Reintegrating Your Brain

We are born with a limited number of “hardwired” reflexes – our abilities to move, speak, and think come from a learning process.  When we are born most of our nervous system is unpatterned, not yet connected, so that each of us can learn to function to meet the demands of our surroundings.  We are imminently adaptable, thus must learn to do almost everything that we do.

We have a great freedom, a potential for adaptability, and with that comes the responsibility to learn to function well.  To a large extent, we create ourselves.

This is one of the core principles of the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education. Feldenkrais is a subtle method of  rewiring the neural structure of the entire human being to be functionally well integrated, which means being able to do what you want to do and do it well.  This ‘rewiring’ takes place through moving with awareness – awareness of the feeling and the result of the movement.  It is a learning process.  We can continue learning, and thus rewiring our brains, our entire lives.

As we grow we learn particular patterns of functioning, many of them work well, some do not.  With age and injury, these patterns of functioning fall into dis-use.  It is now becoming well known that when we don’t use the neural pathways that control particular functions we lose those neural pathways.  Some injuries, such as stroke, can destroy entire networks.  It is our great good fortune that just as we learned to ‘wire’ our brains as children, we can wire them again.  There is plenty of brain matter available to take over for damaged areas and there is a growing body of research findings that show we can generate new neurons when needed through a process called ‘neurogenesis’.

Neurogenesis and creating new neural networks using existing brain matter both come from moving to fulfill an intention while experiencing the feeling of the movement.  That is all it takes, moving with ever more finely differentiated awareness.  Feldenkrais Functional Integration® and Felkenkrais Awareness Through Movement® Lessons are highly evolved methods for doing that.

Copyright© May 2015 Jeff Bickford, All Rights Reserved, Unfettered Movement

This post draws upon “The Brain’s Way of Healing” by Norman Doidge, MD.  I highly recommend it!

Moving with Awareness

Rarely do we bring our attention to the actual experience of what we are doing.  Most of the time we are thinking about something else when we are moving, most of the time what we are thinking is something we’ve thought before, probably many times, and more often than not, the act if thinking about it is increasing the stress we feel.

Once we have set an intention and begun to act there is really nothing else to think about other than noticing what we do and adjusting – but that requires little actual thinking.  At the same time, if we don’t put our awareness somewhere, it will probably fall back into these old patterns of thinking.

The best use of awareness is to experience what we are actually doing.  Right now, do something simple, like pick up a cup and take a sip, or scratch your head, or walk over and turn on a light.  Notice your experience of moving – release any thoughts that intrude, don’t follow them.  Let your attention be with your experience of moving – your feet changing pressure on the floor, your hips and legs, how your abdomen moves or is carried along, the pressure on what you are sitting on, your arms and chest and back, how your head subtly moves as you do whatever you are doing.

My guess is that was different than your normal experience.  What is it like to notice what you are doing?  Many find it intriguing, if not enjoyable.  The blizzard of thoughts may not have subsided yet, but they will the more you practice this.

This is basically what all the current hoo-hah about Mindfulness is about – bringing your attention to your actual sensory experience of doing whatever you are doing.  The reason there is so much hoo-hah is that it really does, oddly, calm you down, decrease stress and pain, and you do whatever you are doing better.

Doing whatever you do with awareness makes you happier.  Pretty weird idea, but it’s relatively easy so you may as well try it out.

There are many forms that teach bringing awareness to what we do – meditation, yoga, pilates, tai chi, and Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons are a few.  But the best place to practice moving with awareness is Whatever You are Doing.

Whatever you do, when you’ve done all that can be done with thinking about it (which most often isn’t much more than deciding where and how to start), bring your attention to your experience of doing it, to the feeling of moving.  While picking up the cup and taking a sip, scratching your head, walking over to turn on a light, working out, driving to work, turning on the computer, answering text’s and emails, talking to a friend or someone where you work – whatever you do, experience the movement of it, in detail.

You will not only find that you move better and do whatever you do more skillfully, but that you enjoy the doing of it, and the respite from the mostly fruitless, and constant, thinking.  It’s really simple, just experience what you do as you do it.

Jeff Bickford – Private Sessions

The work I do is called Functional Integration and is part of the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education®. I use gentle touch, movement, and verbal cues to communicate directly with the sensory-motor areas of your nervous system, helping you learn more effective self-organization. It is your brain and nervous system – not your muscles – that determine the health of your posture, the ease and comfort of your movement and the extent of your flexibility.

This method integrates movement with thinking, sensing, and feeling. It can improve posture, breathing, and self-healing, increase energy, and heighten organic learning and self-reliance. It is used around the world by athletes, performers, martial artists, and people who simply want to do everyday activities without pain to enhance movement ability, control, range, and flexibility. It helps people with pain, injury, and movement limitations; it can help alleviate feelings of stress and tension and lead to a greater sense of well-being.

Please Email Jeff with questions or for scheduling

The Feldenkrais Method® at Unfettered Movement
Off Ice Training – Balanced whole body training for cohesive stability & clarity on ice®

Awareness Through Movement Lessons®

Please download or at least read: How to do Awareness Through Movement Lessons.

These lessons are not exercises they are movement practices.  How you do them, how you bring awareness to your experience, will determine what you get from them. If you have any health problems please consult with your health care practitioner before doing any of these lessons.  Though they are very gentle, some lessons may not be beneficial for you.

QUICK LESSONS
Free lessons you can do most anywhere in 10′ or less
click the speaker icon to listen, or right click / ctrl click for more options 

Releasing Tension in Your Neck, Upper Back, and Shoulders  This lesson is to help release the tension in your upper back, neck, and shoulders.  If you do the movements slowly, without pushing or straining, you will feel better after doing them, and you’ll be learning to move with better integration so over time, you’ll have less tension.

Sitting Comfortably  Many of us find ourselves becoming uncomfortable when we sit for long.  This is often caused by not sitting in such a way that you have the support of your pelvis and spine.  If you do the movements slowly, without pushing or straining, you will find yourself sitting more easily, with greater comfort.

 

FREE SAMPLE FULL-LENGTH LESSONS
You can try these free downloads to find out if this format works for you.

click the speaker icon to listen, or right click / ctrl click for more options

Returning Movement to the Base of the Neck (A6) This lesson brings awareness to the area where upper back and spine meet the base of the neck.  It can help in finding balance while standing and walking and help connect the movement of your arms to the movement of the spine.

Jaw, Neck, and Pelvis – Turning Head (C2b)  This lesson integrates the movements of your jaw, neck, spine, and pelvis to free the movement of your jaw as it moves from side to side.

Circling the Top of the Head (A19)  This lesson brings awareness to the relationship of head, spine, and pelvis, integrates movement of the neck with spine and pelvis, and for many people helps locate their head over their spine and pelvis resulting in freedom from neck and upper back pain.

 

FULL-LENGTH LESSONS to PURCHASE

These are mp3 audio recordings of Awareness Through Movement Lessons that vary in length from 40′ to 55′ long. When you purchase the lesson(s), you will then be guided through a process to download them onto your computer – you can then play them back on your computer or load them onto your smart phone or other device.
Please note, the link you get when you purchase a lesson must be used within two days.
Please note, the link may get filtered to your junk mail – check it!



ORGANIZING YOUR BACK, NECK, LEGS & PELVIS FOR
GREATER FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT 

Flexion of the Trunk (A1)
Flexion is one of the primary movements of the trunk and is key to good posture, walking, running, and balance. This lesson helps to reorganize how you flex your trunk and integrates you from head to pelvis. It is also very good for releasing tight back muscles. As always, if you have any particular back problems, consult with a health care practitioner before doing this lesson!
Price: $10.00
Simple Flexion (A1b)
This simple lesson of integrating the movements of flexing the trunk and spine can have profound effects on your sense of balance and your experience of being supported by the ground.
Price: $10.00
Tilting Bent Legs with Triangle Arms (A2)
Twisting, flexing, and extending your spine can result in unwinding tension in your torso giving you greater suppleness.
Price: $10.00
Tilting Crossed Bent Legs with Triangle Arms (A3)
This is a surprising lesson that uses alternate movement of lower abdomen and chest to release your diaphragm, ribs, and spine and later differentiation of the movement of your eyes, head, and pelvis to further release chest and spine. You will feel a difference in your ribs and spine if you do this lesson gently!
Price: $10.00
Carriage of the Head (A4)
This lesson brings a new sense of how your head can rest comfortably on your spine and bring greater ease to the movements of your neck and upper back. (This lesson is done laying upon your stomach.)
Price: $10.00
Head to Knee with Pushup Arms (A5)
This lesson is done on your stomach and works with folding, rotating, and twisting your trunk. The result is surprising and you may find your chest opening and your head riding more easily on your spine.
Price: $10.00
Returning Movement to the Base of the Neck (A6)
This lesson brings awareness to the area where upper back and spine meet the base of the neck. It can help in finding balance while standing and walking and help connect the movement of your arms to the movement of the spine.
Price: $10.00
Connecting Through the Diagonals (A7)
This lesson will leave you feeling connected through your trunk into your arms and legs bringing greater ease and freedom to walking, reaching, running, and doing everyday tasks. Many report it helps them with problems resulting from an unstable sacrum. The lesson is a recording from a class on 6/17/12 (the very first words on the recording ask you to walk and notice your experience of walking).
Price: $10.00
Preparing to Crawl (A8)
Being able to crawl skillfully is essential for being able to stand, walk, and run. Really, it is essential for doing any complex movement well! This lesson helps you to organize your pelvis, shoulders and spine so that you can move fluidly and easily.
Price: $10.00
On the Cheek (A9)
This lesson is done kneeling with your cheek on the floor. It is very good for connecting your neck to your spine and for bringing awareness to the area between your shoulder blades. Do not do the lesson unless you can be comfortable in this unusual position.
Price: $10.00
Simple Side Bending (A10)
Sidebending is a fundamental movement of your spine, it underlies and supports most of your basic movements and postures, from functionally integrating the use of your arms to walking and running. Many of us gradually restrict the side bending of our spines which over time results in damage to hands, wrists, shoulders, knees, hips, feet and ankles....!! This is a recording of a class on 2/12/16.
Price: $10.00
Extend, Rotate, Look at Hand Reaching Overhead (A11)
his lesson is a recording of a class on 7-13-12 (there is some background noise of cars, etc). It integrates a primary connection we use in many ways – a lower body push supporting an upper body reach. The lesson helps free the movement of your back, ribs, and neck and integrate them to help you have greater freedom of movement. The lesson starts with you standing.
Price: $10.00
Head to Knee with Pushup Arm (A12)
This is a recording of a class on 8/2/12. Many of us tend to have shoulders that round forward with our heads forward of our spines - it comes from many of the things we do, such as spend time in front of computers. This lesson will help to free the movement of your shoulder blades and upper back, help to have greater extension in your spine, and bring your head over your spine. It is done mostly in a prone position.
Price: $10.00
On Stomach, Lifting Head, Leg, and Arms (A13)
This lesson is done on your stomach and is relatively difficult. It can help you to release muscle tension and integrate movement in your back, spine and neck, and free the movement of your ribs and breathing. Do not do this lesson without consulting your healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing difficulties with your neck, shoulders, or lower back.
Price: $10.00
On Stomach, Tilting Bent Legs with Pushup Arms (A14)
This lesson can profoundly change how you carry your head over your spine and help to correct 'computer posture' - back rounded, chest retreated, head forward of spine. As always, proceed gently with awareness. The lesson is 32' long.
Price: $10.00
Extension on Stomach, Translating Head (A15)
Most of us find ourselves slumping most of the time but don't really know how to change because few people ever learned to sit up comfortably. This lesson helps you learn to more easily extend your spine and sit and stand vertically with greater ease. It is also a great way to comfortably extend further into sphinx or cobra for those who practice yoga. It is 32' long and works well with lesson A16.
Price: $10.00
Hips, Heels and Shoulders (A16)
This lesson improves the organization of your shoulders and arms and integrates them with the movement of your back, ribs, head, and chest. It simultaneously works to lengthen the backs of your legs and integrate the use of your arms and shoulders with pelvis and legs. The lesson is 40' long.
Price: $10.00
Freeing Your Spine; Looking Up While Sitting (A17)
This lesson is done sitting in a chair and helps to integrate the movement of your head with your whole spine and pelvis. It is a wonderful way to free up your upper back, neck, and shoulders.
Price: $10.00
Freeing Your Spine; Side Bending While Sitting (A18)
This lesson is done while sitting in a chair and helps to integrate your spine, head, and pelvis by exploring side bending. It has a wonderful effect on posture and will change your experience of walking in unexpected ways.
Price: $10.00

 

BRINGING MOVEMENT TO YOUR STERNUM & RIBS
TO FREE YOUR BACK AND RELIEVE JOINT PAIN

Returning Movement to your Sternum (B1)
Restricted movement in your chest prevents movement of your ribs which often results in neck and lower back pain and dysfunctional use of the joints of the arms and legs. Returning movement to your sternum can open up locked up emotional experiences, so proceed with care.
Price: $10.00
On Side, Sternum Becoming Flexible (B2)
Freeing your sternum can help to reduce the stress on all your joints as it helps to distribute the stresses of movement throughout your skeletal system. It can also open locked-up emotional experiences, so proceed with care.
Price: $10.00
On Back, Twisting and Moving Your Sternum (B3)
This is a lesson recorded on 6/8/12. This is in many ways an easier lesson then the previous two and can help free the movement of your head, neck and pelvis, effecting how you stand, walk, and do most of the activities of life.
Price: $10.00
On Back, Twisting and Moving Your Sternum 2 (B4)
Restricted movement in your chest prevents movement of your ribs and spine which restricts breathing and soon results in neck and lower back pain and dysfunctional use of the joints of the arms and legs. This lesson is a variation of B3 and is a recording of a class on 10.17.14.
Price: $10.00

 

FREEING YOUR JAW, MOUTH & NECK

Tongue, Palate and Eyes (C1)
This lesson is a very safe and effective way to move into the process of freeing the movement of your jaw and neck.
Price: $10.00

Jaw, Neck, and Pelvis – Nodding Head (C2a)
This lesson integrates the movements of your jaw, neck, spine, and pelvis to free the movement of your jaw as it opens and closes.
Price: $10.00

Jaw, Neck, and Pelvis – Turning Head (C2b)
This lesson integrates the movements of your jaw, neck, spine, and pelvis to free the movement of your jaw as it moves from side to side.
Price: $10.00

The Relationship of Jaw, Tongue, Neck, and Pelvis (C3)
This lesson can help you bring attention to the movements of your jaw and tongue and how they relate to freedom of movement of your neck and pelvis.
Price: $10.00

Differentiating the Movements of the Face (C4)
Some of us hold a great deal of tension in our face – eyes, jaw, cheeks and mouth. This effects the movements of one’s neck and hips, which can result in a tight, sore neck and back as well as long term degradation of the joints of legs, hips, spine, neck, and shoulders. Freeing our face frees movement throughout our body.
Price: $10.00

Sucking (C7)
Coordinating the actions of sucking works to release lips, tongue, and jaw which in turn effects our necks and muscle tension in the deep belly and pelvic floor. It is well worth exploring.
Price: $10.00

Tongue, Teeth, Jaw and Sucking (C8)
This lesson continues from the last with further exploration of the relationship of tongue, teeth, jaw, neck, spine and pelvis through the actions of sucking. Please try it, if need be, in a room by yourself.
Price: $10.00


COORDINATING YOUR FEET, 
LEGS, PELVIS, & SPINE

Frog Legs (D1)
This is a great lesson to help integrate the movement of legs, spine, and hips.
Price: $10.00

Getting to Know the Hip Joints (D2)
This is a deceptively simple lesson that can be a great help in releasing tight ham strings to provide greater ease when standing or walking.
Price: $10.00

Spinal Chain; asymmetrical and rocking (D3)
We often forget that we are held up in gravity by the pressure of our feet against the ground; this lesson helps to re-establish our ability to press our feet against the ground and connects that pressure all the way through our skeleton.
Price: $10.00

Spinal Chain; Arms Reaching (D4)
This lesson helps find greater balance in standing and walking as well as integrating arm use. It provides the grounding that spinal chain brings as well as connecting movements of the upper back and neck to the reaching of one’s arms.
Price: $10.00

Painting with the Feet while on your Stomach (D5)
This lesson helps integrate movements of your legs and hips with movements of your spine and ribs.
Price: $10.00

Circling the Feet while on your Stomach (D6)
This lesson is similar to ‘Painting with the Feet’, with a bit different approach.
Price: $10.00

Toes and Feet (D7)
Doing this lesson can lead to the surprising discovery that bringing greater awareness to the movements of your toes and feet can lead to greater vitality and calmer energy.
Price: $10.00

Standing on Crossed Legs (D8)
A great lesson to help with balance and coordination. It also functions as a tonic for your entire organization for walking.
Price: $10.00

Hips and Trunk (D9)
A good lesson to integrate the movements of legs, spine, and hips. Before doing this lesson it is best to start with a less advanced lesson, like Frog Legs.
Price: $10.00

Hips and Trunk, Holding Knee (D10)
A continuation of D9, Hips and Trunk, this lesson brings a great deal of side bending and arching movement to your spine, helping to free the movements of sternum, ribs, pelvis and legs.
Price: $10.00

Straightening the Leg by Retreating the Hip (D11)
This lesson is done on your side and will help integrate the relationship of legs and spine. It can result in a great feeling of openness across the upper back.
Price: $10.00

Sexy Legs (D12)
This lesson frees the movement of your legs by increasing the range of motion of your sternum, upper back, shoulder blades and rib cage. Quite often we think of our legs as stopping at our hip sockets, which may be true ‘anatomically’ but isn’t true functionally. The more we sense the relationship of our legs and trunk the better integrated our movements will be.
Price: $10.00
Flexible Knees (D13)
Knee pain is often caused by restricted movement of one’s spine, ribs, abdomen, and sternum. This lesson frees movement in those areas so that your knees can move with greater ease. Take note that much of the lesson takes place on your hands and knees, if you have an issues with your wrists it might be best to choose another lesson.
Price: $10.00
On Stomach, Sole of Foot to Ceiling (D14)
This is a deceptively simple lesson and can have far reaching results, integrating your whole body simply by bringing attention to precise movements of your foot.
Price: $10.00
Spine Chain Rotating the Upper Back (D15)
This lesson will give you a much greater awareness of your upper back in the area between your shoulder blades and higher as well as bring greater freedom of movement to your ribs, sternum and spine.
Price: $10.00

 

FREEING YOUR BREATHING

SeeSaw Breathing (E1)
If you find that your breathe is shallow, or frequently find yourself holding your breathe, this lesson can be very helpful. It works with the parts of ourselves that move while we breathe. It does not teach a ‘right’ way of breathing, but creates the potential of breathing freely in all situations.
Price: $10.00
Radial Breathing (E2)
During periods of stress our breathing can be thrown off and lead to disconnected movement. This lesson helps connect movement with the action of breathing, reintegrating a way of breathing that is fundamental in all healthy movement.
Price: $10.00
Breathing Volumes (E3)
This lesson brings you in touch with the movements of breathing so that your nervous system becomes better able to adapt your breathing to whatever situation you find yourself in.
Price: $10.00
Breathing - Abdomen and Chest (E4)
This lesson is a good follow up to See Saw Breathing (E1). It works with the parts of ourselves that move while we breathe and explores breathing in different ways. It does not teach a ‘right’ way of breathing, but creates the potential of breathing freely in all situations. It is a recording of a class on 10/10/14.
Price: $10.00

 

IMPROVING YOUR USE OF ARMS & SHOULDERS

Arm and Shoulder Comfort (F1)
Distress in arms and shoulders usually comes from isolating arm and hand movements in one’s arms and hands – which though sounding logical works best in machinery. This lesson helps you learn to involve your whole body in movements of your hands and arms which leads to greater arm and shoulder comfort.
Price: $10.00
Sitting, Turning Around Hand (F2)
Another lesson that approaches the distress in arms and shoulders that can come from isolating arm and hand movements. This lesson is done sitting, preferably on a bench or a flat bottomed chair. It helps you learn to allow chest, ribs, spine, and sternum to move with the movements of your arms and hands.
Price: $10.00
Hand to Mouth, Mouth to Hand (F3)
This lesson uses the basic function of bringing your hand to your mouth to focus on how the neck, spine, and belly are involved in movements of the hand and arm. It can relieve tension in the upper neck and between the shoulder blades as well.
Price: $10.00
Working with the Dominant Hand (F4)
I first used this lesson to help people who had trouble sleeping – in fact, it’s a great lesson to do in bed, as the movements are fairly minimal. It can help calm your whole nervous system down while helping you learn better use of your hands, arms, and shoulders.
Price: $10.00
Reaching Through One Arm to Roll from Back to Side (F5)
This lesson is a recording of a class on 7/20/12. The recording starts a little late, so begin the lesson laying comfortably on your back noticing your sense of your legs, pelvis, and spine. The recording begins as you bring awareness to your sense of your arms. This lesson helps integrate the use of your arms with your shoulders, spine, pelvis, and legs and can have a great effect on how you integrate arm use with spine, pelvis and legs during your day. It will also help you learn to roll from back to side with greater ease. It is an advanced lesson, so if you choose to do it, be careful not to push!
Price: $10.00
On side, Primary Movements of the Shoulder(F6)
Many of us experience tension, reduced movement, and sometimes pain in our shoulders, collar bones, shoulder blades and upper arms. This lesson guides you through increasingly novel and complex movements that help to reorganize movement and unwind tension in shoulders and arms.
Price: $10.00
Sitting and Reaching with Mobile and Stable Scapula (F7)
Many people experience pain and tension around their shoulder blades, mid back and neck. Muscle strain and tension in this area is often caused by not stabilizing shoulder blades with functional use of the arms. This lesson helps you learn to stabilize your scapulae when using your arms to prevent strain. It is a good follow up to F6.
Price: $10.00
On Side, Circling the Arm (F8)
Integrating the movements of your arm and shoulder with your trunk and pelvis reduces the stress on your shoulders. This lesson will improve your use of your arms and shoulders and leave you feeling relaxed and supple in your whole body.
Price: $10.00

 

WALKING AND RUNNING

Integrating Movements of Head and Pelvis (G1)
This lesson is done sitting on a chair or stool and is from a class recorded on 8/24/12. Integration of the movements of your head and pelvis are essential for walking and running well. After doing the lesson begin to bring the movements you have explored into your movement as you walk and run - you'll be surprised at how much better you feel!
Price: $10.00

Legs, Hips, and Trunk (G2)
This lesson will help you integrate the movement of your legs with your pelvis and trunk, which will decrease the stress you place on your hips, knees, ankles and feet when walking and running. The lesson starts with some standing reference moves. The lesson is from a class recorded on 8/31/12.
Price: $10.00

Twisting to Integrate Head, Trunk, and Pelvis (G3)
This lesson helps to integrate the movement of your head, trunk and pelvis. Twisting is essential to walking and running with greater fluidity and ease and helps to decrease injuries. The lesson is a recording of a class on 9/14/12.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, Neck, and Pelvis, Turning Your Head (G4)
This lesson helps you learn to rotate your neck and head freely by differentiating the relationship of your eyes, neck, and pelvis. This is very important for walking and running because without this freedom in our neck we are unable to rotate our trunk and pelvis when we walk or run, which is essential for well integrated movement. It is a recording of a class on 9/28/12.
Price: $10.00

Additional lessons that will be very useful for walking and running:
Returning Movement to the Base of the Neck (A6)
Connecting Through the Diagonals (A7)

 

WORKING WITH YOUR VOICE

Equalizing the Nostrils (H1)
This lesson will not only change how you experience the tone, quality, timbre, and resonance of your voice but will help to open your sinuses and change how you experience your head organized over your spine. It can help people with jaw or neck tension, sinus problems, or be a way to change how you experience speaking. For this lesson you will need a chair and a place nearby to lay on the floor, and perhaps some kleenex as your nasal passages will be clearing. You will be toning out loud so be where you feel comfortable making sounds. (35')
Price: $10.00

Breathing and Modulating (H2)
In this lesson you learn different ways of breathing so your breathe flows easily and different ways to modulate sound so you can speak without straining. After doing it you will notice greater ease of breathing and speaking*.
Price: $10.00

*Breathing and Modulating (H2) is a variation of a lesson from a series called Vocal Integration with the Feldenkrais Method by Richard Corbeil, GCFP.  I highly recommend it – it can be purchased on line from Feldenkrais Resources.

 

FREEING YOUR EYES FOR BETTER VISION AND MOVEMENT

Open Focus, Open Attention (I1)
This is essentially a guided meditation that can bring you to a greater awareness of how you can see the world with different eyes. For some it can change a habit of isolation from the world and the anxiety that comes with that.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, neck and pelvis nodding head (I2)
This lesson is a recording of a class on 6-1-12. It integrates movement of the head with the pelvis and uses differentiated movements of the eyes to create greater freedom of movement of head, neck, and eyes.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, Head and Pelvis - Turning Head (I3)
This lesson helps you relax the muscles around your eyes and free the movement of your neck, back, and pelvis. It is a recording of a class on 1/11/13.
Price: $10.00

Rolling Hands and Palming Eyes (I4)
This is a very simple lesson but has a great effect on the integration of your upper back and shoulders with your spine and pelvis; and it leaves your eyes very relaxed. It is from a class on 1/18/13.
Price: $10.00

Eye, Head, and Pelvis Differentiation and Integration (I5)
This lesson helps you learn to differentiate the movements of your head and eyes which frees your eye movements, relax's your eyes, and releases upper back and neck tension. Many people report seeing with greater clarity and experiencing greater freedom of movement. From a class recorded on 1/25/13.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, Hands, and Breathing (I6)
This simple lesson can deeply relax your eyes and free the movement of your upper chest, back, and shoulders. It is from a class on 2/1/13.
Price: $10.00

Eyes, Palate, and Tongue (I7)
This lesson can bring deep relaxation to your eyes, sinuses, inside your mouth and your neck and upper back. It will show you clearly how habitual tension in these areas effects your movement and overall tension and provides a way to learn to release tension in these areas. It is a recording of a class on 2/8/13.
Price: $10.00

Sitting, Turning Eyes, Head and Shoulders (I8)
This lesson is done side sitting on the floor leaning on one hand with one knee bent to the front and the other to the back - if you think this would be uncomfortable or you have any problems with your low back it is fine to sit on the edge of a chair. The lesson can help free the movement of your neck, upper back, and ribs and is wonderfully relaxing for your eyes. It is a recording of a class on 2/15/13.
Price: $10.00

Rolling Hands and Palming Eyes (I4), Eyes, Palate, and Tongue (I7) and Eyes, Hands, and Breathing (I6) are variations of lessons from a series called “Seeing Clearly; A Feldenkrais Exploration of Vision” with David Webber, GCFP.  They can be purchased on line from Feldenkrais Resources.

 


Walking is with the Whole Body

By Andrew Wright

From the first time Robert walked into my office, his walking was quite distinctive. His mother had made the initial appointment as a birthday present for Robert—for his leg pain. Robert, who was 42, was using a four-pronged cane to aid him in his walk. Even with the use of a cane, each time he lifted his left leg to take a step, it seemed both difficult and precarious. It turned out that Robert had been born with Cerebral Palsy, and though he had led an active life, after a couple of falls over the last five years, he had started to use a cane when walking, and now couldn’t walk without it.

After three Functional Integration® lessons done in a variety of positions, mostly with Robert lying on his side or back, he said that his hip and leg were feeling quite a bit better. I could notice an increased ease in the movement of his left leg, and a general softening and a differentiation though out his back and chest. There was however only minor improvement in his walking. It seemed to me that the reason he could not lift his left leg very easily was not due to any problem with the leg, but because his pelvis was not shifting in a way that would free up the left leg to lift and swing forwards in order to take a step.

In the fourth lesson we looked at the role of his pelvis and spine in shifting his weight. Robert sat on my low table, and rested his arms on the high table. I sat behind him and helped him shift his weight from one buttock to the other. By placing my hands at various positions along his spine, I helped him sense how to integrate the movement of his spine with the movement of his pelvis. His pelvis started to move more freely. His left buttock, which initially barely budged from the table, suddenly lifted and moved as easily as the right. His head started to be more erect. Robert started to smile and to hum and to laugh. Something profound was happening for him, and I continued to structure the lesson to facilitate his progress. We also experimented with shifting the pelvis forwards and backwards and relating that movement to rounding and arching the back.

Forty-five minutes flew by, and then it was time to stop. Robert stood up. As usual, I handed him his cane. His walking was noticeably more fluid. His left foot lifted without difficulty. The ease and improvement Robert had achieved moving his pelvis while sitting had translated to an improvement in walking. He stopped and then he pushed his cane to the floor with a dramatic flourish, and started to walk unaided. I had some concerns—I didn’t want him to fall, but decided to go with it. With me following close behind, he set off. As I was relieved to see, he was doing fine, more than fine actually, and after a few halting steps, he was walking smoothly. It was a stunning shift. It seemed to be that he had put things together from this and previous lessons, which enabled him to coordinate his whole body so that he could once again balance and move freely when walking.

We had not talked about how he “should” walk, nor practiced any specific walking strategies. He knew when he was ready. I did advise him to continue to take the cane with him in case he needed it. We worked together a few more times, concentrating on movements that he could practice at home to continue his progress.

Many students receiving Feldenkrais® lessons make profound progress without such dramatic changes. But Roberts’s breakthrough does illustrate how changes to something as seemingly fixed as walking, are possible by improving the coordination of the body as a whole.

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT

Escaping Good Posture

By Annie R. Thoe

“I want to have good posture,” is a request I get from many of my clients. One client, Glen, was a magician who wanted to improve his posture. He said his posture looked menacing to people and he wanted to appear more friendly to his audience. I asked him why he thought he appeared menacing. He said that because of his nearsightedness, he frowned a lot and his hunched shoulders added to this sinister impression.

I asked him to walk around my office. Glen kicked his heels out in front of him when he walked and pushed himself forward, rolling onto the balls of his feet in a defiant manner. I couldn’t help but get the impression of a little boy when I looked at him. He appeared to be carrying some heavy weight on his back. I commented, “Gee Glen, it almost looks like you are carrying a backpack or something.”

He stopped in his tracks and said, “You know, my parents made me walk around the block with heavy rocks in my backpack to get in shape for Boy Scouts. I just hated it.” He went on to say how humiliating this was for him. The pack was too big for him and was quite painful to his shoulders. I could only imagine the physical and emotional pain he must have struggled with during that time in his life of being forced to do something he hated.

However, this was 10 to 15 years later, and he was still walking as if carrying this heavy backpack. I wondered what would give Glen the experience of walking without this imaginary weight? I tried a number of conventional lessons based on the Feldenkrais Method®. One day, Glen came in carrying a straightjacket that he used in his magic show routines for demonstrating escaping in less than two minutes. He asked me if we could do a lesson to help him improve his timing.

I had never given a “straightjacket” lesson before, but I thought, what a perfect tool to work with to “remove his backpack.” I asked Glen to get into the straightjacket, sit on a chair, and we began exploring how he escaped from the jacket. I had Glen notice what movements he made with his pelvis, his rib cage, and his head. I would gently hold one area to see how he could involve different parts of himself to become free in the jacket.

The jacket was a wonderful tool to show where he was free to move and where he was stuck. After 40 minutes of exploration, Glen said, “Do you think I could get out of this now?” He looked a little concerned and said, “I’m starting to get the creeps being in here so long.”

“Of course,” I said, and he was out of the jacket in a minute. Glen’s shoulders were very free and supple. I was so impressed with the lesson he had given himself with just a few little directions and constraints from me.

I had Glen walk, and he was so much looser, lighter and more confident. I told him how delighted I was with his straightjacket and how effective this jacket would be with other clients. “Do you think I could get one of these?” I asked him. “Oh, Annie,” he said, “I don’t think that would be a good idea, you might scare off clients.” “But look how great your posture is now,” I remarked. “This is a fabulous tool!”

I agreed with Glen that the public would not understand me using a straightjacket with clients, but I couldn’t resist trying on his jacket and exploring a few of the movements we did together.

The improvement of Glen’s posture was not about him learning to have a new fixed position of “better posture,” but more importantly, his learning to escape from fixation. He was no longer physically tied to the backpack his parents had strapped on him. Not only could he learn to quickly escape from this fixed position of posture, but he could escape in many different ways.

Good posture is not the perfect fixed position, but the ability to move in any direction. One might notice Houdini himself had great posture.

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT

A Dynamic Systems Approach:

A Revolutionary Perspective on Childhood Development Theory
By
Ann Harman, GCFP

For at least half a century, the prevailing idea of childhood development has been that the basic sequence of infant and child development, which includes learning to roll, reach, sit, creep, crawl, stand, and walk is genetically predetermined. The “normal” sequence, with only minor variations, is relatively consistent from one child to another. However, the dynamic systems approach developed by Esther Thelen brings an alternative viewpoint that challenges this established theory.

Part of the established theory is that developmental sequences are controlled by the maturation process of the brain. In this concept, there is a central controller in the brain (which has never been identified) that leads the infant through a process beginning with primitive reflexes. With maturation, the primitive reflexes are suppressed, and more mature movements develop.

One of these primitive reflexes is the stepping reflex. A young infant, when supported upright, makes stepping movements that appear to be a precursor to walking. This reflex disappears after about two months, supposedly due to the maturation of the brain.

Dr. Thelen, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Indiana University, noticed that babies older than two months make kicking movements, while lying on their backs, that resemble the stepping reflex. She became curious and did an experiment of supporting the infant in a tub of water, so that gravity was less of a factor. The stepping reflex returned! Then she took infants who still had a stepping reflex, put weights on their legs, and saw that the stepping reflex was inhibited! She theorized that the stepping reflex was not inhibited by the maturation of the brain, but by the weight of the infant’s legs. (Babies double their weight within six months of birth, and a two-month old normally has a great deal of fat on the legs.) This was only one in a series of experiments done by Thelen and her colleagues that brought doubts to established theories of development.

Dr. Thelen also observed that the developmental sequences of children are more variable than was previously believed. Yet, almost all children arrive at certain milestones such as crawling, standing, and walking, although by way of different routes. She theorized that certain movements are “attractors”, but the paths to these attractors are variable. Children are drawn to these attractors, but each finds his or her own pathway through trial and error. In other words, the process depends more upon experimentation, curiosity, and learning than was previously thought.

Eventually, Dr. Thelen summarized the system by which children learn by the acronym EVASO:

E: Explore

V: Variations: Experiment with variations in moving.

A: Attend to how new systems self-organize.

S: Select patterns that are better

O: Optimize for functional effectiveness and movement quality.

When Dr. Thelen was exposed to the Feldenkrais Method® of movement education, she was astounded to find that this system not only used these principles of infant learning, but also applied them in a practical manner to adult education and rehabilitation, and was already well-established and developed! She undertook the four-year training to become a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner(cm). If it had not been for her untimely death from cancer, she would have retired from research to apply these principles in the context of a Feldenkrais® Practice.

When we think of early childhood learning, this is the period of life in which learning is faster than at any other time. A newborn has a very limited movement capacity, does not know language, and cannot even recognize what s/he sees or hears. Within a few years, the child learns to identify sights and sounds, walk, run, climb, and speak the native language. This is a truly amazing amount of learning that happens within a few years, and this rate of learning slows in later life. (In fact, past concepts of maturation have included the idea that maturity means having learned all that we need to know!)

Does this evoke your interest about how to learn better and faster? To learn by using curiosity, and to explore and choose elegant solutions? If so, consider studying the Feldenkrais Method.

Ann Harman is an osteopathic physician as well as a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner.

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT

Neuroplasticity and The Feldenkrais Method®

By Eileen Bach-y-Rita, GCFP

Your brain loves to learn. In fact it thrives on acquiring new skills such as playing a musical instrument, learning a new dance or a new language. Your brain also thrives when engaged in an inner awareness activity, like meditation or a Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® lesson.

In order to learn anything, you need to focus and pay attention to the task at hand. You need to move slowly and deliberately and think about what you are doing when learning a new motor skill. Without this focus and attention, you wouldn’t acquire the new skill, or deepen knowledge in the field of your choice. The focus on and practice of these new activities causes the brain to morph, to grow new connections between billions of cells, and to create new motor and sensory-motor maps for each new activity. Even when you pretend that you are moving, visualizing your movements in your mind, brain changes can be measured and seen in PET scans. Your brain’s ability to change itself is called “neuroplasticity.” It allows brain cells and nerves to change their appearance and function, to grow, shrink, connect, disconnect and re-connect to each other in entirely new ways, to exchange duties and functions, to use unexpected parts of the brain for novel tasks, and to be malleable and accessible to new needs as they arise during an experience-driven life.

Science has shown that the brain is not only capable of this rich and surprising re-organization but that it also produces new neurons throughout our life. It was thought, until 1998, that we were born with billions of brain cells that would die off as we got older, and that no new cells would ever be born. In fact we are born and we die with millions of unused, unformed stem-cells in our brain. The potential for birthing these cells into live neurons exists throughout our life-time, pushing the boundaries of what we previously thought possible, especially in the fields of health and the recovery from injuries and illnesses.

Two scientists from very different fields thought the brain was capable of much more than it was given credit for, and set out to prove it in their own ways. The first was Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc, (1904-1984), a mechanical engineer, physicist and Judo martial artist, who taught himself how to walk again in the 1940’s, after a serious knee injury and against all odds.

Through his own self generated exploratory learning process, he created an elegant and economical system of focused attention and unique movements that led thousands of individuals to overcome the results of accidents, illness and disabilities. He would not have succeeded if the brain wasn’t plastic. His novel movements were sequential, a property which has been shown to stimulate plasticity in the brain; they required attention, which has also been shown to change the brain, and they reproduced the complex non-linear strategies that are involved in our motor development from birth through age ten, which lead the brain to self-organize and spontaneously produce higher levels of organization and skill. Moshe inferred the plasticity of the brain from his voracious readings in the fields of health and sciences, his common sense and his observations of infants and small children learning to move. The concept remained unproved until he met another scientist, Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, in the late 1970’s.

Paul Bach-y-Rita, Ph.D, M.D. (1934-2006), a neuro-physiologist, was convinced of the plastic properties of the brain long before it was possible to prove that they existed, and long before neuroplasticity was a respected field of brain research.  Paul “…was in many ways the father of the idea of neuroplasticity.”

I met Paul in 1960, five years before he proved that the brain can substitute one missing sense for another. He shared his hunch about sensory-substitution the day we met and I was hooked. We were married between 1960 and 1976. During that time I witnessed his experiments first-hand. After his father recovered from a devastating stroke, Paul decided to study plasticity in brain-injured individuals. I started to help him in his work, first by designing a recovery program for brain injured individuals who had been diagnosed as “permanently paralyzed” by their doctors, and soon after, by leading the program myself.  We remained friends and colleagues throughout his life.

I met Moshe in 1977, 30 years before research in neuroplasticity would show that the act of thinking, as well as the act of imagining movement and feelings, changes the brain and produces new measurable skills and results.  Moshe’s movements and hands-on approach to learning reproduced the conditions we all experienced as infants. We taught ourselves how to move, experiencing and developing movement as a sense, along with all our other senses which were developing concurrently: hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting.

Paul Bach-y-Rita’s experiment in sensory substitution followed earlier experiments during which he proved that all sensory cells have the capacity to respond to every incoming sensory stimulus. His work disproved the theory that auditory cells are only used for sound reception, visual cells can only respond to light and shapes and colors, and the skin and its sensory receptors are only used for touch. Another of his experiments proved that you don’t even need brain cells connecting in synaptic patterns to allow an electrical spike from cell A to arrive to cell B. Even after lesions in the brain destroyed thousands of cell nuclei or groups and destroyed their communication loops, one cell’s electrical output would and could travel very slowly through the fluid in the brain and cause a response far from the original cell, at a much longer delay than usual.  He called this brain property volume transmission. The implications of these results in neural plasticity were neither recognized nor applied in the various fields of science and rehabilitation in the late 1970’s early 80’s except in the case of the Feldenkrais Method, and in the two pilot projects in stroke and head injury recovery that I designed and led for Paul between 1975 and 1978. In fact, until the 1990s, “neuroplastic research was considered of little interest by other scientists.”

Finally, In 2004 Paul set up a pilot project using Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons as the primary modality for global functional recovery after long-term head injury. The program was held at a resort and also included the daily use of a computer pong game which he had developed for stroke victims and lots of time off to rest and play.

I led the pilot in Florida in 2004.  Six people participated. They had all been discharged from physical therapy centers at least a year before coming to us, and given no hope for future recovery. The group met for two weeks. I led the participants through the developmental sequences of the Feldenkrais Method, for an hour, twice a day and taught them how to imagine the movements that were too difficult or impossible to do at first. Every person there relearned at least two if not several motor skills and reduced or eliminated pain that had been present since their head injuries. The participants also expressed gratitude for the new awareness they had gained of how their bodies moved and felt.

For Moshe Feldenkrais, recognition for his brilliant pioneering work has been late in coming. Most of the research that validates his work was published after his death in 1984. His is an idea whose time has finally come….

Condensed excerpt from Eileen’s upcoming book: “Neuroplasticity and the Feldenkrais Method®.

Unfettered Movement offers Awareness Through Movement® & Functional Integration® Feldenkrais Method® in Colorado & at Peak Peformance PT