Thank Feldenkrais!

A road much travelled, but on no ones road map – Cerebral Palsy found me when my son was born – we might have prayed to Buddah or to the universe but we Thank Feldenkrais everyday! This is our journey.

one year on

We’re one year on,
From that cool autumn November 12th day in California when Isaac walked independently for the first time.

And it still gives me goosebumps reliving the footage,
The overwhelming sensations running through my system,
As palpable as the moment it took place.

And twelve months on I still can’t quite believe it,
I know it’s real,
But even now it feels like a daydream.

The moments when I catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye,
As he wanders past my open bedroom door,
All nonchalant as if he’s been walking his whole life,
Stops me,
Every,
Single,
Time.

And as we meander down a bush track,
On the other side of the world from where it all began,
In the heat of pre-summer Australia,
A year later,
I continue to be awestruck by what he has been able to achieve.

But it prompts me to reiterate,
Isaac didn’t get to where he is today with his walking by walking practice.

I do credit the SPML procedure in August 2019,
For without I’m not sure he’d have found the ease in which he now has,
The reprieve from the ever-pull of solidified myofascial tissue,
Constantly demanding all of his systems attention,
Sabotaging the potential of certain organisation,
Ready and waiting in the wings.

But mostly I thank Feldenkrais.

For Isaac got to where he is,
By finding the access to everything else,
That are the components that add up to the entirety of the movement that is walking.

Walking,
Like all action,
Is the sum of all its parts.

And we keep on adding to his sum total,
Lesson by lesson.

More pelvis.

Differentiation through the torso.

A moveable middle.

A head.
A head that can nod.
Eyes.

Legs.
Hip joint.
More pelvis.
Spine.
A chest that can soften and fold.

Hips.
Legs.
Feet.
Resting arms.

The ability for all of our self to connect.
That effortless transition of movement from one part,
All the way up,
Down,
Across,
Sideways,
Front,
Back,
To the other.

All continually uncovered,
With a plethora of variation.

That is how Isaac is able to walk.

And his smile tells a thousand words.

and these are the questions

If we wake up in the morning,
Asking the right questions,
We’re already stepping closer to the possible.

And these are the questions Feldenkrais has taught me to ask;

How does our movement permit transmission?
How does it allow the transfer of movement into other parts?

How minimal can the force be,
And feel like it travels?

What is the least amount of preparation,
To get to where I want to go?

And when we move,
It becomes a question of,
What’s the rest of me doing?

What is my opposite side doing to allow me,
Or to help me create the movement?

Is it rolling over on a surface,
Is everything following,
Or getting stuck?

My own awareness is patchy,
And habitual patterns dominate,
Making it unclear most of the time,
Where parts of me actually are in space,
What is moving and what is not,
Exposing my need for more Feldenkrais lessons.

But I watch Isaac,
And I can now see the flow,
As movement travels through his entire system,
In a soft gentle wave of effortlessness,
Under the right circumstances.

And in contrast the glitches,
Where movement stops abruptly,
A blockade in the road,
Where awareness breaks down,
Due to an overload in demand,
In less than ideal circumstances.

And over the past nine years,
I’m not suggesting he has been consciously asking himself such sophisticated questions about his movement,
His organisation,
No child learning to move does,
But through continual Feldenkrais lessons,
His practitioner has been asking these questions to his body,
Through movement,
To challenge brain injury,
Creating that which neuro-typically happens without intervention.

And so as time goes on,
As we’re already seeing,
Isaac can ask the questions,
And by way of answer,
Make his own choices,
In what way he chooses to move,
That is easier,
That feels successful,
And in turn let go of what isn’t.

We see it now in the changes to his habitual patterns,
The changes in ways he approaches a task,
The freedom,
The confidence,
In how he holds himself,
His self initiated action,
As he moves himself from place to place.
Less crawling these days,
Less seeking out assistance,
Or permission to go from dining table to bedroom,
Or Lounge room to bathroom,
It’s all found its flow.

And by always meeting him where he is at,
There’s always more possibility to how far he’ll go.

And for now,
We meet him at his great difficultly with arm function,
With speech,
And saliva control.

He loves writing,
Playing the piano,
And with determination undresses and dresses himself daily,
Gosh knows he’s got a lot to say,
To positively contribute,
And the drive to socially shine.
But the writing is illegible,
The piano is mostly played with a fist,
Dressing is often extremely challenging on his own,
And he’s still mostly misunderstood by other,
Misses the opportunity to have his say,
Therefore left behind socially,
And all of which trigger profuse drooling.

But nothing has ever stopped him,
Nor I.

It allows us to ask the questions;
Why is it invoking so much effort?
Where is the effort coming from?
What’s the rest of him doing as he attempts that action?
What’s stopped moving?

And so right now,
We need to help him establish enough support in his lower half,
So that the effort in the top of his body can vanish,
Then there’s greater possibility for the transfer of movement,
And function to improvement.

Because things seize to be braced,
To be clinging on for dear life,
And instead can just do less,
Work with the rest of the system,
Not against it,
And basically just do the job it was intended to do.

And the key being,
That upper limb function must be grand before it can be intricate.

His speech needs to be quiet before it can be loud.

Everything must be slow before it can be fast.

His system must be at ease,
Before it can perform under pressure.

This is still most problematic at school,
Where everything is fine motor oriented,
Everything happens quickly,
Peers are loud,
The pace is fast,
His system in constant overdrive.

And where continual strategic modification is required,
Of which unfortunately we still have not found an ideal solution,
Yet.

But once again,
We’re asking the right questions,
And the questions will never stop,
Nor will the answers always present obviously or easily,
But half the victory is simply in proposing them.

And as we’ve discovered thus far,
The Method always gives us options,
And a place to continue looking.

And the perspective to look back,
And be so darn thankful.

more than movement

My intrigue,
My pondering,
My elucidation,
Swell with every unfolding word,
Ears delighted,
Head nodding in affirmation,
Heart singing with what is our truth,
As I indulge in More Than Movement,
A enlightened offering from The Australian Feldenkrais Guild Online Summit 2020.

And as I have begun to absorb more deeply,
Just how true its title;
The Feldenkrais Method,
Is so much more than movement.

It’s “human maturation,
A process by which we become more human,
And more ourselves.
An intertwining idea of the uniqueness of each individual,
And the belonging to the human community.”

“Which is expressed through the Method,
(By allowing us) to discover who we are as unique beings”.

“The Method is reshaping the environment within which we are situated.
So that the environment becomes orientated as an invitation to our flourishing,
Both as individuals,
And as human beings.”

“Then if we experience that invitation,
We can give it to other people.”

“A big invitation!
To give up effort.”

“To stop attempting to control yourself,
Surrender,
We don’t belong just to ourselves,
We belong to something bigger than ourselves.”

As I soak in these words,
I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude,
That Isaac was given this invitation,
So early in his life,
And through him,
The invitation was given to me.

On a practical application of the Method,
“It’s always relational,
This ethos,
And how it informs the practice.”

“Our intention matters,
(You ask yourself) what do you think you are doing when offering a lesson?
Guiding our intentions,
Inviting people to explore the difference between their limited condition self,
And this potential authentic self,
That is an opening to infinite possibility –
But that is always in relation to their uniqueness of being.”

“I’ve got to teach differently (to each student) don’t I,
If I think like that?
There is an ethos and ethic to our Method”

And it truly is open to all.

And I invite you.

Come join the journey.

Paraphrased quotes from interview

Anna Yeatman PhD and Zoran Kovich MSc

Day 6 Australian Feldenkrais Guild Online Summit 2020

“Make the impossible possible, the possible easy, the easy elegant”

– Moshe Feldenkrais

Image: Famous photograph of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion doing a headstand taught by Moshe Feldenkrais. Press Photographer Paul Goodman 1943-61

timing is everything

I tend to be on the nostalgic side,
Which is probably interesting for someone who has had so much trauma in her life,
Or perhaps that is just part of the process,
To look back on,
And be able to conjure up predominantly the treasured moments,
From the heartbreak.

I get particularly sentimental during moments of big change.

And while the last twelve months have been a continuous epic leap forward for Isaac,
These last few weeks have been yet another game changer.

And I do get misty-eyed,
Forget to breathe,
And find myself completely dumbfounded,
Because the journey has been extraordinary.

And perhaps Moshe is looking down on us laughing,
Because he knew the inside joke,
And exactly just how far Isaac would come following his Method.

But I look back over his lifetime of footwear,
Starting with his tiny red “Astro-Boy Boots” that now fit in the palm of my hand.

And I’m somewhat lost for words.

Because fast forward almost ten years,
And it seems we have left all of this behind us,
And replaced it with an inner sole,
No one would know he’s wear,
Inside a trainer his dad is jealous of.

And this is significant,
Not only for Isaac socially,
Or emotionally,
But functionally,
It’s phenonminal.

And for the first time in his life,
He’s walking with ankles.

And our homage to his feet continue.

And with ankles comes so much more.

The flow on effect through his system,
Is nothing short of incredible.

Now, I’m not saying we’ve cured Isaac of his cerebral palsy by a pair of Nike Air Max’s,
Because he will never have a single typical neurological exchange in his system,
Ever,
But he’s getting pretty close to some finesse in movement,
I can’t pull off.

And with ankles that can allow his foot to shift weight across all points of the sole,
While the knee moves side to side,
That can hinge as he moves his foot in and out of dorsi-flexion,
And push through a heel as he extends his leg in space,
And reaching for the ground off a high bench,
With two sets of toes yet landing with planted feet,
(All beyond remarkable in itself)
We see it,
Everything else,
Begins to move.

The rotation in his spine is enviable,
The grace in which he can rock his pelvis,
Or bring one knee to the side while on his tummy,
Is the markings of exceptional organisation.

And it’s because,
It can now all flow together.

Isaac’s self image,
Has integrated his long lost friends.

His ankles.

Who were primarily held hostage in an AFO most of his life.

And now they are united,
For truly the first time.

Hello there.

And while hindsight is a wonderful thing,
This is exactly the trajectory we had to take,
Despite Mr Feldenkrais himself dancing an I told you so dance,
Somewhere out there,
He would also be the first one to tell us,
Timing is everything.

And it would appear for me now,
That the timing is right,
To box away sixteen pairs of boots,
That represent a significant chapter in our journey,
And use my own gloriously free ankles,
To skip along side Isaac,
Into whatever comes next.

to walk him further

It’s a known fact,
That Isaac hadn’t truly bared weight on his feet,
Until he took his first breath-taking independent steps in November last year,
At eight years and eight months of age.

There were brief stints as a three year old,
While in stationary standing,
That began to look like he’d found his feet,
Then once again after Botox injections,
Followed by successful serial casting as a seven year old,
But these were few and far between,
And fleeting.

The result,
Isaac has never developed his feet.

With crawling his primary mode of moving through space,
For over seven years,
His feet never had the apprenticeship required,
To develop shape,
And structure,
Associated with a typical foot.

And add in eight years of AFO use,
Holding his feet rigid and flat,
Albeit for stability,
Movement within the feet,
Were never possible,
Or required.

It’s form following function.

And in this case,
Lack there of.

I’ve seen over the years with Isaac,
Unfolding in front of me,
Ever so subtly,
His face slightly twisting to the left,
As his speech developed alternative movements to get his sounds out,
And more obviously as his knees became wide walking-pads,
From year after year of crawling on hard surfaces,
And his calves so slight I can wrap my thumb and pointer finger around them,
Because they’ve never had a function to build muscle bulk.

And until Isaac stopped us all in our tracks,
As he walked across that Californian lounge room nine months ago,
His feet too had another purpose for him,
And the structure tells that tale.

And until he were to use them,
As design intended,
There was never an opportunity for it to be any other way.

Footwear plays its role,
Absolutely,
But our self image,
The parts available to us,
The way we use them,
That give meaning and purpose to our lives,
Our movement,
Is fundamentally the determining factor.

And so now here we are,
The pivotal moment,
Where Isaac has emerged from an non walker,
To an independent walker,
And an increasingly more competent one by the day,
We must pay homage to his feet!

We seek to transition away from an AFO,
And while we cannot remedy some malformation already done,
We sure can assist in preventing new ones.

We seek dynamics beyond what an AFO could ever allow,
With alignment support for the bones and muscles never used,
To have their turn to act.

We seek an ease in balance,
Through stacking the weight accordingly,
Voiding the need to ferociously grip with the toes,
As if hanging on for dear life.

We seek to take the pressure away where it’s problematic,
Relieve the over-stretched medial border with support,
And allow the lateral border space to extend.

And at nine years old,
And Feldenkrais Method,
Thankfully keeping him primarily off his feet,
Until he was ready,
His beautiful little feet have not been thrashed beyond repair,
They do sport a hint of an arch,
Are still baby soft,
With a lot of time for receptive feedback to work it’s magic,
And access to the learning,
To bring them more comprehensively into his self image,
And to a deeper understanding of what’s possible in their use.

And as I said,
The timing couldn’t be better.

But what is the ultimate way to support them,
To walk him further,
Faster,
And stronger,
Well into his future?

The Method,
Undoubtedly,
As he’ll continue to explore contact,
Weight shifting,
Wiping,
Pushing,
Twisting,
Kicking,
Turning at all angles,
On all sides,
And surfaces,
Unlocking all possibilities of his feet.

But in footwear?
That,
We are desperately hoping to find out!

sophisticated and complete

“As a scientist I found the Feldenkrais approach to human movement and learning the most sophisticated and complete one available to date. The Feldenkrais comprehensive approach encompasses the role of the nervous system, its plasticity, developmental and autonomous aspects, the role of the gravitational fields as an external force as well as aspects of the internal constraints dictated by the skeletal body mechanics. It is not suprising in this respect the consideration that the method is gaining amongst the new generation of neuroscientists. There are many aspects of human learning that are still beyond our current understanding and we should not be mistaken by thinking that this approach can deal magically with all the issues that we can experience but, based on my experience, I can certainly tell that it is an invaluable tool to find in ourselves resources to help us during our life journey.”

Quote and image by Dr. Alessandro Bombardi

Interlude

why Feldenkrais?

I had the privilege of being a guest author for The Flowing Body

in close proximity

There is definitely something to be said for the quiet life.

And never seen more so,
Or more obviously than for Isaac,
During this global pandemic.

His system has lived a life of over-demand,
From the moment his blue little oxygen depleted body arrived in the world,
He has been efforting.

He had to fight to stay here,
And his every action since has been bombarded with excessive challenge.

Stemming directly from his brain injury,
As his messages and neural pathways sparked,
Spluttered,
And misfired in all directions,
His system was hijacked,
And everything manifested exponential effort.

From the moment he began his Feldenkrais journey,
He has learnt how to quiet his nervous system,
To reduce the tension indistinguishable from trying to do,
In order for his intentions to translate into a successful function.

And he has done this over nine years,
Slowly,
Yet remarkably well,
With the consistent and continued reminder,
And guidance through The Feldenkrais Method.

But certain environments,
Placing layers of expectation on him,
Building an increase in demand,
Can as quickly undo all the learned behaviour of limiting the squeeze of tension.

And none more so than being at school,
For a boy as determined,
As passionate,
As sociable,
As academically inspired as Isaac.

Because he never wants to miss a beat.

He’s always seen himself as one of the group,
Ready to participate,
Absorb,
Contribute,
Explore,
Engage,
Experiment,
Just as any other,
And he remains in the drivers seat to make that happen.

And to his credit,
He can do this well,
And his way,
But the greater the expected outcome,
The greater demand on Isaac’s system,
And thus the more his patterns of tensing up,
Of over-efforting,
Return,
Because his system is being overloaded.

More specifically,
And most obviously seen,
When attempting fine motor tasks,
Such as writing,
Typing,
Or navigating a touchscreen.

And talking.

Which by the time you’re in third grade,
Are the biggest components of your schooling day.

The issue then becomes,
Not purely that attempting fine motor tasks,
Or verbally contributing to the class,
Becomes less successful within themselves,
But the spill-over effect,
Of attempting these tasks,
Day in day out,
Have on all of him.

His entire movement organisation,
Is under undue stress.
His system once more becomes a slave to old patterns of tension,
And suddenly parts of himself,
And functional actions that are otherwise available to him,
Under the right circumstances,
Become virtually impossible to perform.

And then there was home-schooling.

During the Covid 19 lockdown period,
Where Isaac was working from home,
He was in close proximity to his work/play environments,
He was given much more time to complete tasks,
He was scribed for on a more regular basis,
He took more breaks,
He was under no pressure to perform,
And the improvements within his system as a whole,
Were remarkable.

His walking,
Which had been improving,
Jumped leaps and bounds,
To where he was on a nature walk of over half a kilometre without a walking aid,
He was negotiating hills,
And uneven ground like we’d never witnessed.
The freedom within his shoulder girdles was unprecedented,
And suddenly we’re seeing movement within the wrists and fingers,
We’d never seen before.

His speech was the clearest it had been since he was saying single word replies,
He was again able to produce a “t” sound at the ends of words,
He was saying “Dad” instead of as “Yag” as it had become,
He was able to bring his lips together to form a “p” sound,
And I was hearing his beautiful little voice saying “mummy” with both clarity and ease.
His tongue was mobilising,
His jaw was softening,
And his face in far less tension.

And all this manifesting from an environment,
Albeit forced upon us,
That reduced the demands,
And that allowed him to work at his own pace,
Not according to a predetermined schedule.
And completing his much loved school work,
In a successful balance between independence and support.

Independence in thinking,
Solving,
Generating ideas,
While supported in the physical production of content.

And now,
We’ve returned to fulltime face to face schooling,
And within a week we’ve seen the creeping in,
Of old tension,
As the demands on his system build once more.

And we need to find a balance,
Once again,
Of how Isaac can be at school,
Where he is at his happiest,
Without undoing all this gains.

What this looks like,
We don’t yet know.

We must tread delicately so Isaac doesn’t feel like we are taking away his independence,
We must be tactful so he doesn’t feel railroaded by others taking over,
We must be clever in our approach so he doesn’t feel isolated socially,
Or self conscious among his peers,
And we must do it quickly,
Before another set of expectations becomes his norm,
And he refuses to do it any other way.

And we are back on the CP merry-go-round once more.

But until his fine motor,
Or talking loud enough for a classroom of kids to hear him,
Is available to him in all circumstances,
Which is absolutely the end goal,
We must limit them now in order to preserve the possibility for their longevity,
And the possibility of improving beyond their current ability.

To many, this philosophy may seem contradictory;
Do less to achieve more,
But I’ve been immersed in The Method long enough now,
I’ve witness enough wow moments with Isaac,
To vouch wholeheartedly for its merits.

And while the negotiation,
In finding the balance that satisfies Isaac,
Is the delicate piece to this puzzle,
I’m confident we can find it.

Because after all,
Isaac can understand when we say to him,
What we hope for,
Is for you to be able to perform all tasks,
As effortlessly as it is for you to put your finger on your nose,
While resting on your back.


“You mean like this?”

Exactly.


The End of Chapter Twenty-Nine.

subtlety

“Any force greater than the minimum needed to perform the intended action will interfere with your child’s progress.

The more you can create the conditions for your child to perceive subtle differences, to feel more of what there is to feel by ensuring ease and comfort – that is, by reducing force and excessive effort – the more the brain can change and (the child) will improve.

Subtlety – is one of the most potent and immediate ways to increase creativity and intelligent action exponentially in.. your child”

kids beyond limits

Quote: Anat Baniel – Kids Beyond Limits – page 116