Emotional Security and Pain

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

 

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

 

Enjoy the sunshine!

Right Exercise and Wrong Exercise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nervous System Optimizes Itself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movement Exploration vs Exercise

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

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

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

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

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

Why is movement important?

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

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

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

Listening as a Powerful Therapy Tool

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

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

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

What is Awareness Through Movement class?

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

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

Come join my ATM classes to have kinesthetic learning experience!

Are You Growing or Aging?

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

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

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

Inflexible Bodies or Inflexible Brains?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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!