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!

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