Healthy Beginnings

Make 2019 the year you learn how to stop injuring yourself

You might consider the Feldenkrais method when looking to ease joint pain and other injuries en route to a healthier 2019. Courtesy photo

Let’s face it — injuries are horrible, ghastly. They happen quickly, and suddenly we are hurt or in the hospital. Life gets painful, scary and complicated.

With serious injuries like broken bones or severe tissue damage, our problems accelerate. It makes sense, as chaotic and difficult as life is now, to minimize the likelihood of injury causing accidents.

To do this, we’ll focus on the 2 kinds of accidents/injuries that can be avoided:

  1. The first is things that happen to us because we aren’t paying attention to our environment, like falling because we tripped on a rug or a dog, or running into something because we weren’t looking, or hurting ourselves with a tool by not watching what we’re doing.
  2. The second is different — injuries that happen because we aren’t paying attention to our bodies.

Our bodies routinely send us signals (discomfort/pain) that something needs to change, but we ignore them or don’t recognize the warning; or don’t take it seriously, thinking somehow that pain is OK: the “no pain, no gain” mentality. Then suddenly we’ve herniated a disc, torn a muscle or ligament, or worse. And there is no “do-over.” It’s too late. The accident has happened.

In Feldenkrais, we step back and find a better strategy. The first step is to acknowledge that we live mostly in our heads, with little awareness of our physicality, meaning we’re mostly unconscious of our bodies in space. We don’t feel our feet on the ground or our bottoms in our chairs; we have no clear idea how we move at all.

If we get interested in noticing our bodies and movement, we work with our nervous systems in a totally new way. This helps neural pathways form and new brain mapping occur.

The Feldenkrais Method classes and private sessions, aka somatic education or neuromuscular re-education, does this with slow, small, non-habitual movements, teaching us about our movement habits, revealing what is easy for us, and, what is not.

Learning about our habits is critical because they contribute to our pain, weakness, lack of balance, bad posture, and disconnection between body and brain — all things that can cause injury.

David Zemach Bersin, one of my Feldenkrais teachers and co-founder of the Feldenkrais Institute in NYC, says, “The Feldenkrais Method is a sophisticated form of sensory-motor education, which interacts with the brain in a special way to improve the comfort and function of the body … The exercise are designed to engage the brain’s ability to change in response to stimulus (neuroplasticity) to improve the body’s underlying neuromuscular and skeletal organization. It improves the way the brain coordinates posture and movement.”

This means we develop new connections with our skeletal structure/support that our brains recognize quickly and instinctively. We can avoid injury because of this increased awareness.

We feel our bones — and a new relationship is formed connecting us with the ground below. This affects our balance, alignment and how we move. We “occupy” our bodies more fully, with confidence and intelligence because we sense our skeletal support.

Look at people on the street or in your office. Very few move with awareness or a sense of conscious connection to themselves or the environment. When they do, you can see it and it is impressive.

Here are some ways you can begin to do this:

  1. Stand and notice which leg and foot you stand on more. Shift your weight from foot to foot. Feel the difference.
  2. Visualize the lines of your legs, from your feet to knees, to your pelvis.
  3. Wiggle your toes, feel how the bones in your feet and ankles provide support for the rest of your body.
  4. Notice gravity coming through the bones in your feet; practice standing with pressure on different parts of your feet. Hold onto something for stability; keep your movements small and slow.
  5. Revisit these skeletal connections often and re-experience them.

This will help you begin the process of increasing body awareness and reducing accident and injury in your life: from your yoga class, to the gym, to your home. Improving your connection with yourself, engaging your brain and body, and being more effective in the world around you is a fabulous way to start 2019!

Wishing you an accident-free, more conscious and joyful new year!

Carole Bucher, BA, is a Guild-Certified Feldenkrais practitioner/teacher and owner of Reno Feldenkrais Integrative Movement. Visit renofeldenkrais.blogspot.com to learn more.