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. 

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

 

Posture and Emotional State

In my previous blog "What is Good Posture?" I mentioned that posture is action, not a static position.  It constantly changes.  Posture is dynamic not only in a physical sense but also in an emotional sense.  Just as breathing reflects emotional state of individuals, posture also reflects emotional state of individuals. 

It's not that hard to tell whether people are happy, sad, or angry by their appearance without asking them how they are feeling, is it?  Our posture changes without any conscious effort from one moment to another moment.  Would your posture be the same when you are at a job interview versus when you are chatting with your friend?  How about when you are driving along the ocean on a sunny day on your vacation versus when you are driving in terrible traffic on a rainy day on your way to work?  Do you think your posture would look the same?  

With this point in your mind, what does it mean to "correct" posture?  If you were chronically stressed and anxious, how effective "correcting" your posture physically would be?  Suppose you "corrected" your posture physically.  The moment you encounter a stressful situation your posture reverts back to your usual posture often tied with stress.  If your idea about "correct posture" were to sit/stand erect, imagine you were at a job interview for all day, then you would subconsciously try to maintain erect posture all day.  Would that "correct posture" feel good??

Moshe Feldenkrais said "Correct posture is a matter of emotional growth and learning.  It is not acquired by simple exercising or by repetition of the desired act or attitude."  

Thus, posture is very dynamic, and to improve posture requires more than changing physical position of your body.  It requires dynamic relationships between emotional state and physical state.  Practicing Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons and Aikido is a way to improving such relationships for me.  Taking what I learn from Feldenkrais Method and Aikido further and applying to my daily life is my ultimate goal, and this is what I always try to share with my clients.  

Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

I have been fortunate enough to have met and known many wonderful people in my life.  There are many kind people who always care about others.  As I have worked with many clients, I have noticed that so many people are too busy to pay attention to their bodies while they take care of others.  Our bodies are very honest.  When we're stressed, tension in our muscles changes.  Even if we are not aware of stress, stress manifests itself as muscular tension.

Although I'm a movement educator/therapist and help people move better, I'm indirectly influencing clients' mind.  Mind and Body are two sides of the same coin.  They constantly influence each other.  Our body is a mirror that shows the state of our mind, or a container for our mind, sort of.  If we start to pay close attention to our bodies, which is ourselves, we can begin to notice how hard some parts of ourselves are working and discover some parts of ourselves that we didn't know that they existed.  

It's wonderful if you're a kind person who cares about other people.  But, are you paying attention to yourself with the same kindness?  If you haven't, please make some time to get to know yourself better and take care of yourself.  Awareness Through Movement classes will give you the opportunity to observe and learn about yourself deeply.  You will learn where you carry tension and how you use habitually your bodies, and will learn new ways of using yourself to carry day to day activities.  

Power of Language

This morning one of my clients said to me "I don't really want to walk outside because I can't walk like normal people."  I am very sensitive to certain words.  The word "normal" is one of the words I'm very sensitive to as a healthcare provider and a movement educator.  I don't how often I hear this word in medical contexts from clients and other healthcare professionals. 

What do people mean by "normal?"  When you define something or someone as being normal, you are implying that everything else is "abnormal" whether you mean it or not.  "Normal" is a relative term in reference to the norm or average.  Someone who is not able to walk because of his/her physical conditions may not ever become "normal" based on the definition of the word. Does that mean those people will never get better?  If their perception is such that they define themselves as being "abnormal" maybe they were told so by someone, they may believe that they will never get better.  For this reason, I don't tend to use the word "normal" to describe my clients' conditions.  Instead, I simply describe their current conditions at the moment and where they could go next day.  If you meet your persons where they are at, there is always a potential for improvements for everyone regardless of their conditions.  I always try to remind myself that what we say to our clients always influences their perception about belief for better and/or worse so we should never underestimate the power of language and therefore have to choose our words very carefully.  Words can hurt or heal people.

Balance

I truly believe in a holistic health/wellness approach.  Healthy eating habits, healthy sleeping habits, healthy exercise habits, and healthy social life.  I think it's all about balance.  Too much of good food or too much exercise can be a bad thing, just as too little of those things can be a bad thing as well.  You can't be healthy physically if your mind is not healthy.  

There is an old Japanese saying: "Yamaiwa kikara," meaning illness starts in the mind.  I've started to understand what this means from a physiological standpoint.  I often see people who eat just healthy food and avoid eating any "bad" food, and exercise regularly yet they often get sick.  One thing I've noticed that those people tend to have a lot of stress in their life (work, family, etc).  

There's autonomic nervous system which consists of parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system.  When we're stressed, parasympathetic nervous system slows down and sympathetic nervous system becomes more active.  So they have a yin and yang relationship.  When that happens, our digestive system slows down, heart rate and breathing rate go up, immune system slows down.  The nervous system is now in "fight/flight" mode. This physiological response prepares us for emergency situations.  During those situations, digesting food isn't a priority.  Mobilizing muscles so we can fight or flight is a priority.  This is a very good thing.  However, when someone is chronically stressed, there's a serious problem. Now autonomic nervous system is out of balance.  Immune system and digestive system become suppressed.  When someone is in this state, no matter how well he/she eats, he/she can't get much nutrition out of food.  And, they're much more prone to illnesses due to suppressed immune system.  Changes in physical state often reflect changes in psychological state.  In Aikido, they say physical body is an extension of mental state.

When our body and mind are out of balance and start to act separately, then we start to develop all sorts of problems.  This is why I believe in a holistic health/wellness approach. Mindful movement practice such as Feldenkrais, Tai Chi, Aikido, Yoga, etc is a wonderful way to keep our body and mind in balance.

Power of Imagination on Rehabilitation and Performance Training

Now imagine yourself on a peaceful beach, relaxing and enjoying a drink.  Next imagine yourself being chased by a police car for whatever reasons.  

Have you noticed any changes in muscle tone and breathing?  Imagining actions involves the brain activities  which will produce physiological changes such as changes in heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, etc.  Try this:  Close your eyes and imagine moving your right big toe up and down without actually moving your big toe.  Notice whether you moved your eyes toward your right big toe.  Even though you didn't move your right big toe, your brain planned a motor action the same was it would to actually move it.  In a way, imagining to doing movements is not that much different from actually doing the movements as far as brain activities are concerned.  

The power of imagination has practical applications.  People with chronic pain typically have sensitized nervous system, which means it has a lower threshold for pain, and more easily produce pain.  In those people, pain is often associated with movement.  The brain can produce pain experience regardless of any actual tissue damage, which is commonly the case for people with chronic pain.  In fact, in more serious cases just imagining to do certain movements associated with pain can actually produce pain even without any movements. However, imagining to do those movements can be used therapeutically to desensitize the nervous system and start to dissociate pain with those particular movements.  Over time as the nervous system becomes less sensitized, a pain threshold will increase, allowing them to move more.  This is one strategy used to get people out of chronic pain cycle.  Very useful.  

The power of imagination is also helpful to improve physical skills.  In fact, many performance artists, martial artists, and athletes utilize this strategy.  I also use this strategy quite often to practice Aikido or sports.  It's also used in the Feldenkrais Method to enhance learning.  From my own experience, I must tell you that it really works.  It's sometimes more effective than actually doing movements.  Next time you practice some skills, try doing whatever movements you're practicing just in your imagination.  See if it helps you learn faster.

What does corrective exercise have to do with authentic movements?

Autenticity:  "The quality of being real or true" (www.dictionary.cambridge.org).

What do being authentic and acting authentically mean to you??  As I'm working with clients, they frequently ask me things like: "am I doing this movement correctly?  How am I doing?"  My response is usually this:  "what do you think?  Why don't you tell how you feel you are doing?" Then, many say "I don't know.  You tell me because you are an expert."  

Why do you care how you move?  How do you know you're moving or sitting incorrectly?  Is it because some experts told you so??  No one can feel your body except you.  No one can tell whether one movement is comfortable for you or not.  Just because one particular movement feels good for one person, that doesn't mean the same movement would feel great for everyone.  We are all different and unique.

"The general tendency toward social improvement in our day has led directly to a disregard, rising to neglect, for the human material of which society is built.  The fault lies not in the goal itself but in the fact that individuals, rightly or wrongly, tend to identify their self-images with their value to society.  Like a man trying to force a square peg into peculiarities by alienating himself from his inherent needs.  He strains to fit himself into the round hole that he now actively desires to fill, for if he fails in this, his value will be so diminished in his own eyes as to discourage further initiative." - Moshe Feldenkrais

We tend to act in accordance with our society and act to satisfy society's needs.  As we start to do that, we start to lose spontaneity and authenticity.  This is why we get so uncomfortable when someone doesn't us how we're doing, whether we're doing things correctly or not.  We become anxious because we tend to identify our self-images with our value to society.

This is one of the several reasons why I don't advocate a corrective exercise approach.  In my opinion, a corrective exercise approach only reinforces the same mindset and robs authenticity and spontaneity.  Next time you exercise or do any movement practice, pay attention to how you feel.  Play with movements.  Try to move a little differently each time and notice how a slight change in movement changes how your body feels.  You will know what feels good or bad.  If it feels good, then that's probably a correct movement for you.  When you start to move more authentically and naturally, you will start to express yourself more authentically as well.  It feels good to be authentic!

Breathing Quality and Movement Quality

Breathing has always been considered as an important aspect of movements in most martial arts as well as Yoga, Zen meditation, Feldenkrais Method, and more.  The importance of breathing has been emphasized in today's orthopedic physical therapy and fitness training as well.  As I started studying Feldenkrais Method, I've started paying much more attention to breathing while I'm moving as well as observing my clients moving.  I've realized that the state of breathing and the quality of breathing can tell you a lot about the quality of movement.  Breathing changes according to the state of the nervous system.  Stress changes breathing.  Just imagine that you are about to propose your girlfriend for marriage.  Or imagine that a spider (if you hate spiders) suddenly falling in front of your face from the ceiling.  Did that change your breathing??  When the nervous system perceives fear/anxiety, it affects breathing. Unfamiliar movements and movements related to past physical trauma can often induce fear/anxiety to the nervous system even though you may not be aware of that.  Thus, when you learn a new movement/skill (unfamiliar), your breathing is likely to change (mostly likely holding a breath) to a certain degree.  The more unfamiliar and complex a movement is, the more likely breathing will be affected.  For this reason as a movement educator, I always observe my clients' breathing quality as it is one of the most important movement qualities. Interestingly enough, you can influence movement quality by changing breathing quality.  Try filling up your lunges with air and hold your breath while rotating your body.  Note how far you can turn your body.  Next try exhaling slowly while turning your body.  Notice how far you can turn your body this time.  Any difference?  You'll be amazed how much you can improve your movement quality by improving your breathing quality.  Check out Awareness Through Movement classes and Movement Re-education sessions to improve your breathing and movement quality. 

Awareness Through Movement®

Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) consists of verbally directed movement sequences presented primarily to groups.  In ATM lessons, people engage in precisely structured movement exploration that involve, thinking, sensing, moving, and imagining.  Many are based on developmental movements and ordinary functional activities.  Some are based on more abstract explorations of joint, muscle, and postural relationships.  The lessons consist of comfortable, easy movements that gradually evolve into movements of greater range and complexity.  (www.feldenkrais.com)

One of many things the Feldenkrais Method emphasizes is to improve awareness by helping people become aware of their habits as well as new ways of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking while you're engaged in various movements, thus the name Awareness Through Movement.  I will share one of my favorite quotes from my Feldenkrais trainer:

"Habits are bricks. Repetition is the cement between the bricks. The more repetition of habit, the more solid the wall.  If you keep repeating the habit, it becomes solidified causing pain, rigidity, depression, etc.  Awareness creates doors and windows in which you can move over, under or thru that blockage."

Awareness Through Movement lessons are designed to create those doors and windows and guide you discover and open them.  When you those doors and windows, whole new possibilities start emerging.  You will discover a lot more than more efficient movements, more comfort, reduced pain.  Words are just words, and can't give you such kinesthetic experience. The only way to truly understand the effects of this work is to actually experience it.  I encourage you to check out local Awareness Through Movement classes.  Please also check out my classes in Everett, WA.   

Attachment and Pain

A few years back I went to a Russel Delman's workshop called "The Embodied Life."  He is a well known Feldenkrais teacher as well as a Zen medication teacher.  One thing I learned from the workshop has stuck to me even today is that attachment is the source of our sufferings. What this means is that when our mind gets stuck in the past or the future, we're not living in the moment and start thinking about all sorts of things that could hurt you.  For example, a man who was once a star football player sustained a career ending injury that caused him to live with wheelchair for the rest of his life.  He who still identifies him self as a star football player cannot acknowledge who he is now.  He's depressed because he's lost his identity.  His mind is attached to his past.  He's psychologically hurt and will continue to feel this pain until he accepts the fact that he's not a football player now and accepts who he is, which means his mind is no longer stuck in the past.

When it comes to physical pain, this attachment or association happens.  Let's say you hurt your back when you bend over to pick up something from the floor.  Your nervous system recorded such an event.  Your back has healed after a little while and you can bend over again without any pain but are conscious of the trauma.  Several months later you hurt your back again doing the same movement.  Your nervous system now made a note that bending over movement hurt your back and attached/associated these two things (bending over movement=pain).  Even after a while your back pain is easily triggered by simple bending over movement though your back has healed just fine.  This is actually fairly common.  I was working with one lady who had multiple shoulder surgeries, and she couldn't do hardly anything with one arm because of pain.  Everything hurt.  I was explaining about one shoulder movement and she suddenly screamed and said that as soon as she imagined doing that movement her pain level jumped.  Her nervous system attached/associated any arm movements with pain so well and became so sensitized that imagining doing arm movements was enough to trigger pain.  I had her imagine arm movement several times, and that consistently increased her pain.

 Pretty interesting stuff, isn't it?  The brain is so powerful.  To reverse this process, which unfortunately takes longer, you have to teach your nervous system to detach/disassociate these two.  One way of doing this is to create new options for movement.  In new movement options the nervous system hasn't made any attachment/association yet, so you'll have a pretty good chance to move into the position that you wouldn't be able to with the old pathway that the nervous system associated with pain. When the nervous system "sees" that you somehow got to the position without pain, it starts to question the validity of the statement it's made in the past.  This is a very simplistic way of explaining this phenomenon, but I think this is one of the reasons why people with chronic pain have a very good luck with Feldenkrais Method.  It's really helping their nervous system to rewire itself and change how they feel.  Let's learn to let go of your habitual ways of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking with Awareness Through Movement class and have free choice in your actions.

Self-image and Habits

What is Self-Image?  One of the main objectives in Feldenkrais Method is to improve one's self-image/awareness.  Moshe Feldenkrais said "we act in accordance with our self-image, which consists of sensing, feeling, thinking, and moving."  He thought these 4 aspects of self-image are interrelated, and a change in one aspect would influence the other 3.  He believed that it's necessary to improve self-image/awareness in order to improve human functioning, and the easiest way to do that is by working with movement.  Changes in movement can be easily observed unlike emotion, thought, or sensation.  You'll be asked to observe all 4 aspects of self-image while you're guided through a sequence of movements in Feldenkrais lessons. During this process, you will discover your habits and how movement habits and emotional/intellectual habits are closely related, and when you discover new movement patterns, you will also discover how that will influence your feeling, sensing, and thinking.  You will eventually experience how mind and body are really inseparable.  They are the two sides of the same coin.

 I grew up in Japan where a holistic approach is quite common.  Although western medicine is more common now there, eastern medicine is still practiced.  The idea of mind-body connection is very old.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Zen, Judo, Aikido, and many more share the same idea.  I always believed in this idea, but it was just the idea in my mind as it wasn't tangible.  In a way, mind and body were still separate because it was just the idea (mind) and missing physical experience (body) for me.  After my first experience with Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement class, this idea immediately became real as it provided me kinesthetic experience of such relationship.  Trying to understand and appreciate this relationship without kinesthetic experience is like trying to learn how to ride a bicycle just by reading instructions or listening to someone's instructions without actually riding it.

SLOW DOWN

I have noticed that many people including myself have hard time moving slowly when we exercise. I so often have to remind my clients to slow their movement down many times.  I must admit that I had very very hard time to do that.  It took me a long time to learn that.  

I used to hate walking because it was too slow and boring.  I used to prefer running to walking. In the last few years I've learned the benefits of moving more slowly.  When we move fast, we access movement patterns that have been used many times, called habitual movement patterns.  We use the sub-conscious part of our brain, which responds very fast.  This is useful when we have to move quickly during emergency situations. However, when we're learning new movement patterns, we have to rely on different parts of our brain, conscious part of the brain, which acts much more slowly.  In order to allow us to access this part of the brain, we need to move much much more slowly.  If we move slowly, we won't bypass our sub-conscious part of the brain and inhibit habitual patterns.  This is one of the key principles in my movement re-education.  When someone keeps hurting because of their habitual movement patterns, they need to learn how to move differently.  If they try to move fast when learning to move in a different way, their habitual movement patterns keep interfering.  This is why it's a common practice for Tai Chi and Feldenkrais Method to move very slowly so they can pay attention to how they are moving and they can adjust their movements continuously.  I must tell you that this practice has completely changed the way I move and the way I work with my clients.  I've learned so much about how I move and definitely improved my movement quality.  By the way, the same mechanism applies to thinking, feeling, and sensing.  How we emotionally or intellectually react works much like our movements.  To break your habits, you'll need to SLOW DOWN.

What is Feldenkrais Method®?

 

Click HERE for the description of the method by Feldenkrais.com.

You probably still have no idea what Feldenkrais Method is about after reading the description.  Let me share my experience.   About 6 years ago I was getting a bit frustrated at work as patients kept returning to us for similar problems (e.g., shoulder impingement, low back pain, neck pain, patello-femoral knee syndrome, etc).  I thought we did a pretty good job of teaching our patients about how to strengthen/stretch some muscles to solve their problems, yet they returned to us after a year maybe 2 years. I thought I "fixed" the problems by strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight muscles to restore their imbalance, but they apparently didn't get "fixed."   This observation made me very curious as to what's really the root of their problems.   Upon my research I found Feldenkrais Method several times.  The first time I saw the name, I didn't pay much attention.  After having seen the name several times, I had to do more research about it.  I read his books and read some articles, but I still didn't know what it was.  The only thing I knew was it had something to do with changing habits.  I thought habitual way of moving/using ourselves was the root of many problems my patients had.  One day I saw a weekend Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement workshop, and I decided to attend to experience it for myself.  My first experience was "Wow!! I don't feel pain anywhere in my body!!"  I always had some pain but I was so used to having pain that I forgot I had pain until my pain was gone.  I felt much taller and my body felt so much lighter and felt as if the gravity decreased.  The effect after my very first Awareness Through Movement lesson was so profound.  During the lesson I discovered how one body part connected to another body part and how they could work together to decrease stress on one part and distribute it to the whole body.  As a result, it felt so much easier to move.  I also discovered my movement habits, which of course I wasn't aware of until then.  My movement habits just like the majority of other people were such that I wasn't distributing work very well throughout my whole body.  At this moment I knew I found what I have been searching for.  This really allows us to discover the root of many problems (physical as well as psychological) we may be having and also discover new options so we don't get stuck in our habits.  Habits are useful as long as you know they are.  However, habits can sometimes create problems when we are not aware of them.  As Moshe Feldenkrais (the creator of Feldenkrais Method) said, "if you know what you are doing, you can do what you want."  

Less is More

Effort is generally encouraged in our culture.  No pain no gain mindset is still prevalent in health/fitness industry.  More effort doesn't necessarily result in more gains when it comes to rehab.  The reason for this is that trying harder will only exaggerate your habitual movement patterns.  If habitual movement patterns are contributing to repetitive stress injuries because of lack of movement variability, then increasing effort by increasing resistance or speed probably won't solve their problem(s).  Instead, when you reduce effort, you'll have a much better chance of improving in your movement ability as less effort allows the nervous system to recognize patterns of movement and learn more efficient movements.  This is why Feldenkrais Method, Tai Chi, Aikido all emphasize reduction of effort.  

Movement and Cognition

Over the years I've observed how someone's physical state affects their psychological/emotional state.  When someone's mobility is compromised due to illness/injury and they become bed bound, pretty quickly their cognitive function seems to decline from my observation.  It does make sense from a neuroscience perspective because of all activities that take place in the brain when planning and executing motor actions.  I also noticed that people who have very sharp cognition tend to be physically active.  It makes sense why we can usually have better focus after exercising.  As Moshe Feldenkrais said, "Movement is life; without movement life is unthinkable."  Let's get moving!

Changing Habits

In the previous post, I talked about our habits as obstacles for improving our abilities (physical, emotional, and intellectual). If we want to improve our movement abilities, we’ll need to expand our motor habits. We all know that it’s not as simple as it sounds. Let me share my thoughts on this.

In order to change our habits we need to recognize our habits first. What makes it difficult is that habits are for the most part unconscious, so they are invisible. We somehow need to make invisible habits become visible or make them become conscious.

Awareness/proprioceptive-kinesthetic sense is our sixth sense. It allows us to sense and feel our bodies and movements accurately. Without sharp sixth sense we’ll not be able to perceive what we’re doing. This allows our habits to come to the surface and allows us to “see” our habits. This opens the door to new motor habits.

Mindfulness and paying attention to how we’re moving and relationships between body parts, sensations in our bodies and with movements, are ways to sharpen our sixth sense. As we pay close attention to our body and movements, we will start to notice how we use our bodies habitually with each movement. There’s many tricks to improve our awareness, which I will discuss in another blog.
Unfortunately there’s no shortcut to improving our abilities. But, if we can acknowledge this idea and become more aware and mindful of how we move, I’m very confident that we will continue to improve the quality of movement and the quality of life.

© Taro Iwamoto 2015. Please do not reproduce without the express written consent of Taro Iwamoto.

What is limiting our abilities?

Over the past years, I’ve come to realize that we are often limited by our habits. Limitations can be physical, emotional, and intellectual. As a movement educator, I often witness my clients beating their body when they run into physical challenges. What most people tend to do in that situation is that they try to force themselves to overcome the obstacle by will power with their “no pain no gain” mindset. Their mindset is such that if they can’t overcome the obstacle, they’re not trying hard enough; therefore, they will try harder. They may achieve their goal but not without a cost. Or they may fail and give up. This mindset is very common in many cultures. Truth is that “obstacle” is created by our habits. We can ignore this fact and keep driving ourselves with will power and keep exercising our habits until our body can’t keep up anymore. I think it’s our habits that make us move, feel, and think in very limited ways and that make us feel old. We can also make the obstacle disappear by recognizing our habits and creating new habits. This is where movement intelligence comes into play. Learning to create new movement patterns/habits isn’t something we (adults) often do when facing what I call “movement puzzle” or daily situations that challenge us physically.  Instead, we usually try to exercise our old habits and hope to break through the obstacle with strengthened old patterns. This works to some extent, but soon we’ll hit the wall again because we still haven’t realized that our habit keeps creating obstacles.
I’m not saying that habit is devil. Habits are very useful. In fact, if it weren’t for habits, it’d take us too long to do simple daily activities such as brushing teeth, or getting dressed. However, many habits are not serving us well anymore, yet we hold onto them because we’re not even aware of most habits.  I think habit can become our enemy when it’s invisible (we’re not aware) like silent cancer because we cannot recognize what is happening.  If we cannot recognize, we won’t be able to take any actions.