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

 

Why I don't give specific instructions during Awareness Through Movement lessons

When you go to exercise/fitness classes, you would expect your instructor to show you how to do each exercise/movement correctly step by step, right?  What if your instructor wouldn't show you how to do exercises correctly?  In Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes, teachers guide students only verbally through a sequence of movements in a way that they are encouraged to explore and experiment many options of movements instead of being instructed to move only specific ways.  We also don't tell our students that they SHOULD move this way or that way, or this is the CORRECT way of moving.  Instead, we invite our students to pay attention to sensations in their bodies to notice the way they use their bodies habitually and non-habitually. In other words, we help our students to focus on their own kinesthetic experiences, which is subjective.

So, what are the benefits of avoiding specific instructions and encouraging exploration/experimentation?

One size won't fit all.  If we observe 10 different people's body and movements (e.g., walking), we will have 10 different body structures and 10 different movements.  A movement that feels good for one person may not feel good for another person.  If we assume there's only one correct movement that fits everyone, then we try to force ourselves to fit the idea, which may not work for you.  But, if you start to pay attention to your own kinesthetic sensation while exploring movements, you can probably find what works and what doesn't.

Your kinesthetic experience from one exercise/movement is different from others.  If I as an instructor/teacher showed an exercise to my students step by step and told them exactly how they should move, I'm imposing my idea on my students.  What would happen is that they would only focus on trying to make their movement look exactly like my movement.  At that moment, they disengage themselves from their kinesthetic experience.  In my experience, this is when people get hurt in many exercise/fitness classes because they are busy forcing their body to move like someone else's, which may not be right and not paying attention to their own sensation.

After one class (Feldenkrais pelvic clock lesson) I taught to a group of people, I asked them to share what they experienced from the lesson.  One student said that he noticed how he was using his hips and why he felt off balance when he squatted.  Another person said that she noticed how she liked using back instead of hips.  I really don't know what people will experience from each lesson.  I can't expect everyone will have the same experience as I did from the same lesson.  But, if I showed people how to do each movement specifically and asked them to repeat what I did, I could potentially take away all kinds of different experiences and learning they would otherwise get.  

It may be difficult and uncomfortable at first not to have someone show you exercises/movements step by step, but if you let go of that idea and start to "play" with movements and pay attention to how you feel, I can guarantee that exercise/movement will become a lot more enjoyable and fun.  And, you can find more comfortable movements.

To learn about Awareness Through Movement class:

 

 

Using Mistakes to Facilitate Learning

There's a saying "practice makes perfect."  What's involved in practice that leads to "perfect?"  

When we start learning any skill, we don't really know what's perfect as we haven't had any kinesthetic experience that we can make comparison to, though we may have a rough idea where we want to go.  As we try once, and twice, and three times, we start to accumulate experience and constantly receive feedback and make adjustments to refine our skills.  When our movements didn't feel quite right, we would know based on our previous experience.  

Mistakes provide feedback we need in order to make adjustments for the following attempt so we can get closer to our goal, ONLY IF we pay attention to the mistakes we just made. Otherwise, we're more likely to make the same mistakes without much improvements.  This is why some people say "perfect practice makes perfect."  Just simply repeating movements isn't necessarily going to guarantee improvements.  In fact, you may become good at unwanted skills, which now become your new habit.  

Fundamentals of motor learning can always be found when observing babies and kids.  My 9 month old son recently learned to pull himself up to stand.  He was very excited to check out completely different views from standing.  He, however, didn't know how to get back down to the floor.  He lost his balance and fell backwards and hit his head on the floor.  That was a very hard and painful lesson for him.  He was still curious about standing up so he stood up while holding onto the couch.  After a few minutes, he quickly recalled the painful event and was trying to figure out a way to get down to the floor without hitting his head against floor.  He slowly reached one hand towards the floor with the other hand on the couch.  Finally he was able to put one hand on the floor and lowered himself down without falling!  He's learned how to get down to the floor from standing from his mistake.

Mistakes are necessary for improvements.  The word "mistake" is often perceived as having a negative meaning, but if it weren't for mistakes, we wouldn't even know what is "right."  When I work with my clients, I always encourage people to make mistakes and help them recognize what makes certain movements/postures a mistake and what makes them a correct one for them.  We all make lots of mistakes, but mistakes are what get us closer to our goal!  If we make mistakes, we might as well make it fun!  Come join my weekly Awareness Through Movement classes to make mistakes in a playful environment!  

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.  

Moving with Attention and Intention

Whether you're training movement for rehab or athletic performance, moving with "attention" and "intention" makes a huge difference in terms of motor learning.  For example, doing an shoulder raise exercise with a weight or elastic tubing will help strengthen shoulder muscles as resistance and gravity place physiological demands on the muscles.  However, strength gain may not carry over to actual functional tasks such as reaching arm overhead to put a dish on a top shelf, changing a light bulb, or any overhead throwing, which means there's no motor learning.  

Exercising just for the sake of strengthening or stretching muscles will not require much attention of the brain.  There won't be much learning without the engagement of the brain. Adding an "intention" for movement/exercise will add a meaning and purpose to movement, and this will grab the brain's attention.  Here are examples.  When boxers do shadow boxing, they have clear intention of every movement, that is fighting against an imaginary person. During Aikido practice, an attacker has a clear intention when he/she is grabbing the opponent's wrist, that is to keep him/her from reaching for their weapon.  This intention organizes the bodies to create movement.  

You wouldn't exercise for no reason, would you?  You probably exercise to improve your functions.  So, think about what specific function you're trying to improve with each exercise. Once you know that, you visualize a specific function while performing each movement.

In order to make real improvements that will last for a  long time we will need to change how we move.  When we change how we move, we'll start to place demands on our bodies differently so we'll start to use muscles that we didn't used to, which then over time will become stronger and more flexible.  When you move with intention, you will pay more attention to your movement, and  your movement becomes much more purposeful and meaningful, which will make your exercise much more effective. Strength gain is given when you place demands on your bodies, but motor learning (changing movement habits) isn't without attention.  Next time you work out or practice movements, think about what specific function you are trying to improve with each exercise and practice moving with attention and intention.

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.

Does Core Strengthening Really Do What You Think It Does?

You probably heard about "CORE muscles."  The word "Core" became a buzz word in fitness and physical therapy about 15 years ago, and is still a popular concept.  It's become so popular that core concept is often applied without much relevance.  It's commonly assumed that low back pain is caused by weak core muscles, thus strengthening core muscles fixes back pain; poor posture indicates weak core muscles, thus strengthening core muscles improves/corrects posture.  However, no research shows such relationships.  Weak core muscles DO NOT cause low back pain.  Weak core muscles DO NOT cause poor posture.  Yet, these misconceptions still exists.  

So, is core strengthening a good thing or bad thing?  It depends.  I mean, it depends on functional contexts.  First, you need to know what core is and what it does.  Without going into anatomical details, I will simply tell you that core refers to muscles around the trunk and it mobilizes and stabilizes trunk.  Core strength has nothing to do with back pain or posture. They are whole different topics.  With these things in mind, if you're strengthening your core as you preparing for your daily tasks or sports requiring heaving lifting, which will load the spine, core strengthening is very relevant.  How you train your core muscles also makes a difference. You have to train your core muscles in a way they are used during functional activities.  In other words, doing 1,000 abdominal crunches a day may not give you functional improvements, though you may get 6 packs.  Thus, functional contexts do matter. Strengthening muscles in wrong contexts is sort of like trying to eat soup with a fork instead of a spoon.  

Besides the point I made above, I noticed a trend of holding core muscles all the time in many people.  Maybe at one point, they learned this idea to resolve their back pain, and holding core muscles has eventually become their habit, meaning out of their consciousness.  This trend is much more common than you would think.  And this trend has negative consequences.  First, this constant abdominal contraction inhibits diaphragm, which is the primary breathing muscle. Thus, it affects breathing quality.  Consequently, the demand for other breathing muscles increases, which are intercostal muscles (muscles between ribs) and scalene muscle (one of neck muscles).  These breathing mechanisms are not as efficient as the primary breathing mechanism.  This may sound strange, but habitual core contraction can lead to increased neck and shoulder strain.  When I work with clients who are complaining of neck or shoulder pain, I often end up working with legs, as how they use their legs influence how they use their trunk. After all, everything is all connected.  

Meaningful Movement and Neuroplasticity

Over the years I have come across situations where I taught my clients different movement patterns as a supposedly better alternative to their habitual movement patterns, somehow those new movement patterns never stuck to them.  One day out of blue they started adapting and using the new movement patterns automatically.  I always wondered why that might have occurred.  I wondered if they didn't do their "homework," so they didn't adapt.

One day I was playing with my 7 month old son.  He could roll over pretty well, but couldn't still pull himself forward on the floor, so I put a few toys on the floor, thinking he would try to reach for them and maybe would pull himself forward.  He didn't care enough to even attempt to reach.  Then, he started crying because he was getting hungry.  So I went to grab a bottle and he was staring at the bottle with such excitement.  As soon as I put the bottle on the floor, he quickly rolled over and started pulling himself forward so desperately.  He just learned army crawl!  Just like his father, he LOVES FOOD.  Food is very important for him, more than anything it seems.  Food draws 100% of his nervous system's attention.  His nervous system organizes movement patterns to allow him to accomplish his goal, that is to get to food and eat.  

That's made me think about my clients who adapt to new patterns fast and those who don't.  I think this has a lot to do with whether those movement patterns are perceived as meaningful and salient by the nervous system.  When I say nervous system, I'm talking about what's happening at subconscious level.  I think this is why changing habits is so difficult as it requires a shift at subconscious level, or very strong will power.  And, this is why it's so important to think about functional contexts and meaning around particular movements you're practicing, not just repeating the same movement mindlessly.  

 

Creativity and Movement Habits

What does creativity have to do with movement habits?

Before I start discussing this topic, let's look at definition of the words "creativity" and "habit"

Creativity: "The ability to make new things or think of new ideas."  (merriam-webster.com)

Habit:  "A usual way of behaving; something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way."  (merriam-webster.com)

Do you see any relationships between two words?  I define creativity as the ability to do something you already know in a different way.  When it comes to movement, there are infinite ways of moving and many ways to get to the same point.  Movement habits "hide" all other possibilities and make them invisible as if such movement options don't exist.  Therefore, we repeat the same movement patterns over and over, which could potentially create some problems.  Creativity in relation to movement habits is about finding all those "hidden" movement options.  The process of finding new ways of moving will require you to get out of your habitual way of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking, or you will not find them.  

Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons are precisely structured to help you discover new ways of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking.  As a result of this process, you will become more creative and will be ably to act more freely.

Check out my Awareness Through Movement Class to enhance your creativity!

 

 

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.

Movement, Kinesthetic Awareness, and Pain

This blog post is related to my previous posts: "Chronic pain: The Vicious Cycle" and "Kinesthetic Awareness: Road Map for Movement."  In this post, I will talk about relationships between movement, kinesthetic awareness, and pain.

I discussed how movement clarifies "body maps" and kinesthetic awareness, and lack of movement has the opposite effect.  Pain usually discourages people to move.  When people experience pain chronically, they start to avoid movement, called fear avoidance of movement. Decreased movement due to pain will then decrease kinesthetic awareness.  Research shows that decreased kinesthetic awareness is correlated with increased pain as decreased kinesthetic can be perceived as a threat by the nervous system.  My own understanding is that moving with poor kinesthetic awareness is like walking in a dark room (maybe a hotel room that I stay for the first time) without a flashlight.  I would feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and anxious.  All these feelings can be perceived as a threat.  As I discussed in the previous blog (Chronic pain), the brain produces pain when it perceives a thread to the system.  It does make sense why decreased kinesthetic awareness is corrected with increased pain.  Then, increased pain further discourages movement, and so forth.  

To break this cycle, here's what needs to happen:  

- Understand pain

- Move with attention (attention is a key to improving kinesthetic awareness)

- Gradually increase movement to desensitize the nervous system and increase tissue tolerance

Sounds simple enough?  Please keep in mind that  it takes time for the nervous system to rewire itself, but the nervous system DOES CHANGE!

Chronic Pain: The Vicious Cycle

If you or someone you know are dealing with chronic pain, please read this blog post and share it with other people.  

I've worked with and know many people with chronic pain and their quality of life is negatively affected by pain.  Most of them have tried many things (pain meds, injections, chiro, acupuncture, PT, massage, Yoga, you name it).  Each helped to a certain degree but only for a short period of time.  None resolved their pain.  They were given so many different diagnoses by different health care professionals.  Each time they saw a new healthcare provider, they were given a new diagnosis, and they became more confused about what's going on and they gradually became fearful of movement as they were afraid of causing more damage.  They were in a vicious pain cycle.

This scenario is actually very common in people with chronic pain.  Unfortunately, not all healthcare providers have a good understanding of current pain science.  Since there's a plenty of great resources available, I will not go into details about pain science.  A short video below helps you understand pain.

Why is it important to understand pain?  One of the most common misconception about pain is that pain = tissue damage, and pain is telling our brain that there's a damage.  However, this is not true.  The brain produces pain only when it perceives a threat to the system regardless of tissue damage.  This is why phantom pain, perceptions that an individual experiences related to a limb or organ that is not physically part of the body,  exists.  

In people with chronic pain, their nervous system has become so sensitive that it can perceive even normal stimuli as a threat, thus produce pain easily.  Their pain experience is due to sensitive nervous system, not tissue damage.  In order to get them out of pain cycle, they first need to understand the mechanism of pain.  As long as they still believe that pain = tissue damage, the nervous system continues to stay sensitive and react to movement easily by producing pain. Knowledge is a very powerful therapy that can rewire the brain.  When cognition and understanding about pain change, the nervous system starts to become less sensitized and will not perceive normal stimuli as a threat. Movement is absolutely necessary for recovery, but as long as the brain still perceives movement as a threat, you will continue to experience pain.  This is very important  for me as a movement educator/therapist.  Many clients are dealing with chronic pain, thus, I am very careful about how I use my words as words can influence their cognition/beliefs, which can have either positive or negative effects on the nervous system.  For example, if I frequently use negative words like "broken," "weak," "torn," "out of alignment," etc, then they become more anxious, worried, fearful, and confused, which is perceived as a threat by the nervous system.  The result:  PAIN!  The opposite is also true.  I certainly try to use words to help my clients get out of the vicious cycle of pain.  

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!

Parkinson's Disease and Sensory/Motor Awareness

I'm not going to discuss pathophysiology of Parkinson's Disease (PD) in details here, but I'd like to share my experience of working with people with PD.  

Bradykinesia (slow movement) and Akinesia (muscle rigidity) are common motor symptoms of the disease.  The disease slowly affects movement quality and posture over time.  As people start to move more slowly with smaller range of motion, the nervous system starts to adjust its sensory awareness/perception as the movement changes.  Because this change continues gradually, people may not notice such change, even though it may be apparent to other people's eyes. What will happen is that their sensory awareness becomes so distorted that they perceive their abnormally slow and small movements as being "normal."  When they see other people moving at their regular speed, they don't perceive them as moving faster with larger range of motion than they are.  It's like a thermostat that is off.

PD is often considered as a movement disorder, but to be more precise and accurate, it is a sensory-motor disorder.  Movement and sensation are constantly influencing each other and being updated in the brain.  Areas that you don't use much tend to have poor sensory awareness.  Areas that you use very frequently tend to have good sensory awareness.  How accurately can you sense specific parts of your low back without touching and seeing?  How accurately can you sense your individual fingers?  It's much more clear to sense your fingers, correct?  This is very important when working with people with PD because without changing their sensory-motor awareness/perception (calibrating their thermostat), they are much less likely to change their movement quality because their inaccurate perception tells them they are moving just "normal."

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.