've come across situations where my "difficult" clients suddenly became very cooperative and started to actively participate in sessions.  It's taken me a while to figure out what it was that shifted my clients' behavior and attitude.  As I started to pay attention to the moment of "shifting" in my clients' behavior, I've come to realize that I was meeting them where they were at instead of approaching them as an "expert" who knows everything and tells them what to do.  What I was mostly doing was actively listening to them and asking them questions to learn about them.  Actively listening to their stories somehow allowed us to arrive at the same place at the same time.  Once we arrived at the same place at the same time, I started to ask more questions to keep two way street conversations going.  Then, finally my voice started to reach to them. 

This realization was a very powerful learning moment.  This experience has taught me that therapy is like dancing with a partner (by the way, I'm not a dancer) where two persons constantly feedforward and feedback.  If one person is moving without "listening" to his/her partner, it would not be a pleasant dancing experience for him/her.  As my Feldenkrais trainers have taught me, I now know meeting people where they are at is crucial not only for therapy sessions but also for any relationships.  I've found that listening can bring us to that place.  From there, things somehow seem to unfold themselves. 

What is Awareness Through Movement class?

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I'm a certified Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) teacher.  Whenever I tell people about ATM, I get asked what ATM is.  I've always struggled to explain it to people for several reasons.  ATM is kinesthetic learning, which means you learn by feeling/sensing/moving and you must experience to make sense out of ATM.  But, it also helps to put it into words so people can understand cognitively.  

Many ATM lessons are based on developmental movement especially first 2 years of our lives (learning to flex/extend our head/torso/limbs; learning to roll; crawl; sit; stand; walk, etc).  Reasons why we teach developmental movement patterns are that as we get older, we tend to lose the coordination of head-torso-limbs and become more compartmentalized.  As a result of poor coordination, certain parts get used much more and certain parts hardly get used.  Uneven distribution of stress to the body can become a problem.  Practicing developmental movement can restore the coordination of all body parts and re-distribute effort/stress more evenly.  Another reason is that babies learn by sensing/feeling/moving (kinesthetic learning) vs by thinking (cortical learning).  In ATM class, we (ATM teachers) guide movements only verbally.  We purposefully do not show movements to students because we try to direct their attention/awareness  into their body and movement so they can tap into their own kinesthetic sensation just like all babies do.  When you are tuned into your own kinesthetic sense, you start to become aware of your habitual patterns.  You not only become aware of your habitual patterns, but you also discover new options.  Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle?  It probably didn't go so smooth, did it?  You probably fell a few times and got a few scratches on your arms or legs, right?  So, how did you learn to ride a bicycle?  Probably not by reading a manual.  Probably by lots of trials and errors.  This is an example of kinesthetic learning.  ATM class creates a similar experience where you focus on feeling and sensing your body while exploring movements and start to move towards more efficient movement patterns.  The emphasis on ATM is to improve "Awareness" through Movement; thus the name ATM.  

Come join my ATM classes to have kinesthetic learning experience!

Are You Growing or Aging?

One day my wife was jokingly telling her fiends how fast our 17 month old son was "aging," and they all laughed.  This conversation made me think something I never thought about.  We often say or hear someone say "I can't believe how fast kids grow."  But we don't typically use this phrase to adults.  Instead, we hear or say something like "Days go by so fast when you age."  

The word "growing" is often used for babies and kids and usually has a positive connotation while the word "aging" is used for adults and often has a negative connotation.  When do we start aging and stop growing??  What makes "aging" "growing?"  These are just the words, but clearly reflect our perception and mindset about age.    So, the key to growing as we get older is to shift our mindset and perception about age.  It's not so much the number that makes us feel old, is it?  We stop growing and start feeling old when we get stuck with our habits.  When we get stuck with our habits, we stop trying new things maybe because we are afraid of making mistakes, or perhaps we lose curiosity and interest, or maybe because we get more resistant to new ideas.  

The Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement class brings back child-like curiosity and playfulness to our life where we are curiously exploring every movement at every moment without any judgement.  In the end, we'll stop feeling old and start growing again!  Please check out my weekly Awareness Through Movement class in downtown Everett, WA.

Inflexible Bodies or Inflexible Brains?

My clients often tell me that their bodies are so stiff that they can't do certain activities well.

What is really stiff?  What is really limiting your abilities?  "Stiff" bodies?  Or  maybe "stiff" brains?  

Imagine that you believe that there is only one road to your home.  You drive the same road everyday to go to some places.  The road obviously gets used a lot as it's the only choice and starts to get worn out.  At some point, the road requires new paving or fix.  Once it's fixed,  you start driving the same road.  The road condition is improved, but wear and tear is a matter of time as it's the only road that you believe is available.  In this situation, you're stuck with this road and you don't have alternatives.  

Imagine that now several new roads added.  You now have several options.  You're no longer stuck with the the same old road to your home.  

How does this story apply to bodies and brains?  As we develop, we form habits. Habits allow us to do things automatically without thinking, which is a very good thing.  Without habits, it'd take a very long time to do even very simple daily tasks such as brushing teeth or getting dressed.  However, the fact habits "hide" from our consciousness eliminates different ways of acting (thinking, sensing, moving, and sensing).  In other words, habits can limit ourselves to narrow range of possibilities.  If there's only one road to your home, you won't have to think much to get home.  It's efficient, but very limiting.  When it comes to movement, we similarly create movement habits for the same reason.  We tend to use the same pathway or movements repeatedly because of our movement habits.  In a way, we (our brains) only see one road or a habitual movement path).

What really limits our abilities is "stiff" brains.  When our brains become "stiff", we limit ourselves/our abilities to only a small portion of our full potential or our habits, which in turn influences how we use our bodies so our bodies become "stiff".  Fixing bodies/structures is like paving the old road so we can get back on the same road again (the same old habitual pathway).  We still have only one choice.  We're still limited to what we already know or habits.  We can't truly overcome difficulties whether they are physical, intellectual, or psychological until we learn to make our brains more flexible, which would mean that we learn to expand our choices and act more freely without compulsion.

The Feldenkrais Method focuses on improving our awareness through movement to expand our options (thinking, sensing, moving, and feeling) and move beyond our habits, which means that our brains become more flexible.

 

"What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains."  - Moshe Feldenkrais