Well-Being Through Well-Doing

Moving With Greater Awareness = Well-Being Through Well-Doing

It was nearly thirty years ago that I limped into an Awareness Through Movement class at the Brighton Natural Health Centre, stricken with an unexpected bout of sciatica, and strode out free of pain six hours later. With Feldenkrais classes this sort of instant improvement is not unusual, and movement is a standard treatment for sciatica, but it did startle me, because although a bout of acute sciatic pain usually disappeared on its own after a week or so, my discomfort had never before melted away so completely in less than 24 hours. I knew I had discovered something special; to add context, at that time I had been injuring myself through strenuous activity – running, dancing – and healing myself again (at this point in my life mainly using Tai Chi) for most of my adult life, but I had never experienced such an immediate improvement with any kind of movement before.

Integrating the arm with the pelvis and legs - © Jonathan Thrift

I should also mention that I only went along to try it out because I thought it might be interesting and fun – I did not have any expectation that the class would relieve pain, I chose it because I shared so many interests with the teacher, Feldenkrais Trainer Garet Newell. We both liked dance, we both liked Tai Chi, we both liked the Alexander Technique, so I strongly suspected I would like this Awareness Through Movement thing too!

Dr Moshe Feldenkrais was certain movement-with-awareness was the right tool for achieving the full potential of our brain and nervous system…

“I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning. A brain without a body could not think … the muscles themselves are part and parcel of our higher functions.”

…and modern neuroscience is constantly proving him right. The evidence is clear that moving ourselves around is overwhelmingly what our brains are for – I have to thank Todd Hargrove for unearthing this quote from neurologist and author Oliver Sacks – whose autobiography is called On The Move:

“Much more of the brain is devoted to movement than to language. Language is only a little thing sitting on top of this huge ocean of movement.”

– and this one from roboticist Hans Moravec:

“Encoded in the large, highly evolved sensory and motor portions of the human brain is a billion years of experience about the nature of the world and how to survive in it. The deliberate process we call reasoning is, I believe, the thinnest veneer of human thought, effective only because it is supported by this much older and much powerful, though usually unconscious, sensorimotor knowledge. We are all prodigious olympians in perceptual and motor areas, so good that we make the difficult look easy. Abstract thought, though, is a new trick, perhaps less than 100 thousand years old. We have not yet mastered it.”

For more Inspiring Quotes On Why Movement Matters check out Todd’s always excellent blog.

There is a lot of brain-training on offer, much of it fairly poorly supported by relevant research, and much of it focussed on the relatively tiny area of conscious processing. Dr Moshe Feldenkrais’ great leap of understanding was that, because so much of our brain is organising movement, that we humans can use the process of moving with awareness to talk directly to the sensory-motor processing part of our brains, and use that process to delete old, outdated behaviour programmes and replace them with new more useful “updates”. The amazing thing about humans is that it is not just our brains that are plastic – i.e. up-dateable – but that by changing what we do and how we behave we can change our “hardware” as well.

Lorimer Moseley – a world-class expert on the relief of chronic pain – has embraced the term Bioplasticity to raise awareness of just how much of our self is upgradable if we want it to be – here is a link to his article on the subject, It Is Not Just The Brain That Changes Itself… and Deepak Chopra is really inspiring on the subject of just how quickly the physical self is renewed and replaced as we go along. This is a huge subject that deserves a whole article to itself, and I will write one soon, but in the meantime here is the expert with his own article on the subject, sample quote:

“If you want to stay healthy for life, you need to take care of yourself. That’s the conventional wisdom. It’s a frequent guilty reminder when we look in the mirror and realize that we aren’t in the best shape. “I’ve got to start taking better care of myself.”  But the real secret to life-long good health is actually the opposite: Let your body take care of you. I’m not being contrary. The human body consists of hundreds of billions of cells that function perfectly, and if we were single-celled creatures, immortality would be normal. An amoeba or blue-green algae keeps on living indefinitely by constantly dividing in two to produce the next generation of cells. Absent death from external circumstances, such as being eaten or drying up in the sun, one-celled organisms exist in a state of perpetual well-being.

The Real Secret Of Staying Healthy For Life – Deepak Chopra, Huffington Post

So, if we begin to do things differently, we can change our brains and our bodies – brains and bodies which are not actually separate anyway, but part of an amazing integrated systems network!

Well-Being Through Well-Doing

Awareness Through Movement with Maggy Burrowes

Sunflower Centre, Brockley, London,  SE4

Upcoming dates:

Feldenkrais and The Art Of Allowing

January 22nd, 2017

Feldenkrais and The Joy Of Allowing

February 19th, 2017

Feldenkrais and The Skill Of Allowing

March 19th, 2017

1.30 – 5.30pm,  £60/£50

To contact Maggy for information and booking click here.

Awareness Through Movement = Mindfulness In Motion

Learning to move freely in all dimensions, with mindful self-focus and heightened awareness, is a wonderful tool for…

Self-calming

Self-healing

Self-awareness – and

Self-development

Become the most self-aware and fully integrated version of yourself – use mindful movement to bring your whole being into unity and harmony. This intimate workshop will be ideal as an introduction to Feldenkrais or a great way to renew your relationship with this powerful method and reboot your practice if you have had a break from classes or private lessons.

“There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centred on the body.”

Gautama Buddha

The connection between Awareness Through Movement and mindfulness is pretty easy to recognise, and perhaps can even provide a way to develop a better understanding of what Feldenkrais is all about. Using the brain’s ability to learn, unlearn and relearn (the practical meaning of “neuroplasticity”) as a tool for health and well-being should be obvious, but somehow isn’t. Even when it is better understood it is mostly in the context of curing serious neurological problems, not for those of us who have just developed bad muscular habits and self-defeating approaches to new challenges in life. I have been thinking about these ideas for a while now and am beginning to finally put them down on paper. I think Feldenkrais is particularly useful for those who find it difficult to meditate effectively! Developing your Awareness Through Movement skills can enable you to move, do and be in a meditative way throughout your day. For more on this concept, you might like to read my most recent article on Mindfulness In Motion.

And finally, for a charming talk on the subject of brains and movement I leave you with Daniel Wolpert at TED:

 

 

 

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