Saturday, February 13, 2010

notes from February Healing Arts Playshop in New York

Dear Participants of the 2010 Healing Arts of Nia Playshop,
Thank you so much for being there today and helping to make this playshop such a success. I had a great time and learned things and I hope you did too.

Here are my notes from the playshop:

THE WORK OF MOSHE FELDENKRAIS:

PEARL: relax in order to idealize

We did three exercises.

LAYING ON OUR BACKS, LIFTING OUR ARMS FROM THE SHOULDER
MOBILIZING THE PELVIS USING THE CLOCK
SITTING AND TWISTING OUR TORSOS USING OUR EYES

The purpose was to slow down to such a degree that we heightened awareness of choices about our movements that we were making unconsciously. Extraneous effort. And eventually our bodies find the least amount of effort necessary.

We learned to examine our own movements through repetition and relaxation, which is directly relatable to when you're in Nia. Each movement starts anew. Rather than letting the repetitions build on each other, you relax into a neutral position in between each movement so it starts from the beginning each time.

We became aware of the miniscule but very important pause between impulse and action. Especially because it made us aware of our habits.
Our habits aren't always the most efficient ways, just the most familiar. The choices that you make allow the work to go deeper because it is more personal for you.

Envision your movements powered by the core, but directed by the muscles of the extremities.

Be aware of the power of using your eyes to direct the energy of your head and your whole body.

Remember that you are always making choices; conscious or unconscious. If you want to heal your body, then you want to change it. And if you want to change your body you have to change what you're doing with it. So, if you're moving habitually, you're not changing what you're doing. Therefore, the healing work is to pay attention to avoid habitual movement. Each new movement is a new experience. (That's what causes the mysterious haze that overcomes you when you make the shift into the healing art of Feldenkrais.)

Feldenkrais energy is seeking the efficiency that is inherent in your body. It is internal, introspective, creative, self-adjusting, relaxing, body therapy.

The main goal of using Feldenkrais energy is to improve our abilities by decreasing effort and increasing ease.

And here is the book I use and recommend. It was Moshe Feldenkrais' first book. He lays out his theories from the ground up. It's fascinating stuff. And at least half of the book is exercises that you can do to get more of the benefit of this powerful work.



ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE:

PEARL: Float Effortlessly

The exercises we did were:

WALKING ACROSS THE ROOM DIFFERENT WAYS
STOPPING DURING AN ACTIVITY TO OBSERVE TENSION PATTERNS
SITTING AND STANDING
HANDS ON THE BACK OF THE NECK TO OBSERVE TENSION PATTERNS
PICKING SOMETHING UP OFF THE GROUND WITHOUT LOSING OUR POISED ALIGNMENT
WALKING WHILE GUIDED BY THE BACK OF THE HEAD
STANDING UP FROM LAYING ON THE GROUND
CLOSING OUR EYES AND ALIGNING OUR FINGERS OR FEET


The Alexander Technique teaches us poise through relaxing the unnecessary tension and imagining all movement originating from the top.

We can't always rely on our self-image. It is unreliable. But we also learned that it can be strengthened and improved by self awareness and healing.

It's important to remember that this technique isn't meant to be a burden. It shouldn't restrict your freedom to move. But it should certainly alert you to the way to maximize your bodies power and energy. When we hold ourselves in the "Position of Mechanical Advantage" as Alexander calls it, the body feels lighter, easier to move and stronger. So it should serve as the home base to always come back to. Think of it when lifting things or doing larger heavy movements.

Remember when you really relaxed and let that hand push you, how easy it was to suddenly move really quickly. That ease is reproduced by relaxation in the back of the neck and slightly letting the face fall forward in the 'nodding off' movement. You can experiment with this anywhere. You will be surprised by how easy it is to increase your speed of walking while expending less energy.

The book I used and recommend is not the original work by Alexander, but a workbook written by one of his students. I like it because of all of the exercises. Again, half the book is theory and half is filled with stuff that you can actually do yourself at home and learn this work. And Nia teachers can get great ideas for foci and floorplay.



YOGA:

PEARL: conscious alignment of bones

You can self-heal in Nia by paying close attention to the placement of your bones. We discussed specific Nia positions and how the bones should be. Your level of attention to these details will heal your body.

We paid specific attention to how the direction of the palms effects the arms and shoulders and how the direction of the feet effects the knees and the hips.

In the BOW STANCE we are aware of the relationship between the soles of the feet and the spine; the distance of the stance; the pelvis facing forward; and the thigh of the back leg and the shin of the front leg being parallel to each other and perpendicular to the floor.

in the CROSS BEHIND we are aware of the shins crossing each other, but not too far; the pelvis facing forward; the sole of the foot parallel to the spine.

in the CROSS FRONT we step to 11 o'clock or 1 o'clock.

in the TURN we place our feet on the floor and rotate in the hips. To turn left, we first lift our left foot, rotate the left hip out and place the left foot down with the toes turned out. Then we lift the right foot and rotate in the left hip until we're facing the back of the room, then we turn inwards in the right hip and place the right foot on the ground with the toes turned in. Then we shift our weight into the right leg and lift the left foot off the floor, rotate the right hip out which will swing our body back to face the front of the room where we can then put our left foot with toes facing forward. Then bring the right foot into a parallel position. Remember that all of the movements come from the hips and that once the foot touches the ground it is not to twist or slide, but remain fixed to the floor.

Don't worry if you don't turn all the way.

Here is a link to the Nia Technique book, where it discusses all of the 52 Nia Moves in detail with great pictures. It also goes into details about how the healing arts, martial arts and dance arts are in Nia.



And by the way, just in case you're interested in learning more about Yoga from a book, this is the one I use and recommend. It goes into all of the aspects of yoga in just enough detail so that you understand it, but doesn't go overboard. Again, half the book is exercises and half is theory. (Obviously I like books like that). It goes into the poses with special sections for children, elderly and pregnant but also goes into diet, meditation, health practices, breathing and spirituality.




Again, thank you SO much for being a part of this wonderful playshop.
I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear your feedback.
And if you had any further questions please feel free to ask.

You can either comment on this blog or email or call me.
I look forward to seeing you all again soon,
Jason Alan Griffin
JAG Fitness

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