New Year: Now What?

Here we are, at the beginning of another New Year. Anything is possible in a new year, including keeping our New Year’s Resolutions. It doesn’t matter what your plans are, but it does matter very much how you implement them. So, whether you would like to exercise more, lose weight, get in shape, eat healthier, improve your finances, or enjoy healthier relationships, here are a few simple steps to keep in mind to help you accomplish your goals.

1). Set clear and specific goals.

Rather than making a general statement such as “I want to lose weight,” set a more well-defined goal. For example, “I will lose 2-3 pounds over the next 4-6 weeks.  This will allow you to focus on what you would like to accomplish within a set time frame, rather than a generalized statement of wanting to lose weight.

2). Set challenging but reasonable goals. 

It’s important to challenge yourself, but you want to be careful not to go overboard and overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. Set small, incremental goals that are reasonable to achieve, and pay attention to the journey instead of the end result. If you start  by declaring you want to lose 20 pounds before swim suit season, it’s easy to get discouraged and throw in the towel before you even begin. 

3). Write your goals down, and track your progress.

When you think about wanting to do something, it’s just an abstract idea floating around. However, once you write it down, the idea then has intention, purpose, and direction. Keep a written record of your progress, including when you have met your goals and when you have fallen short. Notice I did not say failed; there is no such thing as failure, just another opportunity to re-evaluate your approach and learn from what might not be working for you.

4). Visualize success.

Imagine yourself achieving your goals. Even professional athletes and performing artists have used the power of visualization for years to improve their performance on the field and on the stage. They continue to practice it, because it works for them. Just imagine (so to speak), what it can do for you! 

5). Stay positive.

Remember to give yourself positive messages. What we tell ourselves is what we believe, and what we believe is what we achieve. Words are incredibly powerful; use them for the power of good. All of us fall on our face every now and then. Remember, there is no such thing as failure, just opportunities to learn and grow. 

These are just a few general guidelines to follow in your journey to a great new year. I am certain you can come up with a few creative and innovative tips of your own, so please share your thoughts and ideas; I would love to hear from you! In the meantime, may you enjoy a year ahead filled with peace, joy, love, laughter, and good health. I just know that 2016 is going to be a fabulous year, for all of us! 

 

 

Feldenkrais®: The Wizard Within

Last week my husband and I were channel surfing and came across “The Wizard of Oz.” We didn’t even have to consult each other; in silent agreement, my husband clicked on the channel.

Even though I still worry about Toto running around the forest off-leash, and my husband gets a little creeped out from the flying monkeys (a throw back from childhood), we never get tired of watching this classic film. I settled back and prepared to be mindlessly entertained by Dorothy and her entourage as they started down the yellow brick road, off to see the wizard.

However, my brain had other plans for me that evening. Of course, the lesson in this great story is that each of the characters already have what they are looking for; they just didn’t realize it. But that evening my mind discovered an even deeper and pervasive symbolism, one that I see almost every day in my practice as a Feldenkrais practitioner.

In their quest to  someone who could fix them, cure them, give them their life’s desire and make them whole again, this odd assortment of friends endured a long and arduous journey complete obstacles and roadblocks at every corner. Nothing deterred them, not even a terrifying witch who threatened to kill them at her first opportunity. Sheesh!

They were so desperate for help that they pushed forward, even after the mystical wizard gave them a dangerous and impossible mission to accomplish before he would grant them their wishes. What a jerk. Finally, after they killed the witch and brought her broomstick to the wizard, they discovered him for what he truly was: a charlatan. Once the truth was revealed, at least he had the wisdom and the decency to inform them that they didn’t need his help, and what they were looking for they had all along. Okay, maybe he wasn’t as big of a jerk as I thought.

Sometimes we all lose our way, and can get caught up in the need to find a wizard to fix our problems for us. However, just like Dorothy and her pals, we can encounter incredible trials and tribulations in our journey to find the “experts” who will cure us of our aches, pains, problems and shortcomings. But most of the time, we already have the answer deep inside ourselves all along. We just need to have a little heart, some courage, and the brains to access our inner wisdom and find our way back home.

For some reason Toto was the only one who seemed to understand that, right from the moment the house landed in Oz. He never seemed to lose his way.

That’s what Feldenkrais can do for you. It can help you access the wisdom of your own inner wizard to help you find your own way and heal yourself. It seems like magic, but it’s not. It’s the miracle of the intelligence of your own nervous system and the ability to heal yourself. So, who needs a wizard when you already have one?

Feldenkrais®: Science and Magic

I am passionate about science, especially neuroscience. If I hadn’t been accepted into a master’s degree program for physical therapy, I would have earned a master’s in neuroscience instead. However, I couldn’t see myself working in a lab all day. I’m more of a people person. Besides, if I had gone in that direction, I may never have discovered Feldenkrais.

I absolutely love the method, and I love being a practitioner. My greatest reward is witnessing the magic of this method as it helps my clients improve the quality of their lives. However, my greatest challenge as a Feldenkrais practitioner is trying to explain what Feldenkrais is, how it works, and why it is so effective.

Feldenkrais is not magic; it’s science, and is based on the scientific principle of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity means that we are able to change and learn new things during the course of our entire lifetime. I don’t mean the kind of learning that we get from a book, or the kind of learning that we get from school. It’s the kind of learning that takes place deep in our nervous system, and it is more of a visceral, organic type of learning that changes our neural pathways, strengthens our neural connections, and actually grows more nerve tissue in our brain. How cool is that?

Feldenkrais uses the concept of neuroplasticity to access our nervous system in a very gentle but powerful way, through movement. Feldenkrais lessons gently interrupt current patterns and habits through movement explorations, thus allowing for new patterns to emerge. The learning and integration of new patterns are not limited to just movement, but include moving, sensing, thinking and feeling as well.

With Feldenkrais, you can eliminate aches and pains, improve your flexibility, posture, and balance. You can discover new ways of moving effortlessly and more efficiently. You will be able to improve your proficiency in all of your functional and recreational activities, regardless of your age and current level of function.

It does sound like magic, doesn’t it? It is, and it isn’t. It is the science of neuroplasticity, and the magic of our nervous system to discover our inner wisdom and realize our full potential. I don’t know about you, but it feels like magic to me. The magic of the Feldenkrais Method and the science of neuroplasticity.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I am wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday full of peace, love, friends and family!

There’s a Warrior in All of Us

I began my journey into the world of martial arts twelve years ago at the tender young age of 47. I guess this means I am admitting how old I am, even though I know that a lady never tells her age. However, no one has ever accused me of being a lady. Actually, someone once did a long time ago, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, it takes a tremendous amount of courage for a woman to walk into a testosterone-infested, male-dominated dojo and give strange men permission to attack them. It also requires an enormous amount of trust. I had neither, and there are still times when I have issues with both. However, what I lack in courage and trust, I have always been able to compensate with humor and false bravado.

When I began training, there wasn’t a high ranking female student at the dojo that could show me the ropes, be my role model, and teach me how to deal with a room full of Neanderthals. Even though all of the guys were very respectful and supportive, it didn’t keep me from being terrified and feeling like I was in a room full of Fred Flintstone and his bowling buddies.

They would take turns teaching me the secrets of the art of the Ninja, and there were even days when they actually argued over who would “get” to work with me. I thought they were just trying to impress me while they taught me the basic skills of a white belt. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that even on my worst day, I looked prettier and smelled better than any of the men they were used to rolling around with on the mat. Besides, I washed my gi after every class.

Since I didn’t have an upper ranking female student to emulate, I had to fend for myself and make up the rules as I went along. I told the guys that they were permitted to grab me, punch me, kick me, sweep me, throw me, and pin me to the ground. But under no circumstances were they allowed to mess up my make-up or chip my nail polish. After all, a girl’s got to set some boundaries, and that would just make me mad. Besides, it would be uncivilized.

Eventually, they got used to having me around the dojo, and I seemed to take on a role that was a combination of mascot, little sister, wise woman and awesome sex goddess. However, I still wasn’t in it for the long haul. I figured I would take a few classes, learn a few techniques and move on with my life.

But, something funny happened along the way. I fell in love with the art and I fell in love with the training. And I really, really fell in love with the sense of strength, grace, and confidence that I developed from training. With every milestone I achieved, there was another one waiting to be accomplished. Every time I felt I had reached my limit and wanted to quit, something kept drawing me back.

Every so often I have a test of faith, even at this point in my training. I’ll hear a voice in my head saying “Quit. Just quit.” But the truth is I can’t quit, and I won’t. Because martial arts isn’t just something I do; it’s something I am. So, I tell that little voice to shut up and mind its own business. It’s not that I have anything to prove, except for a point. And that point is, there is a Warrior in all of us.

 

October’s Bright Blue Weather

“O suns and skies and clouds of June, And flowers of June together; Ye cannot rival for one hour, October’s bright blue weather….

When loud the bumblebee makes haste, Belated, thriftless vagrant; And goldenrod is dying fast, And lanes with grapes are fragrant…

When gentians roll their fingers tight, To save them for the morning; And chestnuts fall from satin burrs, Without a sound of warning….

When on the ground red apples lie, In piles like jewels shining; And redder still on old stone walls, Are leaves of woodbine twining….

When all the lovely wayside things, Their white-winged seeds are sowing; And in the fields still green and fair, Late aftermaths are growing….

When springs run low, and on the brooks, In idle golden freighting; Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush, Of woods, for winter waiting….

When comrades seek sweet country haunts, By twos and twos together; And count like misers, hour by hour, October’s bright blue weather….

O sun and skies and flowers of June, Count all your boasts together; Love loveth best of all the year, October’s bright blue weather.”            -Helen Hunt Jackson

 

I remember memorizing this poem when I was in elementary school, and it comes back to me every October. It is my favorite month of the year, and every time the weather gets cooler and the leaves change colors, I think of this beautiful poem. Even though we are already in the second week of November, here in Colorado we are still being blessed with the last remaining days of October’s bright blue weather.

I only recently learned about the life of the author, and how difficult it was; full of loss, heartache and illness. Yet she managed to overcome her challenges and become a prolific and inspirational writer. I have been to Seven Falls in Colorado Springs, and I have climbed the 224 steps up the mountain to Inspiration Point, the place where her husband arranged as her final resting place. The climb was absolutely brutal, and I swore I would never do it again.

However, after reading her story I have decided to go back and climb those stairs again to pay tribute to the remarkable woman who wrote the poem which so eloquently and beautifully expresses what I feel every October. But I think I’ll wait until the fall, and do it under the cover of the brilliant gold of the aspen trees and the skies of October’s bright blue weather. It just seems like the right thing to do, don’t you agree?

Feldenkrais®: The Tables Have Turned

After my interesting experience giving a medical practitioner a Functional Integration lesson, it was my turn to be on the receiving end. When I got to his office he took me into a treatment room and asked me what was wrong with my neck. “Nothing,” I replied. “Huh,” he said, “I see a lot of asymmetries in your cervical spine. You also have really bad posture with a forward head and rounded shoulders, and you slouch, which really surprises me. I would have thought that as a dancer and a Feldenkrais® practitioner you would know better.” He gave me a penetrating look while he said this. Good grief!

To say that his statements were jarring to my nervous system was the understatement of the century. A familiar but long abandoned pattern of negative self-talk began to form in my mind. I felt my throat tighten and tears threaten to well up in my eyes. After all, maybe I really didn’t know any better and perhaps I was a charlatan to even call myself a dancer, let alone a Feldenkrais® practitioner and a PT.

He asked me about any injuries I had, but I was so rattled I couldn’t think of any. Finally, I remembered one. I told him I had an insidious onset of incapacitating low back pain twenty years ago. “That’s not an injury, ” he replied. Gee, it felt like an injury during the two years I spent as a chronic pain patient. But then again, maybe I really didn’t know that, if I didn’t even realize that my neck and my posture was so mucked up. More negative self-talk started to rear it’s ugly head as tears once again loomed behind my eyes.

However, right before I had a major meltdown, Moshe Feldenkrais came to the rescue and saved the day. I suddenly realized that the  practitioner was just administering what he believed was appropriate and effective medical intervention. It was his belief system in this method, and I’m sure it does work well for thousands of people. My belief system is quite different, even though I was trained in this model as a PT, but it never did seem to work for me, either as a therapist or as a patient.

Once I had that revelation, the entire experience took on a different energy. He continued his litany of things that were wrong with me and I cheerfully agreed with him. After all, I know I’m not perfect; none of us are. But that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with me. It ended up being a pleasant treatment as well as another learning experience for me.

In Feldenkrais® we focus more on what we can do rather than what we can’t do. Just a few days ago I received a lovely text from one of my favorite clients who has become a dear friend. She thanked me for helping her see beyond her limitations, especially since everyone else over the years had focused on what was wrong with her rather than her endless possibilities.

There was no need to thank me. I am just the messenger. The real credit goes to the man and the genius behind this magic method we call Feldenkrais®, who said that what he is after is to restore to each person their human dignity. How lovely is that?

Feldenkrais®: A Lesson On Time

I recently met an alternative medical practitioner who was surprised and delighted to discover that a Feldenkrais practitioner worked in the same office building that he did. He went out of his way to introduce himself and welcome me to the building. I thought it was funny considering I have been there for over nine years, but some things do take time.

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A Feldenkrais® Free For All….

In my enthusiasm to spread the word of Feldenkrais to the general public, I have found myself in some very strange situations. My most frustrating (but eye-opening) experience occurred when I accepted an invitation to teach a class at a health care clinic for their patient appreciation day.

The clinic was on the second floor of an office building, just above a beautiful atrium with an open staircase. The clinic didn’t have enough floor space to teach a class, but the owner and I decided that the large space at the top of the stairs would be perfect. I noticed that the acoustics were exceptional, which would make it easy for the participants to hear the lesson as I kept my voice soft and non-jarring to their nervous systems. Or so I thought.

The day of the party was a clear and beautiful October afternoon. I arrived at the clinic and saw the caterer parked in the lot, ready to serve the guests. “How nice,” I thought. It was a perfect day and wonderful weather for an outdoor picnic.

However, when I walked into the atrium, I saw dozens of tables and chairs set up. Patients were already sitting at tables with plates of food. Children were running everywhere. To make matters worse, there were several vendors booths set up as well. The noise was deafening, and they were just getting started. Uh-oh.

I walked up the stairs to set up for the class, and the noise got even louder. It appears I was right about the acoustics. By the time I started the class, the party was in full swing, and the noise was unbearable. I was in a panic and my brain was screaming. How could I possibly teach a Feldenkrais class under these circumstances?

I looked for a way out, but unless I jumped over the railing or slid down the banister, I was pretty much stuck. Besides, I couldn’t leave now. They had my mats. I took a deep breath, opened my mouth and bellowed, SENSE YOUR CONTACT WITH THE FLOOR!” So far so good.

I took another deep breath and hollered, “SENSE YOUR BREATHING!” I continued screaming out the lesson, dividing my attention between the class, the noise, my anxiety, and the pounding in my head. What had I gotten myself into?

But then something incredible happened. Everyone on the floor began to change. People were breathing more deeply, their chests were getting softer, their hips and low backs seemed to melt into the floor. One person even fell asleep. I was flabbergasted. Apparently I was the only one who was disturbed by the noise.

My nervous system was overwhelmed my own anxiety as well as my expectations of how a class should be conducted. However, the people in the class had no preconceived ideas, so their nervous systems where open to learn and change. I was the only one who had the problem; everyone else was just fine.

All in all, it was a wonderful learning experience for all of us, but especially for me. It gave me an even deeper appreciation for the power of neuroplasticity, the magic of this remarkable Method, and the genius of Moshe Feldenkrais.

 

Feldenkrais®: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do….Or Not

Before I discovered Feldenkrais, I often found myself in situations that weren’t working out for me, or doing things I didn’t want to do, just out of habit. Even if I wanted to change, I couldn’t figure out how. The most glaring example was with my best and dearest friend. We met in ballet class 25 years earlier and established an unlikely friendship. She was quiet, reserved, shy, and highly intelligent. I was loquacious, demonstrative, outgoing, and just smart enough to get by. For some reason we got along famously.

However, over the years what had begun as a wonderful friendship based on mutual support, respect, and caring somehow turned into one that was demanding, controlling, and manipulative. Our social interactions left me feeling drained, depleted, and even angry. Her arrogant condescension set my teeth on edge. When I tried to limit our “girl time” she became hostile and belligerent. I couldn’t even imagine how she would react if I tried to break up with her. I was stuck in a rut and I couldn’t get out.

But once I started my Feldenkrais training, all of that began to change. I realized that our friendship had gone to the dark side, and I noticed how it was affecting my health and well-being. I also recognized that I was carrying a lot of baggage, and most of it wasn’t even mine. No wonder why I had back pain, neck pain, and incapacitating headaches. It was time for me to lighten my load.

In true Feldenkrais-fashion, I slowly tried to interrupt our habitual patterns and re-establish new patterns in our relationship. After all, we had been friends a long time, and I wanted to salvage our friendship if at all possible. Besides, we had shared our deepest secrets, so we both knew where all the bodies were buried, so to speak. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way.

She told me she didn’t like the way I was acting and didn’t understand what was wrong with me. But I wasn’t acting, and there was nothing wrong with me. As a matter of fact, I felt better than I had in years. My back pain miraculously disappeared and my headaches went away. Although I still greeted her warmly and graciously when I saw her in ballet class, she completely ignored me. Huh, I guess she reacted better than I had expected.

Feldenkrais makes everything easy and effortless. It helps you hurt less, feel better, and move through life with strength, grace and confidence. It helps you identify and eliminate excess baggage. It teaches you how to be true to yourself. Feldenkrais even helps you discover that breaking up really isn’t so hard to do, especially if it’s been coming for a long time. You just have to try it to believe it!