I encourage people who suffer from persistent pain to not give up hope.
We've recently expanded our family by adopting a beautiful kitten, JiJi. Watching JiJi brings us such pleasure, especially when she's in the midst of play. She moves with such grace and ease. It's fascinating to watch how she prepares her posture to get ready to spring into action. Most of us have done a cat exercise in Physical Therapy, Yoga, Pilates or a fitness class. We are looking for ways to align with this cat-like motion. Mary Bowen, distinguished Pilates Elder says, "Everything is right about it (the cat). It's strong when it needs to be. It's loose. It rests when it needs to. And, it's always sort of semi-aware, too, without having to jump in..."
Like Joseph Pilates, Dr. Feldenkrais was fascinated with studying primal movements from babies, to animals, to athletes. The Feldenkrais Method® is a way of developing awareness to our whole body to discover our hidden areas which complete our cortical maps. Think of this as updating your body's navigating software. A mastery that requires your muscle of attention. "We're interested in where the quality is optimal, not where the quality diminishes." Mark Reese, Ph.D, Feldenkrais Master Trainer
The following recording is a movement lesson inspired by the Feldenkrais Method and excerpted from The Smartroller Guide to Optimal Movement. Since Feldenkrais lessons are for learning, they work best when you follow some easy guidelines: (if new to Feldenkrais, go here)
- Move slowly and edit the size of your movements to allow for tension-free movement
- Notice your breath to see if you are doing the lesson with ease-the quality of your breath will tell you
- Take rests and avoid pain to maximize results to help make long term improvements
- Delay stretching if you can-when you stretch, you often clamp down on the spine by pushing into the tissues you already notice. By editing your movement you can shift to a more even distribution to elongate the spine
- Use the imagery suggested, i.e. like editing the movements in the shape of sleepy cat eyes
- Have a beginner's mind by attending to the novelty of the subtle movements
In order to improve your body's movement sense, you need to turn down the visual sense. Browse the picture gallery below to get some sense of the directions before you proceed so you won't need to look at them during the lesson. Please follow the directions as only suggestions. You will have your own handwriting, your own pace and comfort. Let curiosity be your guide.
When you are ready, find a quiet place on the floor, grab your mat, Smartroller®, and a rolled up towel to attend to yourself for the next 15 minutes. See if you are more feline with your movements once you are done.
Each New Year resolutions are made and many are broken. I think that a lot of people would agree when I say, whether it’s the new year or mid year, it's difficult to maintain a sense of momentum and forward progression. Why is it so much of an uphill battle to maintain our intentions? To quote my movement teacher Edward Yu, “Why does trying harder sometimes become an exercise in futility? Why does following ‘expert advice’ often lead to little or no improvement?”
Maybe some of it can be attributed to how our culture views motivation. A motive driven by a fear or lack seems to leave a depressing taste in the air. Even though there are glimpses of an open sky, something ends up derailing consistent progress. It’s probably because we have to live with a drill sergeant on our shoulder. I sure don’t want that guy hanging out all the time. I wanted to be excited about healing and exercise, the way I am excited about riding waves, hanging with friends or playing music. I wondered if it was too much to ask. Is it possible to combine playing and healing into a joyful anticipated event?
Something curious happened since I posed these questions. I credit the Smartroller® for a large portion of this change because I started to love my time exploring movement. It happened when I made a dedication to feeling good as opposed to solely focusing on the outcome. There was room to breathe, and room to make mistakes. There was no self judgment, just following what felt good. The landscape of my body and how it moved became an amazing gift.
Practice started simple. I told myself "only when I genuinely wanted to." Starting to let go of the familiar voice saying, “I should get on the Smartroller”. That was the same internal voice saying “I should work out.” I started giving credit to the voice that said no. Maybe he knew what he was saying. The more I jumped on it when my body wanted it, the more I wanted to be on it. Without any external motivation necessary, I was on the roller much more often. Now, many times a day, my family will find me on the Smartroller, not because my Physical Therapist/ Feldenkrais teacher told me to (happens to be my mother, Stacy, the inventor), but because I include it in my entertainment section of life.
Slowly the images of what it’s supposed to look like, how it's supposed to feel, what I’m supposed to do, how long I’m supposed to practice... all fell away. What gave rise was an intelligence of good feeling, which began to guide proper alignment and equal distribution of effort without any textbooks or teachers. All the things I had been told about."
Now, it wasn’t just the Smartroller that did this, but the way in which I approached my time with it. What my mind brought to the table was reflected in it’s outcomes. It’s true affect is seen throughout time. As canyons are carved by the flow of water, so does relaxed, joyous and continuous movements remold the body. Great difficulties are sometimes best dealt with by an accumulation of small actions. Enjoy it, that’s what it’s here for. And who knows, maybe other life changes are simultaneously under the surface."
One of the most often used strategies used with the Smartroller is the Opening the Shoulders lesson in the Smartroller Guide. Here I will talk you through a mini version on how to open your shoulders to reduce tension after a long day working at your computer. Enjoy!
There are many reasons for starting a mindful practice. Research reports a range of benefits, such as improved moods, reduced pain and cortisol levels, relaxation and much more. But not all people have been successful on making this a daily practice and often give up after a short trial. Professor Adam Burke of San Francisco State University, published a study in EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing that reported if individuals did not select the right mindfulness training, they were more likely to quit. 1 And if you find the right application, you are more likely to continue.
Here we provide you with a simple mindful movement practice that can allow you to find an easy way to settle into a a daily practice for relaxation, quieting your mind and reducing bodily tension. Reach for your Smartroller® and lets get started.
Here are some smart tips before you start:
Observe your comfort
Do small movements; the smaller the movement, the better the results
Take plenty of pauses or rests
Slide gently off your Smartroller to the floor to retain the benefits
Once you have scanned your contact with the floor, we will use imagery to draw an internal stick figure which includes 5 lines as seen in the picture. the lines relate to your head, arms and legs.2
Next, lie on your Smartroller, flat side up, and listen to this short recording to follow through with your mindful moves. Once finished, slide onto the floor, gently sustain the benefits, and retrace your five lines.
1. Burke, A. Comparing Individual Preferences for Four Meditation Techniques: Zen, Vipassana (Mindfulness), Qigong, and Mantra. Explore: J Sci Healing, 2012 (237- 242) vol 8