Can the Feldenkrais Method help with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

I believe the Feldenkrais Method (either in group class or one-on one hands on session) can help people with MS in many ways.


One of the benefits of the Feldenkrais Method is that we help people learn more efficient movement patterns that will work the best for their own body because every person has a unique body and there is no one “correct” movement pattern than works for everyone. Improving movement efficiency and economy is very important for anyone, but particularly for people with MS as energy conservation is a key.


Improving movement efficiency and movement patterns is also important to improve functional mobility such as getting in and out of bed, toilet, walking, etc. As their energy level goes down, their movement patterns are likely to change. For example, they may show decreased leg and trunk coordination, affecting their gait pattern, and increasing risks of falling. Thus, through this work, we can help them become more independent and reduce their fall risks.

We also help people improve their kinesthetic/proprioceptive awareness. While changes in gait pattern as a result of fatigue may look apparent to observers, there is a very good chance that they are not aware of such changes. Thus, improving kinesthetic/proprioceptive awareness can help them notice when they start altering their movement patterns so they can pay closer attention to how they are walking and minimize fall risks.

It is not uncommon for people with MS to experience muscle pain and joint pain. The Feldenkrais Method uses very gentle movements and can lessen unnecessary muscular tension, which can give them a pain relief.

This work is also helpful in calming the nervous system by balancing out autonomic nervous system and reducing anxiety ans stress. Anxiety and stress can interfere with their sleep pattern, and can also increase pain.

These are some of the benefits of the Feldenkrais Method for people with MS that I can think of. Please leave me your comments, questions, and/or feedback.

 Get help to move more comfortably and be more comfortable in your body.

Movement is essential to our life. Improving movement quality is directly related to quality of our life. Teaching people to move well is my passion. Sign up for Trans4Move Newsletters that will teach you how to improve your movements, functions, and your life!

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My name is Taro Iwamoto. I am a Feldenkrais practitioner and movement expert. I help people develop new and more efficient movement patterns and expand movement options in order to overcome injuries/pain and move beyond limits. Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

Got Balance Problems? Try the Feldenkrais Method to Improve your Balance and Confidence and Reduce Fear of Falling and Anxiety

Are you afraid of falling? Perhaps you have noticed a change in your ability to balance recently. Perhaps you think that these changes are just a natural part of aging, or because of a recent injury or diagnosis.


Here's the typical scenario: As people’s balance declines, they start to feel less confident and start to restrict their movement patterns, including breathing. They start to move more rigidly, holding muscular tension as if already bracing for a fall. Unfortunately, these changes in movement patterns have a negative effect on their ability to remain upright. They sacrifice the ability to react quickly to disturbances to their balance, and to move freely to regain it. Therefore they are much more likely to lose their balance and fall. Statistically, fear of falling is one of the greatest causes of falling in older adults.


Once they have experienced a fall, they become even more rigid. Their nervous system is traumatized, so they feel more anxiety and fear of falling. Physical balance and emotional balance are closely related. In other words, if you can improve your sense of balance, you can improve your confidence, feel more stable, and feel less anxious and fearful of falling. When you are not afraid of falling, you will find yourself less afraid of failing, or trying new things, even meeting new people. Your physical resilience and your mental and emotional state are intimately connected. It's not too late to bring balance back into your life.


When you hear the term "balance exercises," what comes to mind? Perhaps balancing on one leg? Walking on a straight line?


Traditional balance exercises involve challenging your balance in standing. "Good balance" is determined by how long you can hold a certain position without losing balance, or how well you can maintain your stability while performing balance activities. While many disciplines such as physical therapy, yoga, personal training, and Tai Chi work with balance in this way, the Feldenkrias Method of somatic education approaches balance with a unique perspective.


Feldenkrais teachers look at how you use your whole body to adjust your balance continuously: in other words, coordination. Balance is dynamic, not static. You are constantly moving even when you're standing still, though you may not be aware of it. Therefore, improving balance is not about learning to hold your body still in place. It is about improving whole body coordination so you can constantly adjust your center of mass over the base of support .


You become more rigid and hold your breath when your nervous system perceives you might be falling, which is then felt as fear and anxiety. It really doesn't help to increase your effort to maintain balance by contracting more muscles and making your body more rigid because it will only decrease your freedom to move.


Most “balance exercises” in a standing position can reinforce your tendencies to contract muscles, restrict breathing, become rigid, and feel anxiety and fear. In the Feldenkrais Method, the teacher may interrupt your habitual patterns by working in other orientations, like sitting in a chair or lying down. In the lessons, you will experience the feeling of both your center of mass and base of support, and how they relate to improve your coordination and safety.  


Try this short movement exploration of balance and counter-balance. All you need is a sturdy chair and a beach towel or blanket. Check your sense of balance before, and after. What were the results?


 

Sensory awareness, with gentle movement coordination, will keep you flexible and responsive to changes so that you can regain your balance more easily. Contact a Feldenkrais Practitioner near you as part of your falls-prevention plan.

 

 

Let me know what you think.  Please leave your comments/questions/feedback.

Please check my YouTube channel to find more balance exercises:

www.youtube.com/c/TaroIwamoto

 

Get help to improve your balance and confidence!


Movement is essential to our life. Improving movement quality is directly related to quality of our life. Teaching people to move well is my passion. Sign up for Trans4Move Newsletters that will teach you how to improve your movements, functions, and your life!

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My name is Taro Iwamoto. I am a Feldenkrais practitioner and movement expert. I help people develop new and more efficient movement patterns and expand movement options in order to overcome injuries/pain and move beyond limits. Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

The Feldenkrais Method For Chronic Pain

Before I explain how the Feldenkrais Method can help with chronic pain, let’s talk about the difference between acute pain and chronic pain in a very simple way.

 

Acute pain is associated with tissue trauma/injury, and pain that is due to acute inflammation and actual tissue damage.  I’m sure you have twisted your ankle at least once in your life. Pain and swelling immediately come on after an injury.  

 

Chronic pain/ persistent pain refers to pain that has lasted more than 6 months since the onset of pain/injury.  It’s not uncommon people have had back pain for years.  In this case, pain is often not associated with tissue injury/damage, but is associated with increased nerve sensitivity and changes in how the nervous system perceives stimuli.  When certain body positions and movements and pain are associated repeatedly over time, the nervous system anticipates a response (pain) with those body positions and movements. In an extreme case, just a thought of doing those triggering movements is enough to produce pain response.  

 

The Feldenkrais Method is about creating new ways of movements, which means creating new pathways or neural circuits in the brain.  New movement patterns and new neural circuits will allow you to move without pain as your nervous system has not yet formed an association between those movement patterns and pain.  Once you experience new ways of movements without pain response, you can taken an advantage of those new movement patterns and expand movement capacity from there and start to disassociate movements with pain. The more your nervous system dissociates pain with movement, the less sensitive the nerves become, allowing you to move more with less pain, therefore getting out of vicious pain cycle.

 

I will give you examples:

 

If you are afraid of bending over, try lying down on your back and gently bring both knees towards your chest using your hands.  You can also try rocking forward and back on your hands and knees (move your buttocks towards heels and away from heels).  These movements are essentially the same as bending over but in different orientation.  Even if you cannot bend over because of back pain, you may find that you can do the two movements above with no pain or less pain.

Movement is only one aspect of chronic pain, but a very important one, and the Feldenkrais Method’s unique approach to movement is very effective and helpful for people with chronic pain.

 Get help to move out of vicious pain cycle.

Movement is essential to our life. Improving movement quality is directly related to quality of our life. Teaching people to move well is my passion. Sign up for Trans4Move Newsletters that will teach you how to improve your movements, functions, and your life!

Taro photo2.JPG

My name is Taro Iwamoto. I am a Feldenkrais practitioner and movement expert. I help people develop new and more efficient movement patterns and expand movement options in order to overcome injuries/pain and move beyond limits. Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

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.

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!

Get help to improve quality of movement and quality of life.

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."  

I can help you overcome your limit(s) and challenges through movement!


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??

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!

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.  

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.

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.   

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.