Category Archives: Teaching

Move Your Shoulders Like Wheels

What’s Happening in May & June

The next Feldenkrais® series are just around the corner, and they’ll be shorter than usual: four and five weeks.

At the end of June, I’m going to the Feldenkrais conference for five days. Count on my coming back with a bunch of new ideas we’ll play with in class, as I’ll be training with my mentor Jeff Haller, as well as several other deeply experienced teachers. The theme this year is “Discover Ease: Finding What Already Exists.”

Interested? The conference has workshops open to the public. These include:

Human skeleton dancing DAB, perform dabbing move gesture, posing on white background.The conference is in Boulder, CO, which has been on my bucket list for years, so I’m taking some additional time to explore and perhaps do a short retreat in July. Classes will likely begin again the second or third week of July.

The focus in my May and June classes will be shoulders, arms, and hands. Most of us have injured our shoulders, or dealt with Carpel Tunnel or another repetitive-motion issue. We all benefit from understanding more clearly how to mobilize this area. (How often do you find your shoulders up by your ears?)

More about Your Shoulder Girdle

“Nearly every bone in the trunk, from occiput to pelvis, furnishes surfaces for the attachments of muscles which are also attached to some portion of the shoulder apparatus. . .”—Mabel Elsworth Todd, The Thinking Body: A Study of the Balancing Forces of Dynamic Man.

Classic Awareness Through Movement lesson.Todd points out that our shoulder and arm muscles have a wheel-like distribution. She writes, “The muscle power must be applied so as to operate through as many arcs as the range and direction of movements require. This is accomplished by a wheel-like design whereby muscles attached through great distances over many surfaces of the skeletal framework converge about the shoulder joint. . . . It is this wheel-like arrangement of lines of muscle force through all planes which gives such enormous power to the arms and hands, not alone in doing heavy work. . . but also in the control of delicately centered movements of the hands and fingers.” (Ibid)

We’ll be rolling those wheels in June: register here.

Sunday Classes

Russ Mitchell, fresh from the latest segment of his Feldenkrais training, will teach five classic lessons on Sundays. You can bet I’ll be there! Register for his series here.

Saturday Classes

Do Saturday mornings work best for you? Consider coming to Patterns Lab, 11:30 am-1:30 pm. Prerequiste: at least one series of classes or package of private lessons with me, or previous experience with the Feldenkrais Method®. Please email me if you’re interested in joining.

Does Feldenkrais Help Grief?

I was asked a few days ago, “Is Feldenkrais helping you grieve?”

Hugh in his octopus hat at White Rock Lake

My husband Hugh Resnick at White Rock Lake. He’s been described as “wonderfully weird.”

It’s not a trivial question.

My first answer was, “I don’t know.” Sometimes it’s difficult for me to tease out what is Feldenkrais® and what is meditation and what is coming from other influences in my life. I’ve practiced both Feldenkrais and meditation since 1996, and it’s no accident. They complement/blend/inform each other.

After a few hours of reflection, my second answer emerged: yes. I’m relying on both Feldenkrais and meditation to find the ground repeatedly, wherever it is. If I start to feel anxious (which seems to go hand in hand with sadness in my case), I can at least find my breath. I’m especially drawing on those skills in driving, where, for whatever reason, it’s hardest for me to not interfere with my breath. The approach I’m taking: when I notice I’m breathing shallowly, I invite myself to simply notice. I don’t immediately try to change the pattern. Then I notice where my left foot is (thank you, Russ!), and usually, it’s in my habitual, not so useful position, where my support isn’t so clear. And I pay especial attention to my hands, arms, and shoulders. Quite often these days, I notice an extra-heaviness in my hands, a kind of collapse in my shoulders. So today I played with making my hands even heavier (which I really didn’t want to do) for several minutes, and then lighter. I reminded myself I have choices.

Angela and Hugh at White Rock Lake

Me and Hugh. Feeling so lucky & grateful!

So there’s my invitation to practice: grief isn’t a choice. I miss my husband, and I will go on missing him. But how I support myself in grieving is a choice. I can collapse, and I have. I can also feel it without collapse, and continue to do what needs to get done. (Even in typing this, I’ve played with heavy hands on the keyboard, and lightening them up. I can tell you which way my breath is easier.)

My third answer: yes! Teaching Feldenkrais is an enormous help right now. Every time I teach class or give a private lesson, I’m more energized at the end. Teaching connects me with the part of me which is strong, intelligent, and playful. I’m grateful beyond words to all of you who come to class and learn with me. Thank you!

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Celebrating Hugh Resnick

Would you like to come to Hugh’s memorial? I’d love to have you. I’ve been inspired and delighted by the stories his family and friends have been sharing, reminded again of what a “wonderfully weird,” generous, intelligent, and just flat-out good man I was married to. They’ve been inspired as they shared, and I think you will be, too. Please join us if you can, Saturday, April 27, 4 pm, at the Center for Spiritual Living Dallas. RSVP here, just so we have enough refreshments.

Perception Vs. Reality: Practicing New Patterns of Self-Use

What Is Real?

Perception and Reality words on a stack of balls with an arrow sticking into RealityToday one of my clients came up to standing after a Feldenkrais® lesson and said, “It feels like my left foot is in front of my right foot.” He looked down and saw that, in reality, his feet were in line with each other. This was a novel relationship for his feet: his pattern typically is to have his right foot a little forward. His perception was different than reality.

It takes time to become incorporate new patterns into your self-image.

When you find something new in a lesson like a different place for your foot to be in standing, you can play with that. Take one foot a bit forward, shift weight back and forth between the back and front foot. Take the other foot forward, again shift weight. With feet side by side again, observe your perception now of where they are with respect to each other. Feel it, look at them.

Can you make it a game?

Later in the day, check in again. Stand and observe. How are your feet now placed?

Use Your Life as a Lab to Refine Perception

You can incorporate Awareness Through Movement® practice into your daily life with this kind of attention.

Waiting in line at the grocery store becomes an opportunity for self-investigation. Or pushing your shopping cart, you can observe how you transfer weight between your feet. Standing at the kitchen sink, you can check in to see how weight is distributed between your feet. Not changing or correcting anything right away, just observing. Then you can begin to look for what feels most efficient, testing theories about function we’ve begun investigating in class.

Reality Check

A woman lifts dirt with a garden fork.

© International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Robert Golden.

It’s particularly illuminating to discover where some familiar pattern of self-use expresses itself as discomfort.

Although I’ve been clarifying and improving my walk for the last three years, when I garden my old pattern re-emerges. After two hours of transplanting and weeding this spring I felt a familiar pain in my lumbar spine. I hadn’t yet brought new movement patterns I’d learned in the context of the walking into bending and bearing weight. Now I have a new goal for self-study: improving how I lift.

Moment by moment, we have the change to discover ourselves in movement. To perfect our self-images.

Learning More about Awareness Through Movement

If you’re curious about the theory behind ATM, read Moshe Feldenkrais‘ book Awareness Through Movement. He wrote it for the general public. The first part presents his ideas about functional movement and learning. The second leads you through 12 lessons, including one entitled “Perfecting the Self-Image.”

Another way to learn more about ATM, come to a class or workshop here in Dallas. Click here to find a class near you.

Locating Your Hip Joints & Why It Matters

Where to Start

The Feldenkrais Method® has no set lesson plans. We don’t have a school board. There’s no one dictating to me what themes to choose when teaching.

People walk around stools in a studio

© International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Robert Golden

So, after six years of teaching, I follow my hunches when planning what to teach. I listen to my private clients, to students in my classes. I continue with my advanced study. Patterns emerge. Something comes into the foreground.

Now it’s hip joints which keep presenting themselves to me.

Connecting with Your Strength

My ongoing interest remains uncovering innate strength. And clarifying use of our hip joints is key. The pelvis is our power center. Those bones are the biggest we have. The lumber vertebrae are enormous, compared to our cervical vertebrae.

2 gymnasts posing in studioThe head of the femur is spherical, almost. It has the potential to rotate in almost any direction. Yet most of us use only a fraction of the potential. Watch a dancer or gymnast to see the hip joint exploited to its fullest.

Most of us don’t have hypermobile joints like acrobats. Yet we can still find more range of motion than we’re currently taking advantage of. We can find, for example, the top of our hip joint, that place around which we can pivot freely and discover what Moshe Feldenkrais called good posture: the ability to move in any direction without preparation.

Why Study Anatomy?

I’ve been going back to the transcripts of the lessons Moshe Feldenkrais taught years ago in Jerusalem. We have roughly 600 of these lessons, from the time he spent teaching on Alexander Yanai Street. I’m finding gems in his comments to students. He says repeatedly that we don’t know where our hip joints are. We can’t accurately locate them on ourselves. We think our hip joints are located where our pants crease at the top of our legs. They aren’t. Because we move from a faulty understanding of our anatomy, we damage our hip joints and low back. Moshe said that 60 years ago, and it’s still true today.

The heads of the femurs point towards your sacrum. Your hip joints are located where they can direct ground forces up and into your spine on either side to help you stand erect and move your spine freely.

When you stand using your skeleton clearly, without unnecessary activity in your core, you’ll feel support flowing up from your heels to your hip joints, all the way to the crown of your head.

It’s literally a heady feeling.

So why do so many of us lack or forget that connection? Many reasons: injury, prolonged sitting, inactivity in general. I also think the English language doesn’t help.

Basic Pelvic Anatomy

Illustration of human pelvis.We have one word, “pelvis,” for what are actually three bones: the sacrum in the middle and an ilium/ischium on either side. To add to the confusion, we don’t have one word for the hip bones on either side of the sacrum. Each is composed of three elements, the ilium, ischium, and pubis. These are separated in newborns and become fused by adulthood. The three elements form a deep socket called the acetabulum where they meet. The acetabulum articulates with the head of the femur. In front, the pubic bone on either side is connected by cartilage. So each of these three parts of your pelvis has the potential to move independently. To see that potential exploited to its fullest, watch a skillful belly dancer.

Why isn’t study of basic human anatomy required? How we’re put together is fascinating. When kids meet my skeleton Heinrich, they can’t stop touching him, moving his bones around, asking questions. It’s absurd and a profound disservice to allow children to reach adulthood in ignorance of how their physical selves function. (Of course, public school would probably find a way to make anatomy boring. But that’s another story.)Female skeleton reclining

The point is, understanding and clarifying function of our hip joints is key to improving our movement and self-use. This spring, that will be the theme throughout my classes. I hope you’ll join me.

Going Deeper with Anatomy

If you’d like to study human anatomy on your own, there’s no better place to start than Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain. Her analysis focuses on function, not the study of anatomy for its own sake. She’s a dancer and physical therapist. The book is full of great illustrations. It’s organized so you can easily pick it up and simply read the section dealing with the pelvis. Or go cover to cover, if you like.

Perfecting Appreciation of Imperfection

A young woman practices Awareness Through Movement.

© International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive, Robert Golden.

Learning demands that we make mistakes repeatedly. It’s impossible to improve without error. It sometimes seems counter-intuitive, but to approach perfection, we must embrace imperfection. How many times does a baby fall before her first step?

But it’s SO hard to allow ourselves fail. Many of us are perfectionists, or were raised by them. We’ve been punished for failing. Or we punish ourselves. Negative self-talk can be a constant companion.

Show & Tell

Feldenkrais and violin teacher Lisa Burrell recently wrote a moving reflection on the value of modeling imperfection. She shares an anecdote about one of her students struggling with demanding parents and teachers.

Lisa’s own mistake in playing a passage became a pivotal moment in a lesson. “I was kind of dumbstruck that the simple act of admitting my mistake would be so powerful in this relationship.” The student’s demeanor changed markedly.

Lisa writes: “In this world of increasing competition and emphasis on getting the right answer, we need more than ever to be guides to what real learning is, not just in our language, but by sharing our own ongoing processes and revealing our own powerful vulnerability.”

Read Lisa’s complete blog here.

Why Is Easy Movement Hard?

Feldenkrais® practitioner Michael Cann wrote an excellent blog in response to a student’s frustration after a workshop. Other participants had found the movements easy and enjoyable. The man wondered what was wrong with him.Black line art illustration of an angry person.

Michael’s response is that the way we teach Feldenkrais can be misleading, because we emphasize making small, gentle movements. Only doing what’s easy. Resting frequently.

He writes: “With all this talk about ease, effortlessness, and pleasure, you’d think every experience would be enjoyable. . . But here’s the uncomfortable truth: it won’t be. There have been times when I have hated Feldenkrais. And there may be times when you will too. . . . easy movement can be way harder — and way more rewarding — than you have imagined.”

Read the rest of his blog here on his website Movement Is My Teacher.

Feldenkrais Demo in Cedars Open Studios

The Cedars neighborhood houses dozens of artists and art-related businesses. Come Saturday, Nov. 22, for this annual event (and add it to your calendar for next year—always the Saturday before Thanksgiving). This is the neighborhood I’m delighted to call home, just south of downtown and I-30, between I-35 and I-45.Map of Cedars Open Studios

You’ll discover artists working in many media: ceramics, glass, wood, paint and more. Find some holiday gifts for family (or yourself!).

I’m teaching a free Awareness Through Movement® demo at Divine Sight Healing Arts from 12 to 1. There’ll be two short lessons, with time in between for discussion. Come explore your physical self with the Feldenkrais Method®, or bring that friend you’ve been wanting to introduce to the method! Snacks! Divine Sight is at 1320 Griffin St. East, Dallas, TX, 75215.

Demonstrations all day long at Bowman Glass Arts, Dallas Heritage Village, Ham Hula T-Shirt Co., Born Below, and more. Fun for the whole family!

And when you’re ready for refreshments, stop by Full City Rooster (freshest of coffee) or Lee Harvey’s (wonderful veggie sandwiches). Plus all the studios will be offering treats.

The 12th annual Cedars Open Studios runs from noon to 6 pm. All locations on the tour have maps. Visit the event website for more info about participating artists and businesses.

 

Common Mistakes in Awareness Through Movement® Classes

I’ve been reflecting on whether it’s possible to make mistakes in Awareness Through Movement®. It’s not necessarily self-evident. This modality is about self-discovery. So, from one point of view, whatever you discover is great.

ATM student explores how her spine moves.

ATM student explores how her spine moves. Photo: Henry Biber.

From another point of view, you could say it’s possible to make errors. Perhaps a better way to say it is, it’s possible to create obstacles for yourself and make your class a lot less fun. Below are five ways students often create obstacles.

1. Being in a hurry
Awareness Through Movement (ATM® ) works by allowing your nervous system to distinguish differences. Which entails beginning a class/lesson with small, slow movements, so that you can attend to how you are doing a movement sequence. Newcomers make big, quick movements, which mean they follow their habitual patterns, moving the way they always do. When they learn to slow down, they can sense changes. Yes: the slower and smaller your movements, the more you’ll change. At first, it’s counter-intuitive. Try it and see what you discover.

2. Expecting change to happen overnight
Usually students try out the Feldenkrais Method® because there’s something they’d like to improve. Maybe they’re recovering from an injury, like a sprained knee. Often they come because of chronic pain—low back or neck. They come for one class or maybe a series, don’t notice a big change, and drop the whole thing. If your condition is chronic or acute and you’ve been living with it for months or years, six classes will not make a big difference. But six months of classes could. I speak from experience: I’ve used Feldenkrais to resolve my own neck spasms, to recover use of my knee following surgery, and to relieve sciatica. In each case, it took time, but the results are long lasting.

3. Being hard on yourself
New students think that there’s a perfect way to do each movement. Sometimes they get frustrated or angry with themselves if they don’t understand what the sequence is calling for. For example, there are lessons in which you roll your eyes in one direction as you move your head in another, Or close one eye. The point of this isn’t to become perfect at doing the sequence, but to show you your habits, and give you more choices. It’s hard for adults to allow themselves to fail at something, even when no goals are set by the teacher. Even when “failing” means that you’ve discovered something you don’t yet know about yourself. (Could you feel curious and interested instead of irritated?)

4. Forgetting to breathe
It’s extremely common in our culture to hold your breath when exploring a new movement. I’m continually reminding students to notice their breath, to let it be uninterrupted, to create space between their teeth. Sometimes I’ll invite them to notice if a movement is simpler/easier if you inhale as you begin or exhale. More and more, you begin to realize that breath can be independent of movement: there are Awareness Through Movement lessons which are specifically about discovering that.

The joy of self-discovery

The joy of self-discovery

5. Taking the whole thing too seriously
In the end, our goal is self-discovery with Awareness Through Movement. So there’s no need to clench your teeth, or strain or stretch. I ask students, could you make this movement luscious? Or, I remind them, it’s not about being perfect: it’s about discovering your physical self. It’s about returning to the joy of self-discovery we all experienced as children. And then dropping it when you’ve had enough, just like a baby.

Introduction to Qigong Aug. 17

Please come to this introduction to Zhineng Qigong (Chi-Lel Qigong), taught by Rick Silver. Learn movements and techniques taught in China’s medicine-less hospitals that promote health and increase energy and awareness.

Rick Silver, Qigong teacher

Instructor Rick Silver

When: Sunday, Aug. 17, 2-3:30 pm

Where: OmBalance, 6801 Snider Plaza, #240, University Park (near SMU)

Movements range from easy to moderately challenging, depending on your fitness. They do not require athleticism and can be done standing or sitting.

These exercises massage and strengthen you internally while conditioning structure. They are helpful to do while recovering from illness.

Possible Benefits of Regular Practice

  • Improved blood pressure, both high & low
  • Improved energy, blood & lymph circulation

If there’s interest, Rick will offer a six-class series at OmBalance.

Intro class is $10. Register in advance on Brown Paper Tickets, or bring check or cash: credit cards not accepted.

ABOUT RICK SILVER

In 1995 Rick was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Western medicine and multiple alternative modalities did not relieve his symptoms. He began practicing Zhineng (Chi-Lel) Qigong in 2001, while living in Santa Fe. Since then he has been symptom free and in excellent health. In 2004 Rick and his family moved to New Zealand, where he continued his practice. He studied with Sandy Jiang (Blue Sky Zhineng Qigong Studio) and became certified to teach. Rick is in his 70s, has a 17-year-old daughter, and lives in Dallas. He is medication free.

For information call Rick at 505-819-8964 or email rickinsantafe@gmail.com.

*Consult your health care professional before starting any wellness program. The instruction is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Many Pillows for Sound Sleep

Do you wake up frequently during the night? Or awaken in the morning with a stiff shoulder from sleeping on your side? For sound sleep, try multiple pillows.

Years ago, both the physical therapist and the Feldenkrais practitioner I was working with for shoulder spasms recommended that I sleep with more than one pillow. I tried it and discovered that I would frequently sleep through the night. I awakened more refreshed. I’ve also found that, when I travel and have just one pillow, it’s much harder to fall asleep. And I wake up feeling like I’ve been working all night—which, of course, I have. (Yes, towels can help in a pinch.)Sound sleep with many pillows

The idea is that you arrange your pillows so that your limbs and head are completely supported in whatever position you choose for sleeping. Restorative yoga is based on the same concept.

I have been asked about sleeping with one giant pillow. I’ve not tried that, because I prefer to place my pillows precisely.

I’ve also been asked by clients, what about my partner? I’m betting she or he will understand, if it means you sleep better. Who knows? They might follow your example.

Below are suggestions for how to deploy your pillows. Try them, and please let me know how it works for you.

Back Sleeping

  • a pillow under head so neck aligns with the rest of your spine (you might not need this—if you’re comfortable without a pillow, don’t use it)
  • a pillow under each forearm and hand, that is, one pillow for your left arm, one for your right
  • a long firm pillow supporting your knees

Side Sleeping

  • a pillow under your head so your neck aligns with the rest of your spine— it’s likely this will need to be higher than when you’re sleeping on your back
  • a thin pillow under your side, if you’re a woman, to keep pressure off your shoulder and hip (most men won’t need this, as their hips are more narrow)
  • a long, firm pillow between your knees
  • a tall, firm pillow supporting your top arm

Stomach Sleeping

  • If your head is turned to the side, try a pillow under the arm on that side