The media is continuing to focus on improving sitting: NPR just published another story on the subject. Given how much back pain we Americans are living with, it’s great to see the buzz growing.
Take Control of Your Environment
- Sit on a jacket
- Carry a wedge-shaped cushion
- Use a short stool for your feet
Forget about ever using the back of the chair: designers created the shape of the back of most chairs without reference to the human spine and pelvis. Typically, chairs (plus car and airplane seats) invite users to collapse into the cashew shape I’ve referred to before. Recipe not only for back and neck pain, but also digestive problems!
When you’re improvising your solution, remember your goal is to create clear support for your sit bones and have your feet completely in contact with the floor. Your shoulders will be slightly forward of your sit bones. This position is new to many of us, so it won’t feel “natural” at first.
Limit the amount of time you spend sitting, when you can. Take frequent breaks. As a designer of ergonomic furniture said in Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery, when asked what the best position for sitting is: “The next one.”
In an environment you control, try varying your relationship to your computer: stand, sit on the floor, or in a QOR360 chair designed to promote active sitting (that’s the next-gen ergonomic chair I use and endorse wholeheartedly).
Barefoot Is Better for Developing Motor Skills
A recent study showed that children who tend to go barefoot have better motor skills than those who habitually wear shoes. The barefoot kids had better balance, among other advantages. When you consider how many shoes restrict the foot‘s ability to move, the results make sense.
Also, I wonder, do barefoot children just tend to move more in general?
What’s the Best Kind of Shoe?
Clients often ask me, “What kind of shoe should I wear?” My answer, “The one with as little support as is comfortable for you.”If you’re currently using arch support or orthotics, don’t suddenly stop using them.
Could you practice walking at home, five minutes at a time, barefoot? Or in flat shoes with no built-in arch? Or can you practice walking with your orthotics, without collapsing your feet into them, but using them as a point of reference to organize your feet around?
And yes, we can practice using our feet and entire skeletons so that your arches awaken. I was diagnosed with flat feet as a child. I can now distinguish support in my two longitudinal arches and the one transverse arch; of course, that’s clearer with one foot than the other.
One simple movement to play with: stand with your feet slightly further apart than usual, barefoot if possible. Shift yourself a little left and right. Imagine that your whole skeleton is like a pendulum above your feet, so you lead with the crown of your head.
Feel how you’re using your feet. Do they collapse as you shift weight? That is, does the contact of the standing surfaces of your feet with the ground change as you shift from side to side?
Imagine now that, as you shift your skeleton left, it’s your right foot that sends you. As if you’re distancing the crown of your head from your right foot. Let your left foot send you right.
Do this a few times. Stop and observe yourself. How did your awareness of your feet change?
Join Us for this 6-Week Series Near Downtown
Is Tai Chi on your bucket list? Join us this summer to try it out! Bobby Garcia’s an excellent teacher, skillful and funny.
Often described as “meditation in motion,” Tai Chi is a low-impact, slow-motion practice. You go without pausing through a series of motions. As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention on your bodily sensations. It’s a beautiful complement to Awareness Through Movement®.
GoodWork is the perfect location, a beautiful coworking space in The Cedars, close to downtown, with a unique focus on sustainability and wellness.
Limit: 15. Room for 10 more as of 7/5.
WHEN: Fridays, July 13-Aug. 17, 11:30 am-12:30 pm.
COST: $105 after; GoodWork members save $10 (use code GoodWork).
Bobby Garcia began his martial arts education 29 years ago and has been teaching for 11 years. A serious motorcycle accident left Bobby with limited mobility. Through Tai Chi, he found dramatic improvements in his strength and mobility. Bobby has studied several styles of Tai Chi with multiple masters, including Chen Bing, a Tai Chi Master from China who is a direct descendant of Tai Chi founder Chen Wangting.
Testimonials for Bobby Garcia
“What I took away was, the power of Tai Chi to restore confidence, balance, and calm.”
“I felt the connection between the physical efforts and the emotional. If we are grounded and centered, we are hard to topple both physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Join us for this 2-day workshop
Would you like to walk with greater ease and pleasure? Most of us walk with deeply grooved habits, repeating movements that lead to pain and stiffness. If we study these movements, we can create stability and integrity in our walk. With practice, we can clarify and ennoble an action we’ve done unconsciously our entire lives. Taught by Andrew Gibbons, GCFP.
In this 2-day course, you’ll raise your walking from an unconscious habit to an informed practice. You’ll emerge with a clearer perspective on how walking works and the art of transferring weight elegantly from leg to leg. You’ll learn what, why, and how to practice with greater specificity. Then walking can become a path to health. It can be your zen, your gym, and your joy. Limit: 25 participants. Room for 10 more as 5/1.
- Teachers & practitioners of somatic modalities: Feldenkrais Method®, yoga, Alexander Technique and more
- Martial artists
- Performing artists
- Anyone who’d like to stand and walk with greater efficiency and pleasure
Feedback from Last Year
“I better understand how my feet support my skeleton, and when properly organized and with mindful attention I can improve my organization. I learned just how much power I can have when my bones have proper support from down below.“
Three Crucial Moments
The course focuses on three crucial moments in walking. These moments will set the parameters to test and improve your skeletal support, muscular efficiency, and balance.
As a participant you will learn:
- How walking is learned, and how learning is walked.
- Why your soft tissue cannot survive a disorganized skeleton.
- To see and sense shearing forces that poor walking creates, and learn how to move better by choice.
- Key relationships in the foot, ankle, and knee that every good walk maintains.
- “Do-anywhere” practices that help you tune your walking balance and maintain it throughout the day.
- How to use observational skills to improve by observing other people and yourself.
- Awareness Through Movement® practices that deepen your understanding and skill.
Instructor Andrew Gibbons is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher in New York City. He’s spent the last 8 years uncovering the moments in walking that tell us the most about our posture and self organization. In his private practice, he teaches the humans of New York how to organize themselves better for the second half of life than they did for the first. Andrew has been a Feldenkrais Teacher since 2003. Now an assistant trainer, he’s on the staff of Jeff Haller’s IOPS Academy, a graduate program for Feldenkrais teachers in NYC and Seattle.
Saturday & Sunday, June 2 & 3, 10am-4 pm.
Late: $325 After May 1.
At door: $350.
Register on Brown Paper Tickets.
Or send a check payable to “Dallas Feldenkrais” to: 3515 Cedar Springs Rd., Dallas, TX 75219
Healthy children move freely, without thought. As adults, we often forget this freedom. In this two-hour workshop, you’ll investigate the roots of strength and core ability, and re-connect with your potential to move freely.
You’ll get tools to re-discover:
- skeletal support
- your connection with the ground
- how your breath can better support movement
National Public Radio (NPR) recently did a story on the “lost art” of bending over. Spoiler: it’s only been lost in the West; other cultures still practice it.
If you’ve had private lessons with me, you’ve worked on this in nearly every lesson: re-discovering how to bend over, how to come from sitting to standing. Essential!
“. . . when you hip hinge, your spine stays in a neutral position. The bending occurs at the hip joint — which is the king of motion.” — NPR
Please note: this requires time and practice to re-discover as an adult. Please go slowly. Begin by thinking, “I’m taking my sit bones back. And my spine is like a pendulum. My head’s at one end, my pelvis at the other.”
Which Letter of the Alphabet is Your Spine Making?
You can use the alphabet to help discover your pattern. Are you making a C-shape (rounding) as you bend over?
Or are you maintaining an L-shape with your spine and hips?
As You Practice Bending
If you’re practicing bending over, it’s key to understand, to feel, where your hip joints are located (about 15 centimeters above the crease at the top of your pant leg). Also essential: to realize that your pelvic girdle has three moving parts.
To see this principle in action, watch elite athletes. Speed skaters, surfers, weightlifters. No way you can lift 100 pounds or more overhead without damaging yourself, unless you take full advantage of your pelvic opportunity.
Practice every time you need to bend over. You’ll be so glad!
If you have back or hip pain, the more you understand and can bend over in this way, at your hip joints, the less pain you’ll have. And if you don’t have pain, you’ll lessen the chance of creating it.
Let me know if you’d like to book a consultation to talk about how we can work together to help you practice this “lost” art.
The first part of the book focuses on what doesn’t work. Heartbreaking. Luckily, you can skip like I did to the second part, which focuses on solutions, including the Feldenkrais Method®.
Jakobson Ramin writes: “Well before you finish reading Crooked, you’ll understand that the pain in your back (or your hip or your leg) also exists in a political, psychological and economic context that greatly influences how you’ll be treated – and if you’ll recover. You’ll know which approaches are likely to reliably bring you some relief, and exactly what’s involved in each.”
What’s effective for relieving back pain
One thing all the effective modalities, including Feldenkrais, share: the client must actively engage in shifting the patterns which cause pain. None of these modalities are quick fixes: they require ongoing practice leading to self-empowerment and transformation.
The force of habit
We create chronic pain through habits of self-use. Because they’re habits, they’re hard for us to identify ourselves: we often need help from an expert. Even once we identify movement patterns which are harming us, they’re difficult to correct. Moshe Feldenkrais writes, in Awareness Through Movement: “For both the fault and the way in which it appears in action must be corrected. We need a great deal of persistence and enough knowledge to enable us to move according to what we know rather than according to habit. . . . Some conscious mental effort must be made until the adjusted position ceases to feel abnormal and becomes the new habit.” (p. 60)
Resources for back pain solutions
Jakobson Ramin has provided an invaluable resource: online sources for back pain solutions. She adds this note: “Unlike most back pain websites, there are no advertising dollars at play here: No resource paid to appear on these pages, and none ever will.”
If you live near Dallas and would like to investigate how the Feldenkrais Method can help you relieve your back pain, please contact me, Angela Alston, GCFP.
6-Week Series in N. Dallas, Oak Lawn, & The Cedars
Are you ready to free your pelvis?
Bring awareness to how you use your hip joints and sacrum, and their relationship to the rest of your skeleton. If you’d like to sit, stand and walk with greater ease, you’ll benefit from this series.
[Fun fact: you have no pelvis. You actually have a three-part structure: your sacrum in the center, surrounded by what we’re calling your ischial wings (thanks to Russ Mitchell for coining the phrase!). Because there’s no word in the English language for them! Learn more about this part of your skeleton, your power center, here.]
Our over-arching theme for winter and spring 2018: Discover Yourself from the Ground Up.
Awareness Through Movement® (ATM®) offers a unique, profound way to examine and change your habitual and often limiting patterns of moving. You learn most movement practices from the outside in, by imitation. In ATM, you’re invited to learn from the inside out. Take your discoveries into another movement practice or your everyday life.
Choose: Mondays in Far North Dallas at MoveStudio, or Tuesdays in Oak Lawn at Dallas Feldenkrais, or Wednesdays in The Cedars (near downtown) at GoodWork.
LIMIT: 20 participants at MoveStudio, 5 at Dallas Feldenkrais, 10 at GoodWork.
WHEN & WHERE: MoveStudio, Mondays, Feb. 19-Mar. 26, 6:25-7:30 pm (register here).
Dallas Feldenkrais, Tuesdays, Feb. 20-Mar. 27, 6:30-7:45 pm (register here).
GoodWork, Wednesdays, Feb. Feb. 21-Mar. 28, 5:00-6:15 pm (register here).
$105 in all locations.