Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Where are the hip joints

A chapter from
Up: Improving Mood, Posture, Sex, Sleeping, Thinking, Backs
and Saving the World

This time we’ll go to both hip joints. We’ll be approaching them, with our awareness and our movement, in a number of directions. So, as usual, get out the timer, figure out the directions, and then click on and explore for at least 11 minutes.
Can you do more?
Can you do this several times a day?

16.1. On back, feet standing, rounding and arching your back. This we did on one side in the last lesson, and you almost can’t do a slow and aware rounding of your back too often. In a chair, in the car, on a seat of a bicycle, or on your back in bed, or on the floor: this is great for our backs, our pelvis (and hence sex, to say nothing of most coordinated activities that involve the top and bottom halves of our bodies), and our breathing and ribs. To make the floor comfortable you’ll probably want a thick blanket or mat to lie on, or outside on grass or a deck, this could be nice, too.

16.2. Rest and notice how your back rests on the floor/ ground. Now do the same movement as above. Round and arch your back, so you feel your lower back coming to the floor, and then lifting up from the floor. Notice how your legs stay more or less fixed as this movement takes place, so it is your pelvis moving forward and back. Where is this happening? The hip joints. See if you can notice them in there. Where are they? Focus on the right hip joint, the left hip joint and then both. As always, rest before the next section.

16.3. Sit up and hold one arm in front of you, exploring what a joint is. Here’s the thing: one arm out in front of you about chin height with your palm facing down. Try two movements: one, move the tips of the fingers up and down, but keep the forearm straight and horizontal. So, notice, one side moves, the hand, one side stays still, the arm. Where does this happen? A joint. Now, bring everything straight again, and keep the hand from moving and the wrist stable, and let the elbow rise and fall. This might require holding the hand with the other hand, if it doesn’t want to cooperate and stay steady. But again, same joint, different movement.

16.4. Down on back again, legs standing, lift one knee at a time and study for the hip joint. Now, the pelvis stays relatively stationary and the leg bone, the big femur bone we call the thigh moves. Poke around a bit in the rear end area and see if you can discover where there is movement, that’s the leg, and where it is stable: that’s the pelvis. Do one side at a time. Occasionally alternate with the 16.3 movement of pelvis moving with the back arching and rounding, for a contrast, again with hands exploring: what is moving, what is staying put? As always rest between. In the rests, let your legs go long. Be still and aware.

16.5. On back once more, legs standing, tilting legs. Again, one at a time, tilt your legs at the knee, tilting in and out, and explore just where this reveals your hip joint as your leg moves and your pelvis stays stationary. After doing both legs, again alternate with 16.3. And then rest.

16.6. On back, soles of feet together, arch and round your back. If your soles won’t quite touch, get them at least in that direction. Tilt and untilt your pelvis so your back lifts from the floor/ground and comes back down. Notice and discover all you can about your hip joints, now once more the pelvis is mainly the mover and the legs are mainly the unmoving.

16.7. On back, feet standing, try for this, the pelvic clock. Go slow, because this can be a whole lesson in itself, but sensing where the pelvis is pressing into the ground/ floor, push the top part down (lower back to floor), and then the right side, and then the lower part of the pelvis into the ground/ floor (lower back coming up from floor), and then the left side pressing in. Go slowly. Enjoy. Get the idea of the round movement, and then go back to discovering where the hip joints are. Rest.

16.8. Pelvic clock again, other direction. Come to feet standing, and first visualize and imagine going to the opposite direction of circle with your pelvis. Enjoy this imagining, visualizing. Now, do the movement. Notice what you left out in your visualization. Stop, rest and visualize again. Then do it again, once more noticing what you left out. And so on, until you’ve had enough. Rest.

16.9. If any more time remains in the eleven minutes, do more pelvic clocks.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stress, Learning and the Feldenkrais Method®

happy ganesh
Stress, Learning, and the Feldenkrais® Way

Life is a bowl of cherries, if you are a bowl filled with cherries. Otherwise there are elements of learning that at first might seem “stressful,” and yet, once learned, are a sweet and ongoing part of life. For example, we come out of the womb, and the air thing: new. Stress. Lungs don’t know how to breathe air. If we don’t breathe air we die. New situation. Luckily we don’t have cell phones to call up another baby and complain how stressed out we are. Instead, we handle it, learn to breathe, and another Life begins, the life in air.

So what is “stress” anyway? Well, we all know that it’s “bad,” because when people say, “I’m so stressed,” they imply that they are in a tense and worried and poorly functioning place. And yet, if the stress of breathing in air had not presented itself and been solved, we’d all need to keep the umbilical cord with us. Not a pleasant way to live.

Okay, let’s resort to the dictionary. Well, maybe not. The first couple of meanings are along the lines of emphasis, “I’d like the stress that….” Or where we put the oomph in a paragraph, sentence or musical line. Finally, though, in physics, stress is “An applied force or system that tends to strain of deform a body.” And then the last definition in my dictionary: “A mentally or emotionally disruptive or disquieting influence.”

As part of this life out of the womb, we swim in three oceans: gravity, air, and light. The gravity ocean takes us longest to figure out: how the heck can we move around on two little feet and this long tall cylindrical body, with a big heavy head thing at the top? This is a stressful situation, having a human body in an ocean of gravity. Most of us handle this, often stopping our learning when we’ve gotten the mere basics of walking from chair to bed to feeding trough to automobile, but we know how to move in gravity. Sort of.

And if we step off a curb and aren’t paying attention, or suffer a stroke, or are born with some neurological limitation, the gravity thing can be more than we can handle.

So we start life in stress, handle it, and have the stress of a long tall top-heavy body in gravity, and sort of handle it, and then life keeps throwing challenges our way. Is this stress or opportunity? Well, having to learn a second language in ten minutes might be stressful. Have three months in a new country in which to immerse ourselves and learn, an opportunity.
What to wear to the party you don’t want to go to: stress , opportunity? How to build up a new business? How to learn to ski when you are over sixty? How to live with the loss of a loved one, either through death or divorce?

When the Oakland fire of 1989 roared through the hills and destroyed thousands of home there were two reactions. One, was what you’d expect, “Lost everything. Devastating. All the family photos. Years of work and memories.” And so on. The other was rather more charming: “Wow, I was dreading cleaning that back room and the garage, and now I don’t have to do it. This is a great chance to start over.”

And so stress seems at least in part in the eye of the beholder.

And if seen right, small doses of stress are exactly what we need as human beings that want to expand and grow and thrive in our lives. Interestingly enough, and not surprising for a system developed by a physicist deeply interested in judo and the biology of living systems, the Feldenkrais Method® could be called the intelligent application of small and useful stress to break old habits, discover new ways of moving, being and thinking.

So, for example, we could turn our heads to the left and see how far we turned, and with what ease. This is a useful skill when driving a car, the ability to look behind ourselves to the left. If we then turned our head halfway to the left, picked something to look at there, and then began to move our nose to the right of that point and our eyes to the left, and then brought nose and eyes back to this reference point, and then took our eyes to the right and nose to the left of this point, and so on, back and forth, this movement, if we haven’t done it before might seem “stressful.”

And if we slowed down our efforts, and took rests, and allowed ourselves to do this in little smaller bits, we might find ourselves learning something we didn’t know we could do. And then as this head and nose in opposition thing became easier, the stress feeling might completely dissolve and a feeling of ease and expansion might appear.

If we once again look to the left, and allow our eyes to go in synch with our nose, we might discover that turning to the left has become easier. Stress set us up to learn.

(There is more to this lesson, as many of you know: try turning to the left with your hands each hugging the opposite shoulder, and spend a little time with the stress of practicing moving your hugged shoulders to the left while you head goes to the right. Or: push out your belly and arch your back and roll a little forward on your pelvis and alternate that with slumping forward and pulling in your belly and looking down. Then look left again.)

So, we are designed to learn, and often avoid the opportunity, and if we are smart and/or lucky we will set up challenges to stress/ expand our lives. And strangely and wonderfully enough: each time we do this, we get less “stressed” out about almost everything.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Walking again



To walk is part of the miracle
of being human
in a planet where gravity
is one of the big three
along with sunlight, and air.

This is who we are,
long tall creatures,
ready to fall forward,
again, and again,
and if we stick one foot after another
out to catch us,
it's called walking.

Walking is fun,
and it's good for us.
Personally, I'm not that fond of walking on concrete
and asphalt,
my feet are softies
or spoiled by years working in a garden I created,
where I made the paths as moisture retaining
and weed supressing areas by
using cardboard covered with woodchips.

I like to walk on grass and sand
and dirt
and even gravel.

And that's my preference.

Be that as it may,
some people say that walking is the best exercise,
and I might agree.

It's certainly the best for remembering this:
we live in gravity, air and light.
Feet pushing off against the earth,
skeleton holding us up in gravity,
air coming into our lungs,
eyes up top,
scanning the world,
hopefully bringing in some beautiful impressions.

This is walking.

Walking is also great for a spinal
Walk a bit and pay attention:
the top half (or so) of your spine rotates one way
and the lower half the other way.
Shoulders one way,
pelvis the other.
This is good,
this gives us power,
this gives us grace.

This also stabilizes us,
because when we bring one foot forward,
the weight of that leg going forward needs to be
balanced by something going back,
which would be our hip,
and that would make walking awkward,
to say the least.
So the shoulder goes back on the side
the leg goes forward, and that keeps the hip stable.

So when you see people naturally swinging their
arms with great flair
as they walk,
they are doing what we are designed to do.

Then again,
some really flail at the air thing
and turn walking into a huff and puff kind
of thing.
Well, that's their kick,
and it's probably good for the old cardio

Though, when people talk cardio,
I can't help but think of the New Yorker cartoon,
where one hamster, spinning wheel in the background,
is explaining to another hamster:
"For my workout, I like to do two hours of cardio,
and then four hours of cardio,
and then another two of cardio."

La, la..

So, what are contenders with walking for

Well, swimming and

Notice both these are in the fish world,
the horizontal world.

The earlier world in our evolution.

Sex is kind of like the dolphin
swimming, lots of nice undulations in the spine.

Swimming can be the dolphin, again the undulations,
but more tiring that sex with les the perks,
or it can be frog fun
with the breast stroke,
or some nice lenghtening and stretching and
strengthening all of us at once in
the Australian crawl or the backstroke.

Problems with swimming and me:
again, I want salt water
or a clear lake of river.
This chorine swimming,
or swimming laps,
ah, here come the hamsters in my mind.

Oh, well.

Anyway: you might have another favorite exercise.

can also be a fine meditation.
Which foot is touching the ground,
and where is our breath:
coming in or out.
What are we taking in with our
eyes as we notice which foot and
which way the air.

That's a lot.

Life often
gets richer
and richer
when we can do a lot
with our attention,
lighting up our awareness,

of NOW.

as I wrote in the last walking essay:
you are a miracle, and walking is a miracle, and learning and awareness can make both miracles even better.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Walking, a miracle we usually take for granted

rotated blossoms

Most of us can walk. If we can’t walk easily, or suddenly have trouble, we realize how precious is this skill that so many take for granted. To walk on two feet, circus tigers and trained bears aside, is a uniquely human ability.

This ability is amazing. Try, as I often say, to make a sculptural model of a human being, two little feet way down there holding up this long body. It will topple unless you give the statue a huge pedestal base, or put a staff in the model’s hands. Then, with the kind of huge feet we don’t have (the pedestal solution), or with three legs (the staff solution), the model can stay up.

But, two feet are unstable. That means: a huge increase in mobility. It also means walking is easier than standing (we don’t need to go into that now, but think of it this way: since we are inherently unstable, falling forward from one foot to the next and that being what our walking is, is more what we are designed to do that stand stable on these two small feet of ours). It means that even walking is much more complicated than we realize, again until we have trouble, or if we have a neurological condition that makes the enormous learning which walking requires even more difficult, cerebral palsy or stroke for example.

So, how can the Feldenkrais Method and the Anat Baniel Method and Wake Up Feldenkrais come to our aid in improving our walking.

The same way these all come to our aid in improving almost any movement, or pattern of thinking, or even emotional state.

One, slowing down, we can start to discover what we take for granted. Two, with awareness, we begin to find connections and possibilities. Three, by going on a search instead of just cranking out the usual, we train ourselves to appreciate what we have and what might be possible.

So, just to walk more slowly (or rapidly, actually, a change from the habitual always helps see the habitual) we can begin to focus on just what IS this walking thing?

Elusive obvious: one foot is holding us up, while the other one swings forward.

Slow that down. Pick a stable foot and let the other foot go forward as if you are stepping forward. Which part of the moving forward foot will come to the ground first. When does the knee bend in this m.f. (moving forward) foot? Where does the swing in our hips come from? Where are our hips? Does this side of the pelvis roll forward or backward as the m.f. leg moves forward?

Reverse the usual. Now practice taking the m.f. backward, so it is a m.b. leg and foot, moving backward leg and foot. What can we discover about our hip joint here? What part of our foot touches first when we walk backwards? Which part of our middle helps this, our back muscles or our stomach muscles?

And now, begin to walk a bit around a room, or outside in some pleasant and interesting place. Notice the tendency of your arms. When your left leg comes forward, which arm likes to come forward? Try both possibilities: left leg forward and left arm forward, and left leg forward and right arm forward.

Walk some more and pay attention, one at a time, to your right hip, your right shoulder, your left hip, your left shoulder. What can you learn about walking from this?

Sit in a chair and “walk” forward and backward on that chair by lifting one sit bone and then the other and moving forward to the front edge, and then back to the back of the chair. As if your butt had two feet at the sit bones, “walk” back and forth and see what this call forth in your spine.

Will all this improve your walking?


Will it help you understand how much more there is to learn about this amazing activity? Hopefully.

And another way to improve walking? Come to the mat discovery lessons, whether called Awareness Through Movement, or Transformation Movement Lessons, these lessons, usually on the ground and OUT of gravity, allow our brain to discover aspects and relationships that we might never find under that gravity and balance demands of normal walking.

SEE Current Classes and Workshops

So you are a miracle, and walking is a miracle, and learning and awareness can make both miracles even better.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Waking Up and Feldenkrais

This moment comes once
and is gone.
We are here and awake to notice that,
or we are missing in action,
or missing in inaction.
Either way, if we are missing the moment,
our life is going on,
and we are not there with it.

To be awake is so simple and yet so
from how we mostly live our lives.
It is as easy as the slightest shift,
to noticing how we are sitting, standing or lying right now,
to noticing how we are breathing right now,
to noticing the five lines of two arms and two legs and one spine,
to noticing the ways we push against gravity,
to noticing the reflected light in the world
coming into our eyes and the sounds coming into our ears.

That shift, and these and
in its many other forms and possibilities,
is our birthright, our challenge, our gift.

The Feldenkrais work,
by allowing us to slow down
and actually put our attention on small movements, or sometimes large,
and by allowing the rests between the movements,
and by encouraging an attitude of experimentation rather than “getting it done,”
and by again and again playing with
variations that trick (wake) us into
paying attention
to something that before we took for granted,
all these aspects are a wonderful and
waiting training ground to
the opening of awareness.

As the lessons are called,
we have a chance to develop our
Awareness through Movement.

But not donkey movement.
Not crank it out exercise movement.
Not struggle and rush movement.
No, movement that is going to bring learning,
which is to say,
movement that is going to create
opportunities for us to change
and transform
and get more flexible
in our minds and our whole lives,
this movement has to call upon
and live in awareness.

So, at any moment
we can wake up,
and usually we don’t.
A Feldenkrais lesson is a chance
to open up to the pleasure
and expansiveness
of being awake to each moment.
It’s a question of living a life,
or being taken through one by…..?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Weight Loss and Wake Up Feldenkrais

river gang
We can move and stay overweight.
We can be aware some of the time and stay overweight.
We can’t, however, be aware while we eat and stay overweight.

To be aware while we eat is
to feel the weight of the spoon or fork or chopsticks
in our hand,
the weight before the food is on and after.
To be aware is to sense our arm
and hand
as we bring the food to our mouth.
To be aware is to chew, slowly,
and taste each bite, not just the first bite of of each mouthful.

To be aware while eating usually means
a lot less talking than those who eat publicly,
and no reading nor television watching
for those who eat alone.

To be aware while eating calls for
putting down the chopsticks or spoon or fork while chewing.
To wait a bit after the bite is finished being chewed and swallowed.

To be aware while eating means this:
we can sense our bottoms on the chair while we eat,
and notice what we are seeing while we eat,
and follow our breathing while we eat.

And with all this awareness,
to notice when we have had enough is no great shakes.
We chew a bite, enjoy, stop, breathe,
how nice that food is making us feel.
Chew another, and more pleasure and noticing.

Taking breaks between each bite to set down our utensils,
and to breathe and to sense our bellies and our posture,
we will discover ourselves easily aware
when pleasure starts to slip over into stuffing ourselves.

Then we take a deep breath, get up from the table,
wash the dishes and go about our lives.

If we panic between meals,
because some slight hunger
comes that we aren’t used to because we haven’t stuffed ourselves,
we can do the Work of Byron Katie
on: “I have to eat something right now.”
If we find out that this isn’t true,
we can keep breathing and
a nice space of time, three or four hours between meals.

I could write another essay on
what to do with the pretend hunger between meals,
but I’ll say this for now:
find something physical to do,
and do it slowly and with awareness.
This could be
tai chi,
golf practice,
Awareness Through Movement® lessons,
some version of dance we know
or are inventing,
almost anything with awareness and pleasure,
ride a bike,
putter in the garden,
sweep the sidewalk,
walk the dog,
go for a run (pleasure run, not kill yourself run),
lie down and invent some movements,
do the five rhythms movements,
belly dance,
pretend to belly dance,
take a walk,
take a walk,
take a walk.

With awareness.
Sense the pleasure of being alive.

We can learn to
wait until our next meal to eat
and it doesn’t need to bother us a bit
if we are doing pleasurable and useful activities
such as those mentioned above and
then there is always gardening.
Nothing like some puttering outdoors
to heal the mind and calm the spirit.

When we eat out of emptiness the solution is simple:
fill ourselves with awareness and love of life.

I offer coaching on weight loss,
if you wish assistance. Please see:
Fitness and Weight Loss

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Not Knowing: Good Food for our life

bridge to ???
Not Knowing

When we do the Byron Katie work, a big conclusion is :”I don’t know.” The first question asks: Is it true? And the answer is often: I don’t know.

If we truly live in the present, what the future is going to be: I don’t know.

Brendan remembered from a book on Leonardo diVinci that one of his abilities was to live in the state of, you guessed it: I don’t know.

About Moshe Feldenkrais, it has been said that he had a huge tolerance for ambiguity. He didn’t need to know. He loved not knowing, that meant he got to attempt to learn something.

With a client in WakeUp Feldenkrais and the Anat Baniel Method, we don't have to know the specific outcomes. That is impossible. But we try lots of variations, to create some outcome, some change, some (maybe even radical) opening of possibilities. If we try something and it "doesn't work," great, we are in the I don't know state: we try something else.

Always something to learn, for ourselves and our clients.

A lot like a real relationship, and keeping love alive.

About life: the “such and such is too hard” story often gets undone and dissolves, with the Work, into a state of excited curiosity: I don’t know how to do this YET, and what am I going to do to learn what I don’t know yet.

What I don’t know yet, is the field of potential glories of my life to come.