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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How Feldenkrais helps your brain work better.

Hi Everyone!

Students often ask me what is the mechanism that makes the Feldenkrais Method such an important vehicle in improving our physical functioning--and sometimes even more important--in the functioning of our brain? Today the answers are found in neuroscience.

We have confirmed the observations that Dr. Feldenkrais made nearly 70 years ago as he saw his students, clients, and patients respond to the modalities known today as Functional Integration (FI) and Awareness Through Movement (ATM). We have the technology to measure and track activity in the brain and can see which activities enhance our brain function. We can verify that working mindfully with attention while doing non-habitual movement produces specific reactions in the brain, reactions that are good for us in every way - not only in our movement.

To explain this a little further, below is an interesting article from the Feldenkrais Journal. It explains more about brain function and why doing ATM lessons produces the kind of response in the brain that we want -- for better movement, cognition, vitality and life. At the very end of the article, you will also find a micro-ATM that lets you explore your peripheral vision and discover how our mindful attention can even expand what we see. It's pretty cool.

I hope to see you soon! Happy Spring and Summer! Carole

FLEXIBLE BRAIN - by Fiona Morris Upward, GCFP.

Flexibility in the brain can be described as the ability to find new pathways that interconnect, so that a change can be observed. How can we view this change in the brain function? Neuroscientists have been able to apply modern technology to discover which parts of the brain are ‘lighting up’ with information: either efferent nerve function (messages going outwards), or afferent nerve function (messages coming into the brain) with new signals registering on the cerebral cortex. Awareness Through Movement® lessons can deliver both improved flexibility for our bodies and also the stretching of the mind to sense, feel, discover and apply the new idea of learning with ease and attention to detail.

The key is in attention to the details; and the brain can sort quite a lot of signals in an orderly way when we are relaxed, happy, and not under the pressure to perform or to do more or to be better. Awareness through Movement lessons support each individual’s functional ability for improvement inviting a relaxed, sensing brain that is more apt to be open to change.

Dr. Feldenkrais was curious about how we as human beings can learn and change and so demonstrate higher function. In his Method, each person in an Awareness Through Movement lesson is given verbal guidance to explore this idea of change.

In his book, The Master Moves, Dr. Feldenkrais poses the question: ‘What sort of learning is important? You find an incredible thing. Once you look at it very closely you find that the learning that enables you to do the thing you know in another way, and one more way, and then three more ways, is the learning that is important. And when you see learning in that light, you find that a whole world of important things is open to us.’

In an Awareness Through Movement lesson each person learns to attend to him/herself in a new way and this ‘attention’ may be the link that triggers the brain to become more flexible.

Daniel J. Siegel writes: ‘The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is thought to play a major role in working memory…and the focusing of conscious attention…The middle prefrontal regions are part of a ‘team’ that work together as a functional whole to link widely separated areas to one another. They have important integrative functions that help coordinate and balance cortical activity of thought and feeling with the lower limbic, brainstem, and bodily areas’ functions.’ Awareness Through Movement lessons are designed to promote flexibility in these integrative functions and thereby allow improved functional ability. This is why Dr. Feldenkrais emphasizes that openness to learn is of such paramount importance. There is the possibility that as one improves one’s awareness and learning through movement, the brain’s flexibility will also improve.

Moshe Feldenkrais, The Master Moves, Meta Publications, 1984, p 19.
Daniel J. Siegel, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are The Guildford Press, NY, 2012, Second Edition pp 18-19.