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How are habits formed? How useful are they to us?

The Feldenkrais Method® is largely about examining our habits so we can learn new ways of doing what we want to do. It is only through reflection and review that we can decide if a habit is useful or if it requires rethinking.

Much of what we do in our lives is habitual, and much of the time these habits serve us well. But if we carefully take stock of what we are doing and are open to changing some of our regular patterns, we can learn a lot and often make some positive changes.

That is what we do in our Awareness Through Movement® classes and in individual Functional Integration® lessons. We repeat movement sequences and with each repetition we examine another element of the movement, or we look to do it in a different way or we try to incorporate another part of our body in the movement.

So what does this have to do with chocolate? We all know that chocolate is a good thing, especially if we eat the good kind (full disclosure, I prefer only very dark chocolate), and if we only have a little at a time (when you eat good dark chocolate you only need one piece at a time).

A few years ago I wrote a blog post on the benefits of the Feldenkrais Method and chocolate.

Also a few years ago,  one of my students brought a special chocolate bar to the Wednesday evening class. It was this brand, “galerie au chocolat“, but in a sea salt flavour. Then a few weeks later someone else brought in a bar and we tasted it after class.

Slowly a tradition, or habit started. Chocolate crept into all the classes (at the Feldenkrais Centre Vancouver, sorry those of you attending at the JCC), and most recently even during the morning class. Every so often someone shows up with a new type or flavour to try. This cinnamon flavour was imported from Montreal by a keen student and was loved by all. We have tried chocolate from Iceland, Ireland, Norway and all parts in between.

So if you are not ready to come to a Feldenkrais class to learn something new about yourself and how you move, come to learn about chocolate!

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Now that we have changed to Daylight Savings time it seems that Spring received the message and is slowly making its appearance, at least in the Lower Mainland (all bets are off east of here)! 

With Spring comes the promise of light, growth and rebirth.

I crave natural light; the dark days of November and December make me crazy.

This year I did two things to mitigate the constant darkness. We bought a light box that we have sitting on our kitchen table. Each morning when we drink our coffee and glance at the newspapers we turn it on and hope that some ultraviolent light penetrates into our eyes. Unfortunately I don’t sit for the recommended 30 minutes so who knows what good it is doing.

My second strategy was to go to San Diego for 4 days in early December for the express purpose of seeing the  sun.  The temperatures hovered to 20 C during the day and we had glorious sun for most of the 4 days (we arrived the evening of the biggest rain storm of the year, but it was mostly over by the time we got there).  Our excursions included hikes, walks along the beach, sightings of seals and sea lions and a day at the famous zoo.
This picture, of a cactus plant with the red fruit on top, is my favourite from the trip. Those fruit are called either prickly pear or tuna.

This Spring I have a lot of personal events to be grateful for: my
father’s 90th birthday, my niece’s graduation from university and a good friend’s daughter’s wedding.

I continue to love teaching my amazing students how to pay attention to how they are moving so that their daily lives can be easier and more fulfilling. My students and I are continually blown away by what we learn to enable us to live our lives as we wish to.

I invite you to join us in classes, workshops, or book your private session, to work toward your goal of living your avowed dreams and to learn how to do so with ease and pleasure.

My best wishes to you and yours for a great Spring of sun, growth, lots of flowers, and rebirth.

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A lot of us have recurring neck and shoulder pain, often from how we sit or how we are hunched over our mobile devices.

I often remark that we don’t want to wear our shoulders as earrings, meaning that sometimes we raise them so high they are almost glued to our ears. If our shoulders are hiked up not only does it affect the comfort and range of motion in the neck, but also impacts the face including the mouth, jaw and teeth.

We need to take the weight off the shoulders.

It is not always easy to “unglue” or unweight our shoulders. The advice we were given as children and teens to stand up straight and pull our shoulders back doesn’t work for more than a few seconds or minutes.

Can you imagine having a free neck and loose enough shoulders to be able to carry a toddler like the woman in the photo?

DO YOU WANT TO LEARN HOW TO AVOID CHRONIC JAW, NECK AND SHOULDER PAIN?

By attending our first workshop of  2019 you will learn to do so. We will explore the relationships and connections of the jaw, neck and shoulders. You will learn how to ease tension to have freer and more flexible movements so that you can engage in your activities in an easier and less painful way.

The Free your jaw, neck and shoulders workshop is on Saturday January 12, 2019. Here is more information and registration details.

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Finally, support for my constant refrain that HOW is more important than how much. Especially when it comes to sitting.

One of the ways I explain the Feldenkrais Method is that “we learn how to use our bodies more effectively.” We focus on the process rather than the goal.

It was great to hear and read an NPR piece describing recent research and the work of practitioners (unfortunately Feldenkrais trained practitioners were not mentioned) focusing on helping people learn how to sit to prevent back issues. The research cited looks primarily at a modern group of hunter-gatherers, the Hadza, in Tanzania.  The researcher found that they spend about 10 hours a day in “resting postures” and they compare it to the average sitting time of Americans of 9-13 hours per day. What they don’t discuss however is that we all sit on some form of a chair whereas the hunter-gatherers likely don’t sit on our typical North American style chairs.

I, and others, have written of the deleterious effects of too much sitting. Many clients ask me about buying particular types of chairs. I always respond it is not the chair but how you use it and how you organize your whole body to sit more comfortably and with support that matters.

Many of us sit in a slouched position with our spine curved like the letter C that can lead to back problems because of pressure on the disks between the vertebrae of the spine. Learning to sit with an elongated back without putting pressure on the neck and with the head aligned over the spine is what we are after.

If we focus on the art of sitting our ability to sit for longer periods of time is easier. Not that we want to though!

It just so happens that one of our fall Feldenkrais workshops is Sitting with Comfort (October 28) and another is Perfect your Posture (November 24).  All our fall workshops and classes are already registering.  Please click on the links for more information and to register.

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The world is in turmoil.

This week we learned of the suicides of two celebrities: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Suicide is a difficult subject to talk about, the silver lining of these tragic deaths is that there has been more talk this week. While approximately 10 people take their lives each day in Canada, it is only when well known people die by their own hand that there is more open discussion  about how we might help people in deep pain. This week I read a few good articles and heard radio interviews which stressed how important is to reach out to people we think might be in difficultly and ask them how we can help and if they are thinking of ending it all. There are many resources out there, here is the link to the BC Crises Centres.

It was also the week of the election of a populist candidate for premier of Ontario that has the rest of the country talking and wondering how it will all play out. Ant the upcoming summit of the leaders of the US and North Korea.

How can we as individuals maintain balance amidst all this upheaval? 

Staying grounded is not easy but taking care of ourselves is critically important.  We know that our mental health and physical health are intertwined. One goes with the other.

The Feldenkrais Method® is not focused solely on physical health or movement disorders but teaches us how we can take care of ourselves, how we can move about the world with more ease and comfort and how we can live to our full potential.  We can learn to have better balance to face the craziness that the world brings.

We are doing just that at the Feldenkrais Centre Vancouver. Our last workshop of the season is aptly named Better Balance. It takes place on Saturday June 23, 10 am – 1 pm. There are a few spots remaining, please email vita@feldenkraisvancouver.com if you are interested.

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Now there is more evidence to support what we teach regularly in Feldenkrais classes:  using your imagination to do parts of, or entire movements.

I know when I first heard of imagining a movement I thought it was crazy. But there is support for the benefits of thinking, feeling and visualizing movements before doing them or instead of actually doing them.

An article from three years ago recently came to my attention. It asks whether practicing a skill in your head will help you be better at it.  The short answer is yes, if you already good at it. The article suggests that if you don’t know how to do something, then imagining it might be difficult. You don’t know the steps, techniques, trajectories, etc. However if you already know how to do something but cannot do it for some reason, then imagining it is very beneficial. The reasons include that you can practice the skill anywhere, it is safe, and you won’t get as tired as easily.

I use the power of imagination frequently in my classes.  Often we explore a sequence of movements on one side of the body, and imagine many of them on the other side before actually doing them. The goal is to transfer what was learned on the previous side but to do so feeling the movements and their connections to the rest of the body. I also suggest paying attention to areas of lightness, areas of less freedom and to the breath. After a period of imagining we might do fewer movements on the second side, and most often the benefits are almost as great or sometimes even better than on the side we spent lots of time on.

Want to rejuvenate your imagination? Sign up for an Awareness Through Movement class  or workshop today.  Spring 2018 session registration is now open.

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I often repeat a mantra to my students  that “motion is lotion” (credit and apologies to the wise student who first suggested it but I forget now who it was). Motion helps to  lubricate the joints, muscles and skeletal system. Now, some expert support from those suggesting that the traditional recommendation for early treatment of  injuries with PRICE (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation) may no longer be the best strategy.  An editorial in the British Medical Journal suggests that except for the period immediately following trauma, a balanced and incremental rehabilitation program focusing on progressive and optimal loading with early activity encourages early recovery. Rest has its place but too much of it can lead to immobility and delay in tissue repair. Each individual is unique as is their injury and how they respond to the event. Careful consideration and consultation with rehabilitation professionals is key to building a specific program for optimal recovery.

Slow, gentle movements done with awareness are the foundation of the Feldenkrais Method. I rarely suggest an injured student not move at all; in some cases imagined movements or even one or two slow and considered movements alternated with rest can begin to lubricate a joint or muscle and start the person on the road to functional recovery.  Moshe Feldenkrais said “movement is life, without movement there is no life.”  For each action you do, pay attention to how you make the movement, how you are breathing and whether there are other areas in your body you can soften and include.

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The current mantra is that sitting is the new tobacco and that too much sitting is deadly. Prolonged sitting, and inactivity in general, is not good for us, affecting our cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems as well as cognitive functioning. But many of us need to sit for periods during the day while we travel from one place to the other, while we eat and while at work.

While we are sitting, we can focus on paying attention to HOW we sit so that we can learn how to sit with more skeletal support.

When I watch my clients sitting, it is clear that each one has a unique way of sitting.  I help them discover how to find more skeletal support not only while they are sitting but when doing any movement or action, to help release unnecessary muscular holding and tension.

Sitting safely and comfortably also means that we learn to sit dynamically; that we know when and how to move, we pay attention to our whole bodies and breathe easily and fully.

In the upcoming workshop you will learn strategies so that when you do sit you will be more comfortable and feel more supported.

Pre registration required. For more details about this workshop and registration information read more here. Or phone 604.729.0060.

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I spent five days over the Labour Day weekend in Seattle at a Feldenkrais workshop for practitioners which was taught by my teacher, Jeff Haller. The specific focus was on walking. We explored several elements of walking, some of which were  how to find the highest point of our hip joints so we don’t fall onto one or the leg as we step forward, the power that is available from the back leg and foot, how an easy breath can help our walking, where  our head is in relation to our spine underneath us. We also delved into several meta themes, specifically, what does it mean to experience weightlessness and move out of gravity? How does moving out of gravity help us to revisit our long standing conditioning and habits? How do these relate to walking and moving around in the world?

Are you intrigued? In true Feldenkrais fashion, we like to find three ways to explore a new movement for deeper learning. Here are three opportunities for you to experience some of the magic I experienced.

Our first Fall workshop is on walking.  It takes place at the Feldenkrais Centre Vancouver on Saturday Sept 16, 12-3 pm.  I am excited to share some of what I learned with you. Register now!

Fall classes begin on Tuesday Sept 12.  I am teaching at the Feldenkrais Centre Vancouver and at the Jewish Community Centre.  Please see all class details and register today.

Finally Jeff is beginning an exciting new professional training in April 2018. Here is the link to his training website. He will be in Vancouver in the coming months to teach a pre training workshop.  I will send more details when they are available. Jeff studied directly with Moshe and is one of the best teachers of the Feldenkrais Method.  You will not want to miss his workshop.

Happy September. I look forward to seeing you soon.

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I recently read an article from the New York Times, The Secret Life of Pain by Yoni Goodman. He describes his life with chronic back and joint pain for many years and then his experiences at the Mayo Clinic pain program.

The program, he states, “teaches patients not to dwell on the pain and not to try to fix it. Eventually the mind should let go.” Program participants are encouraged to give up the “props” they use to manage pain including braces, cushions, and pain medications and instead are taught to turn their mind to other strategies, such as breathing and meditation among others. The brain then learns new ways of managing the pain and the plan is for the brain to adapt to enable the person might change his/her relationship with the pain.

The Mayo Clinic’s philosophy to teach participants not to try to fix the pain resonated with me.

It embodies my work as a Feldenkrais Method® practitioner.

Every time I work with a new client or welcome a new student to class, or when I describe the Feldenkrais Method to anyone willing to listen,  one of my first words are that I am not a therapist who will try to fix your problem. Rather I want to help each person learn what they are doing that might be contributing to the difficulty they are having, the pain they are experiencing or the limitations in action they are frustrated with.

I don’t believe we can be fixed, if it means to mend, repair, or restore. Instead we can continually develop, learn and refine while discovering new possibilities for movement and for relationship development with ourselves and others, and for living “aesthetically pleasing” lives, to paraphrase  Moshe Feldenkrais.

True maturation, according to Feldenkrais, is to learn how to live moment to moment with awareness while finding ways to support ourselves in all ways and to act with compassion to ourselves and with elegance and ease. The movements we teach are not exercises to be endlessly repeated until we “get them right” but explorations in which each repetition presents a novel experience in which we attend to new details and contemplate new possibilities.

Those are my daily teaching goals. I love to share my passion and excitement with others; if you haven’t yet tried Feldenkrais, please consider trying a class or session this Fall.

Register today for Fall classes and workshops.

I am also continually refining myself. I’ll be in Seattle until Labour Day for the third segment of the Ideal Organization and Profound Strength postgraduate Feldenkrais program I began last summer.

See you after Labour Day.

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