Monday, July 22, 2019

How to Organize Optimal Mobility

How to Organize Optimal Mobility


A residual dysfunction in my mobility from last month’s injury is that I can stand and walk most of the time without pain. But every now and then, when I turn in a certain way, a small shooting pain arises, followed by a sudden weakness. This seems to manifest as a lack of strength as the ankle collapses. In actuality, it’s not weakness, but a dysfunction in how the weight-bearing structures are organized. It comes up while going up stairs, but not down. 

Very mysterious, yet, it’s quite common. Can you relate? In certain situations, people experience a sudden sense of weakness in the muscles. Contrary to the common misconception: the answer is not strength training. The problem is not that the muscle is weak or overloaded. That's an over-simplification. The problem is one of organization, not weakness.

If it were a matter of strength-training, it would not work to use the Feldenkrais Principle of Focusing on What Works. When I focus on the problem, on the front of the ankle where the pain occurs, it’s as if the bottom falls out and I cannot bear weight on that ankle. Yet, if I focus on the opposite area, on weight-bearing through the heel, so that the achilles tendon on the back of the leg is deliberately lengthened, I can walk up a flight of 20 stairs without a problem. Why? Because I am organizing myself in a different pattern, one that puts the burden of weight-bearing on the skeleton, the bone of the back of the heel, rather than on joints and muscles.

The skeleton is designed for weight-bearing, not the muscles. The muscles are designed for mobility…

What’s spectacular about the Feldenkrais Method is that I don’t need to be a practitioner to figure this out. By simply following the Principle of Focusing on what works, the opposite part of the joint, and by trying different ways of bearing weight as I go up a step, I can FEEL for a way to bear weight through the skeleton, with no training in anatomy whatsoever. 

In Awareness Through Movement classes, I can learn, over time, to sense the difference: when I am bearing weight using my skeleton, it feels solid. It feels safe. Not just emotionally, but neurologically. It feels grounded. I don’t have to understand what I’ve explained above, I just need to refine the feedback loop that my Nervous System uses for learning – anything!

What is extreme dysfunctional movement? Think power without any control of timing or coordination - as is caused by things like multiple sclerosis, head trauma, alcohol abuse, stroke or cerebral palsy. These are issues of the nervous system, hence the nervous system governs organization of muscles. Most of us have only minimal issues of dysfunction as a result of injury. Yet, Moshe Feldenkrais was successful in helping people with all of the above disruptions of their organization...amazing work!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Myth #1: Conventional Exercise assumes it's possible to isolate body parts when the whole body is always involved if only because the Nervous System is what regulates proprioception. You may move a limb, but the rest of you is participating, too. Expand your awareness!

The ability to stabilize is as vital as the ability to move a joint. It’s like the unappreciated spaces between the notes in music that give it power. Most movements require some other part of ourselves to stabilize against something, so that the movement can be made with precision. With a wrist injury, I miss being able to grind pepper! You have to be able to stabilize the pepper mill with one hand, while the other hand turns the mill for the delicious kick of this ancient spice to become fresh and alive and new!

There is an ATM Series that comes to mind call the "Bell Hand" and it would be "indicated" for me to do it on the side that is functional and imagine doing it on the injured side...This is one of the Rx, or prescriptions I'm giving myself to speed my recovery!


Here's the link if you want to join a free FB group to join in a community where you can post a question about the process of becoming more mobile as you age, instead of stiffer every year, or how to make it work for you personally, or to share a win you've gotten from this unique perspective on improving quality of life!!!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Mobility of the Fore Arm Critical to Quality of Life

Fractures to the bones of the forearm are three times more common than to the bones of the wrist which are compact and protected by the bony prominences of the radius and ulna. If you hold your hand out in front of you, palm down, the radius is on the thumb side and the ulna is on the pinky side, culminating in the elbow at the other end. I am beginning to think in terms of defining "functional movement" as a general concept, and breaking it down into smaller parts: what I'm calling a "Move" or a unit of functional movement, similar to a word which makes up sentences. A "Move" is like a word that that is essential to a sentence, or a functional movement. For example, access to rotation of the fore arm is a critical MOVE that has to be working for any larger, more global movement., such as turning over your hand to pick up a pan off the stove. My expertise in Feldenkrais, and what I help students learn, is what is optimal? What is possible that you may not actually have access to out of unconscious habit? Then, I show you new options, which your nervous system integrates automatically, so that conscious learning, although fun, is only the tip of the iceberg of what you experience in Awareness Through Movement classes.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Bracing the Jaw - TMJ Syndrome Symptoms

“Movement is the only way we have of affecting the world around understand movement is to understand the whole brain...Memory, cognition, sensory processing, they’re there for a reason, and that reason is action.”
- Daniel Wolpert, Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience, Cambridge University

Since movement is how we navigate the world, when we brace against it, something is amiss. Bracing in the jaw can mean any number of things. Remember bracing against the warning that the pin-prick of a vaccine would only sting a little? The involuntary impulse takes on a life of its own, as if holding still might prevent the inevitable. Bracing is not only how we cope with pain, it’s how we attempt to control the uncontrollable. 

It’s human. We crave control when life takes off in unwanted directions. Bracing in the jaw, a precursor to chronic TMJ syndrome (temporomandibular joint pain), is also a factor in resentment. It is usually an unconscious response, but the evidence is there, the body speaks its mind through unwanted tension. The question is, do we listen? Do we listen when the body braces against fear or loss or rage? Or, do we silence ourselves to comply with social expectations of acceptable behavior? Do we tamp it down inside with pharmaceuticals or recreational drugs? The response to the response is where the feedback loop cannot function because we deny it. This, then, is the gift of the Feldenkrais Method: first and foremost, it reminds us to take heed of the intelligence our own body is offering. That’s nice, but clearly awareness alone is not enough, and neither is knowledge. The true brilliance of Feldenkrais is how it gives us the opportunity to acknowledge, to refine the ability to sense these vital signals and it gives us the creativity to choose another, better-feeling response. For who in their right mind would choose tension over comfort? Most of us, as it happens, every day.

It’s time to break the cycle. Actually, it’s time to stop ignoring the cycle and tune into the magnificent feedback loop that is yours by birth: your nervous system. Your nervous system is more sophisticated than any laptop computer in the number of functions it manages and executes simultaneously. All parts of the feedback loop which your nervous system manages include intelligence from vision, thought, memory, sensation, blood pressure, immune function, and breath. These are all things so close to home (i.e, your primary environment: your internal experience) that you barely give them recognition.

Bracing in the jaw, because of resentment, is a seemingly involuntary response to life. It's a somatic response, a bodily response to people and experiences unwanted. To make matters worse, resentment which is a form of judgement, is solidified even further by values that imply it is bad, or not spiritual, or that you, personally, as a person are bad for feeling it. “Good” people don’t walk around resenting others. Here’s where the rubber really hits the road, for when tension is heaped upon tension through a series of layers affecting emotion, thought and actions you find your way forward is blocked. It impedes good relations with anyone around you, and, more importantly, with yourself. When you judge yourself, ironically, it only makes it harder to move freely, because both judging ourselves or feeling judged has look that even the untrained eye can see: it looks like deer, frozen in time. This is because the somatic response to self-judgement is the equivalent of going in two directions at once. It’s like a two-headed serpent, each arguing about which direction to go in. Hence, the concept of integration in Feldenkrais. Integration is when every fiber of your being is going in the same direction and life is one big, “Hell, Yes!” Integration is the “incredible lightness of being,” or the sense that wild horses could not stop you.

Society programs you to listen to others, because that’s what makes a society work. It makes it safer. But assuming you are not dangerous to yourself or others, at some point, you have to start listening to yourself. Bracing in the jaw may have become an unconscious habit, however, given the right environment, the cost of it can easily become conscious. It’s just one of many possible expressions of emotional pain with somatic consequences. As you brace, you brace against the world. The maseter muscle of the jaw is one of the most powerful muscles in the body. When you lock it, you lock yourself in even as you lock the world out. It’s like being the Man in the Iron Mask.

Gabrielle Pullen, GCFP is a Feldenkrais Practitioner in Jacksonville, Oregon. For help with this or any other somatic pattern of bracing against the world, against injustice, or emotions, check out the schedule, keep up-to-date with retreats or find online resources to use at home at