Friday, December 23, 2011

Improve Your Spinning through Body Awareness: for Breakers and Wannabes

How many of us are in awe and wonderment in watching “breakers”?  Don’t you love seeing the athletic finesse of “freezes”, “popping”, “toprock” or “downrock” moves?  Although I am not a breaker, being in the field of orthopedics and movement re-education, the principles pervaded within my following article may be helpful for breakers, wannabes, as well as for the novice parent, pretending that he or she is a “top”, wishing to “play spin” with their child.  Since the term “break dancing” is looked down upon by the hip hop culture, whether you are or not, let’s pretend that y’all are "breakers", “b-boys” or “b-girls”.

Here’s something that can improve your “spinning” facet within the “B-boying” universe.  Please find below a routine you can use to gain more body awareness to assist you in your improvement process to be able to swivel or spin more efficiently and “authoritatively”.  This routine consists of several different movements, or “movement sequences”.  After a certain movement sequence, you may find that you are inspired to further explore the movement on your own and to see where it naturally leads you, one movement seeming to naturally take you in to another movement that you feel drawn to do.  Thus, you may have a small desire to go a little tangent to the lesson and explore and play with some of your own related movements that the lesson has sparked in you.  That is fine.  Allow yourself to be creative.  Allow yourself to spiral off into your own movement and awareness discoveries.  You can always come back to the structure of the routine whenever you wish.  That structure being …

Start out by sitting on your pelvis (your buttocks) on the floor.  You’re sitting on the ground with your knees bent, feet slightly lifted in the air, and you try to generate momentum for spinning around like a top.  Be creative.  Explore and play with how many different ways you can spin around on the floor.  If you’ve been continually spinning around in one direction, now begin to spin around in the other direction.  Also be creative in how you can spin around in this direction.  Notice in which direction it is easier for you to spin.  To the right or to the left?  If you’re not sure about this, just let it go.  We’ll get back to this question in a moment.

Spinning, if you will, is, relatively, a rotation around a vertical axis.  Now let’s have some fun exploring and playing around with some variations.  Doing the same action of spinning with different variations, rather, with different bodily movement patterns, will ultimately bring more body awareness.

Which side do you spin more easily toward?  If you’re not sure what I mean, ask yourself, which side would you say that you spin more smoothly, more efficiently?  To the right or to the left?  Or, ask yourself, which side does it feel more comfortable to spin toward?  If you had to spontaneously choose which side you would be more comfortable to spin toward, which side would it be?  On which side can you spin farther? 

Personally for me, I am aware that I spin more efficiently going to the left (as opposed to the right).  Thus, spinning toward my left is “my good side”.  Determine if this is true for yourself, or if you prefer to spin to the right.

In Feldenkrais®, we first work with the” good side”.  That is, we work on improving, even more so, the “good side”.  Then, afterward, if we are still interested in doing so, we work the “bad side”.  Incidentally, it should be noted that by only working the “good side”, the “bad side” will also see improvement.  In fact, sometimes, “the bad side” will improve more so if you continue working with improving the “good side”, as opposed to attempting to directly work the “bad side”. 

The below routine is formatted around those individuals, like me, who turn better going toward the left.  Therefore, for those of you who turn more efficiently going to the right, please substitute the words “right” for “left”, as well as substitute “left” for “right”.

Do the following movements, below in bold, slowly and well within your comfort range.  This isn’t meant to be a workout or exercise regimen, in the traditional sense, anyway.  Instead, this is about Learning.  It’s about sensory-motor learning, giving your Self (your body) the opportunity or experience to build new bodily movement patterns.

Again, don't feel regimented by the following routine or lesson.  Feel free to do the following movement sequences not in their listed order, rather, to do them out of order.  Even feel free to mix and match various movement sequences.  Be creative.  Let your curiosity guide you, provided that it is always comfortable for you, that you always remain within your comfort range.:
 
Spin to your left as you initiate the movement with your left leg.  That is, think of kicking your left leg outward toward the left as it leads the rest of your Self (body) to also spin to the left.

Initiate the movement of spinning to your left with your right leg.  That is, your right leg lightly kicks to the “inside”, rather, it kicks to the left to initiate the movement of spinning to the left.

Initiate the movement of spinning to your left with your left arm.  That is, think of “backhanding” with your left arm as it leads the spin.  For some of you, this may be the first time that you have ever thrown a left-handed backhand while sitting on your buttocks.  Thus, do this slowly.

Initiate the movement of spinning to your left with your right arm.

Spin to the left as you swing both of your arms to the left.

Spin to the left as you swing both of your arms to the right.

Spin to the left as you turn your head to the right.

Spin toward the left as you allow your eyes to look to the right.

Lie on your back.  Bend your knees to bring them somewhere comfortably near your chest.  While lightly hugging your knees, roll back and forth.  Thus, you’re rolling side to side, that is, to the left, to the right, to the left, to the right …

Roll your head to the right, while you roll everything else, that is, your knees and arms, to the left.

Roll your head to the left, while you roll everything else to the right.

Again, while lightly hugging your knees, roll your entire self back and forth, or side to side.

Again, bring yourself up to sitting.

Hug yourself, around your chest, and spin to the left.

Crisscross your legs.  Rather, have one leg over the other, and spin to the left.

Crisscross your legs the other way, and spin to the left.  Rest a bit.

Spin again as you would naturally.  Does the spin feel smoother, easier, more comfortable, than at the beginning of the lesson?    Are you possibly traveling even farther?”

Interesting.  Isn’t it?  At this point you may wish to take a break.


I observe that the spins I make by spinning around on carpeted floors are much smaller than the larger spins I am able to achieve by spinning around on stainless steel or linoleum surfaces, such as on tables or kitchen floors, they being more “spinning friendly”.  Wearing regular "street clothes" pants is more conducive to spinning on the floor than wearing sweat pants.

If you’re still interested in doing more, then, again, sit with your pelvis (buttocks) resting on the floor.  Begin to spin.  However, this time intentionally interfere with the spin, even bringing it to a standstill at any given point in its flow.

Related to this, go ahead and allow yourself to perform the spinning badly.  That is, invent as many ways as you can to mess up the movement!  As one of my brilliant, highly-skilled Feldenkrais® trainers, Ruthy Alon, eloquently beams, “Be creative.  Do it badly.”  Now rest a bit.

Spin again as you would naturally.  Does the spin feel even smoother,  … perhaps even farther than before?”


Beautiful!  The camera loves you, baby!  You own it!  “Hey dog!  MC Hammer’s on the phone, inquiring about dance lessons from you!  …”  “Yo’ top of da food chain!”


Epilogue:


Can you possibly see how you can transfer this lesson that you’ve been doing mostly in sitting, as well as a little bit in lying, into the vertical position?  That is, if you wish, translate the movement sequences for this lesson into the standing position as you begin to spin around on your toes. 

Incidentally, playing and exploring in the sitting position only, as you have been previously doing for most of this lesson, will also automatically translate into giving you more body awareness for moving in the standing position for doing this spinning kind of lesson, as well as for other kinds of movements.  Newly cultivated bodily awareness stays with you to spread out into other facets of your life.

Can you translate the movement sequences given within this routine toward the "headspin", "windmill", "backspin" or other breaker moves?  I know you can.

Happy Explorations!


Guan Yin Acupuncture & Feldenkrais® Center
Dr. Lin Cheng Speer, LAc, OMD, PhD
James Speer, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner®
1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suites #203, 208
Santa Monica, CA 90401
tel. 310-395-1952
www.drlinspeer.com www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.com www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.blogspot.com
"Health Is All that Matters!"

James Speer

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Alleviating Pain or Discomfort while Driving: A Movement Exploration Lesson

Do you have pain or discomfort while driving?  You’re not alone.  Perhaps a simple readjustment of the seat with respect to its distance from the brake and gas pedals may be beneficial.  Just by “doing something different”, “exploring options”, or “varying the pattern” sometimes helps.  The following is a movement exploration activity which invites this process.

Explore the following, initially anyway, while your car is still parked.  Since it's not good for your car to repeatedly press the gas pedal while the engine is turned off, therefore, we'll only work with the action of pressing the brake pedal.  Don't worry.  The sensory-motor learning you experience by exploring and playing with the action of pressing the brake pedal will also transfer or carry over into the action of pressing the gas pedal. 
J

Assume your driving position …  You know …  where your hands are on the wheel, your back comfortably against the seat, your left foot on the floor  …


Place your right foot on the brake pedal, and go ahead and press it a few times.  Notice how you press your foot onto the brake pedal.  That is, would you say that you press it more with the inside of your foot or the outside of your foot?  Vary the way you press your foot into the brake pedal.  That is, explore and find different ways to press the foot.  For example, press with more of the inside of your foot a few times.  Press with more of the outside of your foot a few times.  Go back and forth between the two variations.  That is, alternate, first pressing the brake pad with the inside of the foot, then pressing with the outer edge of the foot, then with the inside of the foot.  Continue alternating back and forth between the inner and outer edges of the foot.

Press the brake pad with more of the toes.  Press with less of the toes.  That is, press the brake pedal feeling that the focal point of the foot is more toward the center of the foot or closer to the heel.


This is a movement exploration lesson.  There’s no right way or wrong way to press the foot into the brake pedal.  You’re just exploring different options for pressing the foot.  Right now, this is just a fun learning laboratory opportunity that you’re allowing your Self (your body) to have.  Your body is exploring and learning new ways of moving.  Rather, YOU are exploring and learning new ways of moving.  For all of the following movement descriptions below, it is implied to do each movement a few times.  Always rest when you need to.  Of course, the following is not intended to be an intense cardio workout or strength conditioning exercise.  However, you may still feel the need to rest frequently after each step.  Don’t push yourself to complete all of the several steps without taking a break.  “Less is More” when it comes to sensory–motor learning.

You’ve been exploring and playing with different ways for moving your foot or ankle joint.  Now move up to the next joint, in this case, the knee.  Move the knee in or out as you press the brake pedal with your right foot. 

After exploring and playing with the movement of the knee for a little while, go up to the next joint, the hip.  Move your right hip forward as your right foot presses the pedal.  Move your right hip backward as you press the pedal.  Lift your right hip off the seat as your right foot presses the brake pedal.  That is, the left side of your pelvis presses into the seat as your right foot presses the brake.  Press the right side of your pelvis into the seat as you press the brake.  Now alternate side to side.  That is, go back and forth between pressing the left side of your pelvis into the seat and then the right side of your pelvis into the seat and then the left side into the seat …

Lean a little forward as you press the brake pedal.  Lean a little backward (pressing your back into the seat) as you press the pedal.  Lean to the left as you press.  Lean to the right as you press.


Can you think of other ways to explore and move while you are pressing the pedal?  Create new ways or new patterns with your body as you press the pedal.

Now, let all of that go.  Just rest in sitting for a little while.

Now press the brake pedal, as you would naturally, without necessarily having any disposition of what you think is the “right way” to press the brake pedal.  Does this now feel differently than it did in the beginning of this lesson when you pressed the pedal for the first time?  Perhaps it even feels “easier” for you to press the brake pedal.  The action of moving your foot downward onto the pedal possibly now feels lighter or smoother.


Feldenkrais® Movement Exploration:


You are exploring while you are learning new ways of moving.  You may find that during this play routine, above, you have possibly forgotten about your discomfort or pain.  You may notice that after playing with all of these different ways of moving, in addition to moving more smoothly or efficiently, you are no longer in discomfort.


Happy motoring!

Guan Yin Acupuncture & Feldenkrais® Center
Dr. Lin Cheng Speer, LAc, OMD, PhD
James Speer, Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner®
1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suites #203, 208
Santa Monica, CA 90401,

tel. 310-395-1952
www.drlinspeer.com
www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.com
www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.blogspot.com
"Health Is All that Matters!"

James Speer

How to Survive the Discomfort of a Long Plane Flight or Car Ride: A Feldenkrais® Approach


 
As we Feldenkrais® practitioners like to say, “Feldenkrais is about options. …  Feldenkrais is about having options.  Feldenkrais is about exploring for yourself different choices …  having fun while doing so.”                                      


In this mindset, …


As you find yourself sitting in your car or plane seat dreading the long ride ahead of you, grab, either, your coat, a sweat shirt, towel, or some type of clothing item or material that has a substance to it in order to roll it into a soft “log”.  Place this new rolled-up towel or coat behind your back.  The positioning of this rolled-up towel behind your lower back, some refer to this as a “lumbar roll”.  This may feel very comfortable for you at first.  However, after 5, 10, 15 minutes or so (possibly longer), you’ll probably wish to vary the positioning of the rolled-up towel.
“Vary the position.   Be creative.  Explore different options.”

For example, after having the rolled-up towel placed behind the lower back for several minutes, move the towel to be, instead, behind the middle of your back.  This change may feel comfortable or at least interesting to you.  However, after some time, you will probably want to vary the positioning of the towel again.  Rather, you may wish to move the rolled-up towel to a new location.

Some new possible choices or places for re-positioning the rolled-up towel can be (as well as, think of others):

*  Along various parts of your back, up or down, left or right.  Rather, left of the spine or right of the spine, or more toward your upper back, or more toward your sacrum.

*  Underneath your left buttock or underneath your right buttock.

*  Behind your left or right shoulder blade.

*  Even placing something underneath your feet, such as a thick book(s).  Thus, repositioning or raising the level or height of your feet in relation to the floor.

Although it’s not mandatory, you may wish to be proactive … or maybe not. 
J  That is, you may wish to reposition the rolled-up towel to a new location a few minutes before you expect that the current positioning of the towel will no longer feel comfortable to you.

Whatever new arbitrary position you choose, remember that if, in the very beginning, it does not feel comfortable, or at least interesting, then avoid that particular positioning or placement of the rolled-up towel.  Let pain be your guide.  Rather, let pleasure be what you are drawn or attracted toward.

Please remember that there is really no such thing as the “perfect sitting position”.  No matter how, supposedly, ideal a particular position feels, most likely, sooner or later, you’ll have to readjust it.  Some folks espouse that the supposed “best way to sit” is to be sure that your upper body or torso is aligned perpendicularly or at a right angle to your thighs, and that your thighs are at a right angle to your lower legs, and that your ankle is at a right angle to your foot.  Sure, this may feel comfortable for a little while.  But, again, after some time, you’ll probably have to find another way to re-position your body.  There is no such thing as the ideal sitting position, but, rather, think of sitting as a dynamic (rather than static) art where one continually explores and plays with various  positions and movements.  Speaking of movement, …

Sometimes making small movements while sitting is helpful.  These do not necessarily have to be obviously large or visible movements as if you were doing the hip hop “heel toe” or “popping glide”.  Some of you, who are familiar with creating a “Feldenkrais Clock”, may find it helpful while in sitting to delineate a “Pelvic Clock” or a “clock” around your mid-back area.  Rather than immediately creating a large, 360 degree clock, you may first wish to explore going back and forth directly between the hours of 12 and 6 O’Clock or between 3 and 9 O’Clock, before doing just the first quarter of the clock (the hours of 12, 1, 2, and 3), before ultimately tracing the full circle (the complete clock).

Be creative during your long journey.  Think of creating clocks along your Self (your body) wherever you wish, as well as any other strategies or options that will make your journey more pleasurable.

“Getting there (can be) is half the fun!”


Guan Yin Acupuncture & Feldenkrais® Center
Dr. Lin Cheng Speer, LAc, OMD, PhD
James Speer, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner®
1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suites #203, 208
Santa Monica, CA 90401
tel. 310-395-1952
www.drlinspeer.com
www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.com
www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.blogspot.com
"Health Is All that Matters!"


James Speer

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Profound Movement Concept of the Spiral



Greetings again, friends!

I wrote the following while allowing myself to freely think outside of my health care occupational work of movement reeducation and therapy.  I allow myself to do this sometimes. 
J

I am in awe with how much our reality is engaged with the entity, the "Spiral".  Right within my own backyard as a Feldenkrais® practitioner, I notice the existence of various spiral Awareness Through Movement® lessons within the Feldenkrais® community, that explore and play with, or are oriented around the tendency for Spiral.  I thought I might commentate on some additional observations of mine regarding this unique trajectory, the Spiral.

The action of the spiral is a very economical way for generating power, as displayed in Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais’s "Sitting to Standing" lesson, which employs the unique trajectory of a twist or spiral, as well as in the fabulous lesson by Feldenkrais Master Trainer, Ruthy Alon, in her "Standing Up from Sitting - Inner Dynamics of Gravity, Spiral and Timing" (25 minutes in length), on her magnificent "Free Your Back" audiotape lesson series.

In hands-on Functional Integration® work, this is the bodywork form of Feldenkrais, the simple action of, for instance, say, lifting a client's arm or shoulder, or, pushing a client’s hip, as well as many other actions, sometime naturally lead into a spiral.

Ruthy Alon, one of the best “organized for movement” Feldenkrais practitioners on our planet, beautifully demonstrates, during many of her public workshops, how the action of the spiral is evident within the leg, most likely the whole Self (whole body), during the leg's trajectory during walking. Many of us are familiar with how the action of reaching with the arm is enhanced when we allow the arm to twist or spiral.  For example, say you wish to pick up an object from, for instance, a dining table or a shelf.  Thus, allow your arm to freely “pronate” as your arm begins the movement of reaching.  “Pronation”, or “to pronate” means to rotate the hand or forearm so that the surface of the palm is downward or toward the back.  Also, you will find it helpful to allow your arm to pronate when performing other activities … such as when throwing a punch, speaking of which …

Many of the authentic punches in the sport of boxing, for example, the “left jab” or a “straight right” both employ a spiral, that is a twisting of the arm in a pronated direction, while an “uppercut” punch employs a supinated spiral, or “supination”.  “To supinate” means to rotate the hand so that the palm is upward, rather, so that the palm is facing up or forwards.  Also, observe how frequently two fighters or boxers dance around the ring against one another, before they gradually, ultimately, meet in the center of the ring to exchange punches. Again, this displays a spiral.  The concept of dancing around a confrontation, as boxers sometimes do, all the while, gradually migrating towards the heated epicenter (thus, the trajectory of a spiral), is intriguing, as opposed to tackling something, unpreparedly, head-on.

The principle of the Screw, recognized within Mechanics as that fastener having “helical” threads, is an excellent demonstration of the ease and power of a spiral. The large amount of torque or “Moment Arm” generated from the action of turning a screw is often utilized for lifting, raising, and permanently fastening immense objects.

Scientists are aware of the spiral structure of a galaxy.  Also, it has been conveyed to me that neighboring galaxies encounter one another in a spiral fashion. Likewise, on the other end of the spectrum, the very beginning of life, the initial contact between a sperm and egg is a spiral dance between these two lovers before they ultimately connect with one another.

The powerful, but very gentle, form of bodywork, Ortho-Bionomy, developed by formerly Canadian, then British Osteopath and Judo Master, Dr. Arthur Lincoln Pauls, passionately espouses the power of the spiral, as I am sure that other forms of bodywork do as well.

An extremely thought-provoking movie, the psychological thriller, "Pi", is named for the Greek symbol representing the value denoting a circle's circumference divided by its diameter, thus, an unending, irrational number.  Released in 1998, the film touches upon the concept of a spiral, Kabbalah, and other philosophical issues, through its main character, a young mathematician genius.

Some animals exhibit spirals in the shape of their horns, teeth, or claws.

Whether man-made or in nature, we are surrounded by spirals.  Please find below probably just a fraction of some examples within our world …

*  Tree rings or annual growth rings of a tree.
*  Nautilus shell.
*  Grooves on the old style record LPs.
*  Spider web.
*  Cork screw tool.
*  Strand of DNA.
*  Water outflow from a sink or bathtub, i.e. “down the drain”.
*  Tornado.
*  Hurricane (the "eye" of the hurricane being the origin or the focal point).


Although some of the above may be associated with a “twist”, or a “helix”, I am still allowing either of these to also be categorized as a spiral.  Thank you very much, Math Police.

Interestingly, the expression, “He’s spiraling downhill.”, or, “He’s on a downhill spiral.”, apparently infers that this individual is not directly going downhill, but is traveling a gradual, twisting, widening path to be gradually encroaching upon “the end or bottom of the hill”.  Thus, this individual is progressively, piece by piece, becoming worse and worse to finally, ultimately, eventually reach the “down hill”.  [Wow!  That was a mouthful.]  Rather than admitting that this individual has already “hit rock bottom”, by referencing the “spiral” term, at least one is expressing some slight politeness or courtesy toward this individual.

Can you think of other examples of a twist or spiral within our world, rather, within our reality?

Can you think of other applications or other philosophical paradigms related to this profound movement concept of the spiral?

If you don’t want to bother, you can just relax and come in for an unwinding, spiral, bodywork session. 
J

Take good care,
James

Guan Yin Acupuncture & Feldenkrais® Center
Dr. Lin Cheng Speer, LAc, OMD, PhD
James Speer, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner®
1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suites #203, 208
Santa Monica, CA 90401
tel. 310-395-1952
http://www.drlinspeer.com/
http://www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.com/
http://www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.blogspot.com/
"Health Is All that Matters!"

James SpeerJames Speer

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Improving Your Quality of Walking through Body Awareness: Different Walking Patterns to Explore and Play with

Greetings again, friends!

The following routine is not meant to be a “training” or “conditioning” lesson.  It is not meant to be interpreted in the vein of “working out”, which usually infers for someone to apply or put forth substantial, sometimes even maximum, effort.  Neither is the following intended to be applied in the mindset of Cardiovascular Work, although that is also productive within its own right for its own intention or goal.

Having a background as a Feldenkrais® practitioner, rather, what I’ve provided below is a series of movement sequences intended for fostering greater bodily awareness. The Feldenkrais Method® is a body-centered, self-discovery process, which utilizes movement. This form of Movement Reeducation operates under the principle that, in order for your Self (your body) to learn something, conditions have to be provided that are comfortable for it. Otherwise, once your “System” detects any form of discomfort, it just shuts itself off from any further learning.

Analogous to my preceding article,
“How to Improve Your Jumping Ability through Body Awareness”, I again offer a short Body Awareness Movement Reeducation lesson to present to your Self (body) options for movement so that it can ultimately pick and choose the best relationship between various parts of your body for maximum efficiency.  This is movement repatterning work.

If none of the above makes any sense to you at this time, you’re fine. 
J  Just do the routine below, always staying within your comfort level, and enjoy seeing where it takes you.

Please find below a series of movement sequences I have often used when working with anyone experiencing orthopedic or neurologic conditions, as well as with "healthy" individuals.  Again, if at any time doing one of the following steps, that is, walking in one of the described patterns, is uncomfortable, then walk more slowly or take much smaller steps.  Please always stay within your comfort range.  You may even elect to forego certain of these walking patterns described below.

The steps below should be done continuously. That is, one kind of walking pattern should blend into the next walking pattern, etc. You should not stop walking between steps, unless, of course, you’re tired.  Again, if you’re tired, then simply rest.  You certainly do not want to “force yourself to push through it”.  Then you defeat the purpose of Movement Reeducation.

If you are doing the following lesson within your own home, rather than in the spacious outdoors, choose a long hallway where you have the least amount of interruptions to have to repeatedly turn around.  Also remember to first clear a safe path for yourself for walking.

Here we go. 

Walk forwards. [This is the initial “scan”, which we will use later in order to take a “Before and After Picture”.]  Notice how you're walking. Notice your arms, the hands, the way they are traveling through the air. Does one arm swing differently than the other? Does one arm swing further away from the body than the other? Does one leg step farther forward than the other?  Which shoulder is higher? Does your head move, e.g. turn, flex/extend, grow taller/grow shorter, side-bend?  Which foot seems to land harder on the ground?  There is no need “to correct” anything.  There are no right answers to the above.  These are just landmarks to help you queue in to your body … body awareness.  Simply observe.  Simply notice.

Notice how your right shoulder is moving. Notice how the right hip is moving. Are the hip and shoulder going in the same direction together? That is, when the hip moves forward, does the same side shoulder also move forward? In most individuals, they move in opposite directions together, i.e. a contralateral walk.   Now do just the opposite. That is, lock the hip to the shoulder, i.e. the homolateral walk.  This can be done more easily by placing your right palm on the outside of your right thigh and use the image that the palm is glued or somehow bonded to the thigh. Hence, when the right thigh moves forward and backward, so does the right arm at the same time, and, ultimately (usually), the right shoulder also.

While the right side of yourself continues to move non-differentiated, bond the left palm to your left thigh so now the left side is also walking non-differentiated. I call this the Wyatt Earp walk. Draw partner!

Now let that go and simply walk forward again as you would naturally, i.e. the (usual) contralateral walk. Scan again how your arms are moving now.  Walk backwards.

[All steps from here on in can be done, either, walking forwards only, backwards only, or both.  Again, only do what is comfortable for you.]

Walk while leaning backwards. [similar to the 1970’s "Keep on Truckin'" walk. 
J ]

Walk while leaning forwards.

Walk while leaning forwards so that you're walking more on your toes.

Neither intentionally lean forward nor backward as you now begin to walk on the inside edges of your feet.

Walk on the outside edges of your feet.

Walk with the feet in.

Walk with the feet out. This is the Charlie Chaplan walk. Have fun with it.  Stick out your butt. Imagine you have a cane in your left hand.

Walk like jelly. That is, as you're walking, with each step you take, begin to allow yourself to collapse towards the floor. You'll maybe feel your head and upper body free-falling towards the ground. Catch yourself from falling completely at the very last instant that's still comfortable for you. After you've caught your equilibrium, again allow yourself to collapse towards the floor as you begin to take your next step, etc.

Do the "Indian walk". A Native American does not surrender his weight to the forward foot until he knows it's safe to do so. For example, let's imagine a Native American hunter is stalking a deer through the woods. As he begins to step forward onto his forward foot, he may feel a stick on the ground with that foot. So, rather than surrender his weight to that foot, this would regrettably break the stick and possibly ruin his cover, he is still in a position to retract his foot.

Bend over and place your hands on top of your feet - right hand on top of the right foot, left hand on top of the left foot. Grasp your feet so that your palms are resting on top of the feet, but your thumb and fingers are slightly underneath so that they're grasping the soles. Begin to walk in this position. Notice how your right arm and right leg come forward together, and your left arm and left leg come forward together. This is a homolateral walk while leaning forwards. Children love to do this.

Once more come upright and walk backwards.

Walk backwards on the outside edges of your feet.

Walk forwards again as you would naturally. Is your walking different now?  How so?

Does your walk maybe feel smoother, easier, or lighter?

Enjoy the feeling!

[End of Lesson]

If you're budgeted for time, two of the “most powerful walking moves in the world" are to:

Walk forwards. Walk backwards. Walk backwards on the outer edges of your feet. Walk forward again.

Voila!  You'll always notice a change.  Guaranteed!





Anecdote:
I'll relay to you a case regarding "neurological walking (gait) problems” ... 

One client of mine, Joyce, late 30's, was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy.  Joyce was referred to me by her physician because her left knee "always ached".  I actually did very little hands-on work with her on my Feldenkrais table.  After briefly exploring with her in standing, by guiding her with my hands for turning, we then went into a large open space adjacent to my office.  I asked Joyce to walk on her crutches in several different walking patterns as described above.  In just one session, there was a visible difference in Joyce's walk on her crutches.  She reported to me how the pain had vanished and that she felt she was walking more “centered and balanced”.


Guan Yin Acupuncture & Feldenkrais® Center
Dr. Lin Cheng Speer, LAc, OMD, PhD
James Speer, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner®
1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suites #203, 208
Santa Monica, CA 90401
tel. 310-395-1952
http://www.drlinspeer.com/
http://www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.com/
http://www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.blogspot.com/
"Health Is All that Matters!"


James Speer

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Turning while Standing, One of the Great Feldenkrais® “Three-Minute Miracles”

Greetings again, friends!

The "meat" of this article, that is, my version of the Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® lesson, the standing turning lesson, itself, begins about a third of the way into this posting.  However, I would first like to make some introductory comments.

Often times, I am asked, "What is Feldenkrais?"  I will reply with a verbal answer.  However, giving someone a semantic answer may not always be complete for that person, compared to, an inspiring kinesthetic experience.  Therefore, some Feldenkrais Practitoners, or “Feldenkraisers”, enjoy asking the person who is inquiring to, for example, "Interlace the fingers of your hands as if you were about to say Dinner Grace.  That is, simply interlace your fingers the way you do naturally. ...  Now, please interlace your hands the non-habitual way.  That is, move all of your fingers down one notch.  How does that feel? ...  That feels
differently.  That's what our work is about.  Exploring options.  Finding options in how to be in the world ..."  That is one way of explaining or demonstrating our Feldenkrais work.   Another way is the following short, mini - “Awareness Through Movement” lesson, the popular, "Turning while Standing".  It is one of those, as some of us refer to, "Three-Minute Miracles", which leave a wonderful impression with people.  For a few years after my training, when asked, "What is Feldenkrais?", I would, spontaneously, take about 3, maybe even as long as 15, minutes to teach this mini-lesson to many different people, some of whom I knew very well, and others, who were brand-new acquaintances.

Please find below one version of TURNING WHILE STANDING.



TURNING WHILE STANDING

1) I'm going to guide you through a set of five different movements.  Always move slowly.  Always move well within your comfort range.  You'll see that your natural range of movement will improve nicely, without even straining. Notice where you're standing.  Bring your left arm straight out in front of you, to shoulder height.  Your arm is relatively straight, however, not
uncomfortably locked or rigid.  KEEPING YOUR FEET PLANTED, slowly turn your body
to the left as if you wanted to look at something behind yourself.  You can allow your arm to also swing outwards to the left, as the rest of your body is turning to the left.  Feel your hips turning to the left, the shoulders turning to the left.  The head, and even the eyes, all of yourself is turning to the left.  Please stay well within your comfort range.  I know that, right now, if you had to, you could probably push yourself to be able to turn almost three-quarters of a complete circle (270 degrees).  But, that isn't necessary.  You'll see a nice improvement soon coming to you, naturally, easily, without any excessive strain.  Pick some sort of marker that you can use as a reference point to tell how far you are turning easily. ...  Now leave that alone, and come back to neutral, or, the center place.  Lower your arm.

[A) In regard to selecting a reference point, if you're inside, you may notice, for example, a painting, a light switch, or some other object, on the wall.  If you're outside, you may notice a certain tree, a telephone pole, or a particular house, for example, in the background, as the reference point.

B) Again, please note to KEEP YOUR FEET PLANTED. 
J  People's "incorrect" spontaneous reaction is to also turn and shuffle their feet to the left.  [Of course, as Feldenkrais practitioners, we often encourage all kinds of spontaneous movement.  However, in this instance, it will be easier to appreciate the natural improvement made during the lesson for a positive impression to somatic learning, to be able to gauge  your own range of improvement, by requesting a certain standard throughout the lesson, namely, to keep your feet in one place, as opposed to, otherwise,  shuffling one's feet, possibly, a different amount for each repetition.]

C) As I mentioned above, it's important to let you know to "allow your arm to also swing outwards to the left".  You may, otherwise, attribute the improvement, which will most likely follow in the subsequent steps, to not "correctly" allowing your arm to swing outward the first time you did the original turning movement, as indicated in step #1 above.  Sometimes, I may describe this as "Allow your arm to slowly, gradually, swing outward, as if you
were hitting a tennis backhand in slow-motion."]

2) Your left arm remains lowered, somewhere comfortably along your side.
Turn yourself to the left as far as you can comfortably.  Stay there, your body
turned to the left.  Turn only your head to the right.  That is, while your
feet remain planted, and your body remains turned to the left, you're allowing
your head to turn in the opposite direction to the right.  Do this a few times,
moving just your head, back and forth, all the while your body remains turned
to the left. ...  Bring all of your body back to neutral.  Again, bring your
left arm to shoulder height, straight out in front of you, and turn yourself to
the left, all of your body, as far as you can comfortably.  Also allow the
arm to gradually swing outward to the left.  Notice how far you are turning
now.  ["Wow!"]  Come back to neutral.  Lower your arm.

3) Your left arm remains lowered.  Turn yourself to the left as far as you
can comfortably.  Stay there.  This time, turn just your shoulders to the
right.  Only the shoulders. ...  That means your left shoulder is coming
forward, while your right shoulder is moving backwards.  Do this a few times. ...  Bring
all of your body back to neutral.  Again, bring your arm to shoulder height,
straight out in front of you, and turn yourself to the left as far as you can
comfortably.  ["Wow! Wow! Wow!"]  Come back to neutral.  Lower your arm.
[Please note that this is a very important step which I will say more on
below.]

4) Turn yourself to the left as far as you can comfortably.  Stay there.
This time, turn just your hips to the right.  Only the hips to the right ...  Do
this a few times....  Bring all of your body back to neutral.  Again, bring
your left arm to shoulder height, straight out in front of you, and turn
yourself to the left as far as you can comfortably.  ["Wow!"]  Come back to
neutral.  Lower your arm.

5) Turn yourself to the left as far as you can comfortably.  Stay there.
This time, move your eyes to the right.  You're only allowing the eyes to go to
the right. …  Do this a few times.  Move your eyes very slowly, back and
forth.  Take your time.  This may feel very unusual to you. …  Bring all of
your body back to neutral.  Again, bring your arm to shoulder height, straight out
in front of you, and turn yourself to the left as far as you can
comfortably.  ["Wow!"]

[Step #5, above, involving the eyes, provides a nice icing on the cake.  You
are perhaps, afterward, able to appreciate a larger field of vision complementing
your turning movement.  Of course, more profound than a simple vision
improvement, note that the eyes are connected to the overall Gestalt of movement.  However, somatically inviting someone such as you, by me, to sense the movement of an intense organ, such as the eyes, to the movement of the rest of themselves, may naturally be met with trepidation on some level.  Thus, I will sometimes omit this step when I first teach this lesson to someone.  Rather, I will refrain from teaching, in the very beginning, the connection of eyes with the rest of the
Self.]

6) Turn yourself to the left as far as you can comfortably.  Remained turned
there.  However, turn just your head to the right.  Pause in this position.
Notice that your head is turned to the right, but the rest of your body is
turned to the left.  Begin to turn your head and shoulders in opposite
directions, all the while the rest of your body remains turned to the left.  That is,
begin to take your head to the left, while simultaneously turning your shoulders
to the right.  Then, take your head to the right, while simultaneously turning
your shoulders to the left.  Continue going back and forth, playing with the
relationship between the head and shoulders, all the while the rest of your
body continues to remain comfortably turned to the left. ...  Bring all of your
body back to neutral.  Again, bring your arm to shoulder height, straight out
in front of you, and turn yourself to the left as far as you can comfortably.
["Wow!!!"]

[End of lesson]


The "learning", as we refer to it, during this movement lesson, for instance, the added range of motion, as well as perhaps, the new "smoothness" you experienced in the movements as the lesson progressed, ultimately carries over into the rest of our functional lives.  I hope you enjoyed this lesson.

If you would like, you can repeat the above movements on the "other side".  However, please note that in Body Awareness lessons, such as Feldenkrais work, sometimes Less is More.  If you feel that you've had enough, then let it go.  Otherwise, if you'd like, you may go through steps nos. 1 through 6 above, again, where you will be exploring and playing with different movement patterns while turning to the right.  Thus, you would go through steps 1 through 6 again, while substituting "left" for "right" and "right" for "left".

However, again, perhaps, you'd like to rest for awhile, in order to allow your body to absorb the learning effects from already working one side, before repeating the lesson on the other side.


The best to all,
James

Guan Yin Acupuncture & Feldenkrais® Center
Dr. Lin Cheng Speer, LAc, OMD, PhD
James Speer, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner®
1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suites #203, 208
Santa Monica, CA 90401
tel. 310-395-1952
http://www.drlinspeer.com/
http://www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.com/
http://www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.blogspot.com/
"Health Is All that Matters!"

Friday, December 2, 2011

How to Improve Your Jumping Ability through Body Awareness

My article, “How to Improve Your Jumping Ability through Body Awareness”, below, was originally posted on July 21, 2007 on www.MartialArtsPlanet.com, the premier website for martial artists, within the Health & Fitness forum.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you are a return reader to this article, please feel free to go directly to page 2 for the beginning of the  “Movement Re-education Routine”.



How to Improve Your Jumping Ability through Body Awareness
              by James Speer, Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner

Did you ever have a desire to be able to dunk a basketball, or to better deliver that jump kick in a sparring session?  Who among us would not like to enhance our jumping ability?

Please find below a jumping routine, for good, productive results. This routine is not intended to be applied in the mindset for Muscle Loading, or, for Cardiovascular Work, although these two different methods, of course, also produce improved jumping ability. Having a background as a Feldenkrais® practitioner, rather, what I’ve provided below is a series of movement sequences intended for fostering greater bodily awareness. The Feldenkrais Method® is a body-centered, self-discovery process, which utilizes movement. This form of Movement Reeducation operates under the principle that, in order for your Self (your body) to learn something, conditions have to be provided that are comfortable for it. Otherwise, once your nervous system detects any form of discomfort, it just shuts itself off from any further learning. Of course, with Muscle Loading, one often does approach a zone of discomfort, and, thus, acquires muscle gains, which is another way to develop jumping improvement.

Before doing the different movement sequences as described below, remember to always move slowly and well within your comfort range. Some of the movements described below may not be natural movements that your body would select to do spontaneously. Therefore, go at it easily, gently, as well as, slowly. If a particular movement sequence is uncomfortable to do even one time, then, possibly, do much less of it, and/or slow it down even more. If it is still uncomfortable, then do not do it at all.

Of course, if you were in a real physical contest, such as a sparring session with high kicking, a basketball game, or, if you were jumping in your standard, orthodox way, it would be all right to do your natural jumping movements, intensely, and as hard as you can. However, for the purposes of the following learning exercise, vis-a-vis, the following “movement reeducation routine”, again, go slowly and well within your comfort range, especially the first few times that you do the routine. You probably should not do the complete routine more than once per day, to give your system time to “integrate the Learning from the lesson”. For each of the different steps, always touch down, or, land on the ground, as you would naturally, with your feet facing, relatively, directly ahead of you.

Rest whenever you need to. Always rest at least 20-40 seconds between each movement sequence, even if you do not feel especially tired. Do all movement sequences 2-9 times. Remember, you don't get points for doing a lot. If you're only comfortable doing a particular jump movement sequence one time, that is fine. Always stop before the first sign of discomfort. For developing kinesthetic, or bodily, awareness, sometimes Less is More.

Do not rush. This is not necessarily a work-out routine. It's a bodily awareness lesson, learning how we organize ourselves to move (to jump) within our environment. 
Instead of just rushing through the routine by hurriedly proceeding from one step to the next step, instead, if you rest properly between each movement sequence, the entire routine should take you between 10 to, possibly as long as, 30 minutes to do.  To assure that you are allowing enough time for movement learning, or, Sensory Motor Integration, to take place, you should be jumping leisurely enough that you never get out of breath during the routine.

For those of you who feel comfortable with Visualization or Imagination Work, Feldenkrais lessons can often provide a wonderful opportunity for this. I will not elaborate on this kind of work here, only to express that imagining, or, imagination work, can, often, be productive. One experiences the same bio-electric or bio-chemical activity in the brain, during imagination work, as one would experience by actually doing the physical movement.

Again, I designed the following movement (jumping) routine not intended to be presented in the format of a "Guts to the Wall" Muscle Loading Session, which, obviously, merits its own rewards. Instead, the following routine is meant to be done comfortably, to allow Neuromuscular Reeducation to take place in a comfortable "learning laboratory". The next day, in your normal workout, when you go "Guts to the Wall" when doing other jumping exercises, see if you, perhaps, feel some sort of change or improvement, as a result of the slow, comfortable, learning lesson (below), you did the previous day.


Movement Re-education Routine for Improving Jumping Through Kinesthetic Awareness

*** The following steps are written, inferring that one is jumping into the air, and, thus, landing back down on the ground. However, sometimes when I do each of the different steps of the below routine, I like to do each step so that I am jumping up onto a bench, and, I then jump off the bench, coming back to the ground, then, resting for several seconds, before I, once more, jump up onto the bench again. Thus, one has the choice of doing each of the described movements below by, either, jumping up into empty air, or, jumping up onto a bench. ***

1) With your feet comfortably apart, jump in your natural way. Don't try to jump your hardest. Just jump as you would, easily, well within an easy effort.

2) Jump with your toes facing inward (pigeon toed). However, be sure to land (to touch down) in your natural way.

3) Jump with your toes facing outward ("Charlie Chaplan" style). However, be sure to land (to touch down) in your natural way. For each of the following steps, always touch down in your natural way.

4) Starting with the weight predominantly on the outsides of your feet, jump.

5) Starting with the weight predominantly on the insides of your feet, jump. This may feel uncomfortable. Therefore, tailor this movement to your own comfort. If it is still uncomfortable, then don't do it.

6) With your feet wide apart, jump.

7) With your feet together, jump.

8) Cross your right leg in front of your left leg. Jump.

9) Cross your left leg in front of your right leg. Jump.

10) Look up at the sky (or, ceiling). Jump.

11) Look down at the ground. Jump.

12) With your head turned to the left, jump. With your head turned to the right, jump.

13) Leaning forwards, jump. Go easy with this.

14) Leaning backwards, jump. Go easy with this.

15) With your buttocks sticking out, jump.

16) With most of your weight on your toes, jump.

17) With most of your weight on your heels, jump.

18) Jump in your natural way. Does it seem easier now? Does it seem more smooth and fluid? Is there something about it that feels differently?

The preceding routine is also helpful for a proficient athlete who, possibly, eventually approaches a plateau or sticking point by repeatedly jumping over and over again, the same way, day-in and day-out. The provided kinesthetic awareness routine offers an exercise in bodily awareness to, perhaps, better refine one's movement pattern to be able to, once again, progress in his jumping ability.

By doing the different jumping variations as stated (Most likely, there are possibly hundreds more that one can have fun creating.), this can possibly invite one's attention (awareness) to different body parts, for his system to then be able to pick and choose how to better coordinate one body part with another body part.

Of course, I also believe that in conjunction with this bodily awareness routine, it is also helpful for one to also do "Guts to the Wall" strength training and conditioning, including productive plyometric exercises. However, I would recommend that if you are doing this the same day as my body awareness routine, above, to do the "Guts to the Wall" training first, before the bodily awareness lesson. Or, if you are going to do the "Guts to the Wall" work after the bodily awareness routine, to allow a break of a good couple of hours of in-between time, for your Self (your body) to first integrate the improved sensory-motor integration it learned during the body awareness lesson.


Guan Yin Acupuncture & Feldenkrais® Center
Dr. Lin Cheng Speer, LAc, OMD, PhD

James Speer, Guild-Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner®
1003 Wilshire Blvd. Suites #203, 208
Santa Monica, CA 90401
tel. 310-395-1952
http://www.drlinspeer.com/
http://www.feldenkraisjamesspeer.com/
"Health Is All that Matters!"

James Speer