Strong arms, soft shoulders.

    Here is a wonderful exploration for finding the connection of your arms through your shoulders and spine.

    1) Sit on the floor with your knees bent out to the sides and the soles of your feet facing (but not touching) each other. You may need to place a folded towel under your sit bones for comfort. Place your hands on the floor behind your pelvis and lean into your arms and hands. Play with the placement of your hands. Do you prefer your fingers pointing away from yourself? Towards yourself? Somewhere in between? Take a few minutes and very slowly explore where your arms and hands can be so you feel your arms can easily support you. Stop. Take your hands away from the floor and rest.

    2) Return to sitting with your knees bent, soles of the feet facing each other and place your hands behind your pelvis in the place where you feel your arms can easily support you. Very slowly and gently bend and straighten your elbows, several times. Stop. Even more slowly bend and straighten your elbows. How can your arms accept your weight? How can your arms connect with the floor? Stop. Take your hands away from the floor and rest.

    3) Return again to the sitting position with your hands behind your pelvis. Slowly, slowly bend and straighten the elbows. Notice what happens in your chest as you bend and straighten your arms. How does your head respond to this simple movement? How are you breathing? What is happening in your pelvis? How can you make this movement easy? Effortless? How do your shoulders feel? Stop. Slowly stand up. Notice how your arms rest at your sides. Notice the shape of your shoulders. Walk a bit and notice how your shoulders respond to the simple act of walking.

    Remember to always move slowly and gently, and in the spirit of interest and curiosity, rather than self-judgement. This allows for changes to take place in your nervous system (neuroplasticity). It’s also important to be comfortable so you are able to pay attention to yourself as you move. In Feldenkrais(R) we have a saying: there is no right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse, just opportunities to learn.

    Be healthy!

Cheryl Ilov, GCFP

It’s time….for the pelvic clock.

    Many of us have an unclear sense of awareness of our pelvis. As a result, we often don’t understand how to move from our strong foundation, our true base of support, our pelvis. Try this brief excerpt from a classic Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement(R) lesson. It will help you learn how to sense your pelvis, loosen your hip joints and free your low back. As always, move very slowly, thoughtfully, and pay close attention to the quality of your movement.

    1) Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet comfortably apart. You may need to place a folded towel (not a pillow) under your head for comfort.
    Imagine the face of a clock lying on top of your pelvis, with 6 o’clock at your pubic bone and 12 o’clock at your belly button. Slowly and gently begin to rock your pelvis from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock and back. Find a way to move from your skeleton, rather than your muscles. It’s a different way of thinking about movement, and allows for changes to take place in your nervous system and the way you move (neuroplasticity). Stop and rest.

    2) With the knees bent as above, begin to slowly rock back and forth from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock. Go slowly and gently. Sense the quality of the movement. Sense your breathing. How does your back and spine  accomodate the movement? Stop.
    Go back to rocking from 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock. Again, think of moving from your skeleton. How does the quality of the movement feel now? Stop and rest.

    3) With your knees bent as above, slowly, slowly, and gently begin to find all of the numbers on the clock. As your pelvis slowly circles around the face of the clock, what else is moving? How does your spine respond? Your head? How are you breathing? How can you make this movement as light and easy as possible? Do you notice that some numbers are more easily accesible than others? The goal is not to judge it, change it, or try and “fix” it. Just notice. Stop and rest.

    4) Slowly and carefully roll to your side, come up to sitting and standing. Keep the idea of the face of a clock on the front of your pelvis as you move. Stand for a moment or two. Slowly shift your weight from side to side. How do you feel different? How is your weight going through your legs? Take a few minutes to walk around the room and appreciate the quality of movement in your walk.

    Remember, in the context of learning, doing less helps you sense more! That is the basis of neuroplasticity and learning in a way that engages all of your senses in an organic way, rather than a cognitive way.

    Be healthy!

Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP                   

Expand your world with spinal flexibility.

    Many of us think of our spinal flexibility in terms of our ability to bend forward, backward, and sideways. What about rotation? Not only does rotation allow us to turn and look behind ourselves, but it plays an important role in healthy spine mechanics. Spinal rotation is also important for survival; we need to be able to turn to see who or what is behind us, to pull into traffic, to merge on a ski slope, etc. Unfortunately, we often don’t include rotation into our movement patterns. We also may have heard that “twisting” the spine is a bad thing and can cause injury. There is a difference between “twisting” and the gentle rotation that is necessary for a healthy spine. Here is a nice little exercise to open up the spine in healthy rotation.

    1) Stand with your feet about hip width apart with the knees slightly bent. Bring your right arm up in front of you directly in front of your shoulder, as if you were pointing at something. Keep your eyes on your right hand as you slowly and gently turn your right arm, eyes and head to the right, as if you were going to point at something behind you. Go gently, and ONLY as far as feels comfortable for you. Note how far you go by mentally locating a spot on the wall or other landmark behind you. Come back to the front, lower your arm.

    2) Again lift your right arm, gently turn to the right as if you were pointing at something behind you. Leave your arm and shoulders to the right, and slowly and gently turn your eyes and the head to the left to look over your left shoulder. Slowly turn your eyes and head to the right to look toward the right arm and hand. Again, turn your eyes and head to look over the left shoulder. Turn again to the right. Now bring the right arm, eyes, head and shoulders back to face front, lower the arm, and take a few deep breaths. One last time, lift the right arm in front of you, keep your eyes looking over your right hand, and notice how far you go now. Are you able to go farther than when you first tried it? Does it feel easier? Smoother?

    3) Repeat the same movement pattern to the left.

    Remember to move slowly, gently, and “listen” to yourself as you thoughtfully do the movement. In the context of learning, doing less helps you sense more, which is a principle of neuroplasticity and the foundation of The Feldenkrais Method(R).  Do not do this movement pattern if you experience any pain or discomfort. You may want to consult with a Feldenkrais Practitioner or licensed physical therapist for assistance.

    Be healthy!

Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

Don’t worry….be happy!

    I recently found myself engaged in a conversation where I was suddenly and unexpectedly asked to name 3 things that made me happy.

    This question was presented to me after I had just completed a 3 day Advanced Feldenkrais Training with Russell Delman, a highly respected Feldenkrais Trainer who presented his work “The Embodied Life”TM. His work incorporates deep personal introspection along with gentle self inquiry. Oooo, what perfect timing! I took the question very seriously and slowly began to consider my response, giving it the thoughtful consideration it deserved, accepting the question on a deep philosophical level. After all, what is happiness? What does it mean, “to be happy”? Does it come from an external source, or from somewhere deep within ourselves?

    My silence startled my “conversation companion”, who came to the immediate (and erroneous) conclusion that I was sad, unhappy, and/or lonely. She had expected me to give a knee-jerk response listing the people and the things that made me happy, as if my happiness must be someone else’s responsibility, and not my own. Now, that did make me sad. I realized that so many of us have unrealistic demands on our friends, family, co-workers, and personal possessions to make us happy. It’s a habit or pattern of expectation that has been reinforced over the years and the major roadblock (in my opinion) to understanding our true selves, our needs, our dreams, and our pathway to health and happiness.       

    For myself, the question is not “what makes me happy”, but “when do I feel happy”?  Learning new things, meeting new people, being in service to others, having quiet time to myself, spending time with my husband, hiking in the mountains, going to ballet class, listening to my wind chimes, watching my dogs play, and a thousand other things give me an indescribable sense of joy and happiness.

    Let me ask you….when do you feel happy? It is an interesting question, and when approached in the spirit of personal introspection and non-judgemental self inquiry, you may be happily surprised what comes up for you.

 Be healthy, and happy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

The sounds of silence….

    Do you ever feel overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, unable to concentrate, anxious and/or upset for “no apparent reason”? The chances are your brain may just be overstimulated from the never ending onslaught of information it recieves from TV, radio, cell phones, computers, texts, work, traffic, family responsibilites and just plain life in general.

    Give yourself a true rest by turning off all of the electronic devices, and find a quiet place where you can be alone even just for a few minutes. I believe that sitting outdoors is the most restorative. Sit quietly for a few minutes and notice how your sit bones contact your sitting surface. Slowly  move your attention to your breathing….not to change it or “fix” it, or worry about if you are doing it the right way, but just be aware of it’s rhythm, flow and quality. Now begin to layer in the sounds of the outdoors. Do you hear birds singing? Which direction are they coming from? Do you hear the wind in the trees? Are there children playing or dogs barking in the distance? As you slowly play with the quality of the sounds, the directions that the sounds are coming from, slowly shift your attention back to your breathing. Do you feel like your breathing has changed? Perhaps it is slower, deeper, fuller. Do you feel more comfortable on your sitting surface?

    Slowly bring yourself back to coming up to standing. Get ready to continue through the rest of your daily activities, and as you do so, notice how you feel. More relaxed? Thinking more clearly? More capable of solving problems?

   The constant stimulation into our nervous systems puts us into the or “fight or flight” response. This can be incredibly destructive to our physical and emotional well being. Just taking a few minutes each day can give your brain the break it needs to rejuvinate itself. You can try this simple exercise indoors as well. The key is to get comfortable, pay attention to yourself, and really learn to listen to and appreciate the sounds of silence.