“Movement is life. Without movement, life is unthinkable.”
– Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc., on the cover of the Learn to Learn booklet
This principle is special to me personally – it’s the main reason I decided to enter a Feldenkrais training and study body-centered psychotherapy. The absolute worst times in my life have also been the most sedentary, and my involvement in dance and yoga have been lifelines for me.
But what is movement? Do we have to be dancing around or running down a basketball court to be considered movers? We are always in motion, even when we are “still” – our internal organs are keeping us alive, our eyes are focusing and blinking, air is pumped in and out of our lungs with a complex set of muscles (which we explored a couple of weeks ago in class). When we are sitting or standing, we constantly make tiny adjustments to keep ourselves upright in gravity. Our movement is smart, even when we’re not thinking about it.
Even one-celled creatures must move to live, toward things that will nourish them and away from things that will harm them. At this basic level, the cells in our bodies are maintaining the basic functions of life, and lack of movement interrupts our bodies’ ability to carry on these functions. Movement keeps blood flowing, bringing in nutrients and pumping out waste for every system in the body. You can feel this on a physical level if you get pain in the back of your neck or between your shoulder blades after you work too long at the computer – acidic waste builds up in the muscles that are trying to hold your head in one position for too long. Your nervous system identifies acid build-up as a threat and puts pain there to get you to do something about it. Rubbing your neck or moving your head and shoulders pumps out waste buildup and flushes the area with blood, and vigorous movement does this for the whole body.
“Movement is life” goes beyond issues of survival and physical maintenance: movement adds meaning to our lives. One of the great things that the Feldenkrais Method can do for us is to help us keep doing the activities we want to do. Playing with children, walking or biking to run your errands, working on DIY projects, art projects, gardening, dancing, doing sports … these are things that bring meaning to life and it can be a real loss when we aren’t able to do them. One of my clients once reported to me that she feels better and is able to do more now in her 60’s than she did in her 40’s! In a world where we increasingly go from bed to desk to sofa to bed again, always curled around our “devices,” it’s important to keep doing physical things, at whatever level you’re able. As they say, “use it or lose it.”
At yet another level, the Feldenkrais Method is not really about moving at all … it’s about learning to sense better. That’s why it’s called Awareness Through Movement, and not Movement Through Awareness. Movement is associated with every area of our interactions with the world: our sensations, our emotions, and our thoughts. This means that when you have one kind of thought, you hold your body differently than when you have another kind of thought … and the same with different emotions. Our sense of our movement is much clearer and more concrete than our awareness of our thoughts and feelings, so it’s an easier area to make conscious change; if you change your movement, everything else will change too. Plus, it feels good, so it’s more likely we’ll go back for more.
Homework (if you want it):
1. Love your movement: What are the active things you most love to do in life? What motivates you to be active? Do more of those things – Find a way to make time! If you are limited in your movement in some way, look for ways to enjoy the movement you can do. For inspiration, Here’s a link to my latest favorite video of an incredible mover, Kenichi Ebina.
10/9/13 – new additional inspiration! Dance Walking with Ben Aaron.
2. If you spend a lot of time sitting in one place, find ways to get moving as a routine. Go talk to the colleague in your office instead of calling or emailing. Look around and give your eyes a chance to take in a wider perspective. Go get more drinks of water. There are lots of apps out now that will remind you to take breaks, if you tend to lose track of time if you’re in the middle of a project. There’s a great downloadable program for PCs called WorkRave that puts pop-up windows on your screen to remind you to stop and rest, and will even lead you through a little movement routine. Along these lines, here’s an interesting discussion about standing desks.
3. Notice what your body feels like as you go from one situation to another, from one thought to another. Do these observations help you learn anything new about yourself?