Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Learning to Learn

When I think back on my learning experiences, I wonder how I ever got to where I am.  I grew up in a county that was known for its school district.   “One of the best,“ they said.  I did well enough in school (especially considering that I never really tried), mostly because I learned how to take a test at a very early age.

Now, I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t have any great learning experiences.  My 5th grade teacher, Mr. Wise (for real, that was his name!) told me that those who don’t know all the answers but ask a lot of questions were really the smartest kids in the class.  As a self-proclaimed smarty pants, that was a huge pill to swallow, but it never left me. History got a white-washing in 11th grade when I was taught that the Civil War was about state’s rights, not slavery.  But I just loved my teacher, who was from Oklahoma and had quite the southern drawl.   My world history teacher in 12th grade foretold that there would be a World War III and that it would start in the Middle East, not Viet Nam. And that was 1969! What a genius Mr. Bridges was…

I finished up my my BS in Physical Therapy in 1975 and figured I’d seen the last of the inside of a classroom.  Well, never say never, I did go back to school and finished my Master’s at USC in 1980. This time it was really enough.

But in 1988, I signed up for my first 5 week segment of my 4 year Feldenkrais training.  I thought it was just part of ongoing education; another tool for my toolbox.

HA! 

My life changed. My work changed. I stopped trying to fix people and set out to help them “learn to learn.”  I set out to help people identify how their habits can help them or hurt them.  I set out to create a place where people could move and question and take charge of their own body.  I set out to create a place where my becoming obsolete would mean my success, a place where people could learn to make choices.  A place where, as long as they were willing, they could always come back to learn more.

I learned that true learning happens on the inside and that it has to relate to our world in order to be relevant. I learned that listening, listening to yourself is how we find our own uniqueness and that that is way more important that a home exercise program or memorization. I learned that passing a test has absolutely nothing to do with true learning. I learned that learning does not happen in one day. I learned that even after you have learned something, there is more to learn.

And best of all:   I found out that I love learning.  I have a feeling that you will, too.  Let’s stay in touch.

To see what I will be doing for the rest of the year, go to my website

In Gratitude,
Beth

Friday, August 26, 2016

Happy Hips, Peaceful Pelvis



Do you remember sucking on your toes?  (I hate to tell you this, but I think I was able to do it until I was 12 years old.  I know.  TMI.  Really though, our hips are made to move and Maddie on the left, is proof.

I recently read an article about stretching for seniors.  The author said that as we age our muscles become shorter and lose elasticity. True, but why?  In short, too much adult-ing:  we sit more and move less, and, we have been doing it for 30, 40, 50, 60 years.
 Both of these can affect the structure of your bones and muscles.  We need to move, but the trick is to do it safely so that we can do whatever type of exercise we like.

So, what do the hips and pelvis have to do with each other?

Well, take a look at the diagram on the right. This is a picture of the pelvic floor,  which shows the muscles we tighten when we do “kegel” exercises (you know, pretend that you have to urinate and stop it.) Many of us still do the tightening now,  all the time, even though our baby is 35 years old.  So how come even though we’ve been diligently squeezing at stoplights for years we now have dribbling and pain during sex?  It’s because these muscles are now are not only weak, but tight.  What do you think would happen to your biceps if you held your elbow closed for 35 years?   

Muscle strength comes from being able to shorten a lengthened muscle.  If the muscle is already short, it can’t get any shorter or stronger.   Also, notice how close your hips are to the muscles in your pelvis:  the hip socket is above the pelvis and to the side. Some of the muscles that move your hip come from your pelvis and vice versa.  If one is tight and weak, the other is too. These muscles are not only related to your hips, but to your back, knees, and feet. If you are overusing or holding one area, chances are that you’re doing it elsewhere, too.

How many of you have been stretching your hamstrings for 25-plus years before running, walking, yoga, or dance?  Is it working?  Do your hamstrings, in the back of your hip, or your muscles in the front of your thigh, ever get longerNo they do not. They get tighter.  There is a difference between stretching and elongating…and that’s the key difference between exercise and health.



KNOCK FIRST IS OFFERING A SPECIAL WORKSHOP FOR LADIES ONLY FEATURING
Movement Teacher, Beth Rubenstein MS, PT, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner

Come find out how to make your pelvic muscles more effective as you age.  Discover how to guide yourself in a gentler way so you can alleviate pain and stiffness while moving with ease and joy!

Go here to sign up :

Friday, August 19, 2016

Brain Changing Class



I’m taking a Changing My Brain class! 

Some people, however, call this class TAP.

I started my tap class last April just before my 65th birthday and I LOVE IT! I wanted to learn it when I was a little girl but my mother wouldn’t allow it (something about Vaudeville and the sketch-y underside of showbiz, I think…)

Anyway, I can’t wait to tell you about this class!  An admitted baby boomer herself, Deborah Perez is a beautiful dancer and an excellent teacher.   We do our shuffle-ball-changes at  By Your Side Dance Studio in Culver City and she is by far one of the best dance teachers I have ever had.  She is able to adjust her teaching so that it’s unique to all of her students; making each one feel as if they’re getting a private lesson.  We have former dancers, young and strong new-comers, and me: a 65-year-old, semi –coordinated, would-be dancer and gymnast. 

I’ve always loved dancing.  I love ballroom because I can turn off my brain and pretend I’m a tall, long-legged dance diva.  Not so with tap.  This style of dance requires you to tune in, turn on, and tap up!

Tapping appears to be the perfect path to fitness of body and brain.  It’s not unlike what I have experienced in my 25 years as a Feldenkrais® teacher; we like to think of ourselves as “neuroplasticians” because our work can change the way people think, feel, and act.   According to Norman Doidge in his latest book, The Brain’s Way of Healing, neuroplasticity is the “property of the brain that enables it to change its own structure and functioning in response to activity and mental experience. “  We used to think the brain and central nervous system was set once we reached the age of 25, but Doidge now believes that in order to  “enable neuroplasticity to happen, the approach must require the active involvement of the whole patient in his or her own care: mind, brain, and body.”

I think I am definitely in the process of transforming my mind and brain, and (with a little luck) my body.

I am tapping into the unknown; sometimes this dance can be confusing and just plain hard.  For instance, I was already aware of my toe clenching habit but you sure can’t do that in tap without developing pain almost instantly!  So it forces me to be constantly aware of where I am on my feet.  This requires the participation of my brain and muscles which in turn means constant challenges to my balance.  I have to stay upright, relax my feet, move in a circle and keep my hand aloft while slapping, spanking, shuffling, and ball stepping. 

Talk about challenging!

One of the ways we encourage neuroplasticity in the Feldenkrais Method® is by using novelty.  Awareness Through Movement lessons are full of “novel” movements.  We “wake up” the brain (and therefore new neural pathways) by bringing our awareness to parts that move together.  That’s what happens in tap!  In every lesson, we learn something novel.  I have learned the “Buffalo,” the “Irish,” the “Grapevine,” and loads more.  And then there is memory.  I can feel my brain growing as I learn the moves and then put them into a sequence. A strategy thay my teacher recommends is letting the music tell us what’s next.

Of course, all of this requires strength and endurance.  My legs are not as strong as they used to be and I don’t have the muscle fibers I once had.  As I Feldenkrais teacher I know that if I move just from my feet, I won’t last long in this vigorous dance.  I must engage my whole self.  If I don’t, I won’t get through the hour class without being debilitated.  If I do, I’ll feel invigorated!

So: awareness, novelty, strength, endurance, and memory.    Tap wakes up your brain and your body by using all of these and I have to tell you that along with my work as a Feldenkrais teacher, I feel like I have found just the right combination of body and brain exploration. I can feel those neurotransmitters transmitting!!

I have now found another love besides the gentle, lovely movement I do when I lie on the floor for an Awareness Through Movement® lesson.  My ability to tune into my movement and find another, more suitable way to do it is ingrained in my Feldenkrais® study. Both are keeping me young (and relieving my guilt about hating crossword puzzles and Sudoku!)

 





Deborah Perez of By Your Side Dance StudioBy Your Side Dance Studio and your happy, dancing Feldenkrais teacher!




“Movement is Life, without movement, life would be unthinkable.” 
M.Feldenkrais DSc

Tapping along until next time,
Beth





Friday, July 29, 2016

More on Multiple Sclerosis # 3

More but not the end......

There are four primary types of MS; relapsing-remitting, secondary-progressive, primary-progressive, and progressive relapsing.  But even though there are common factors among those with MS, everyone is an individual. That means there’s no cookie cutter approach to increasing function.

Still, there are similarities, so let’s consider them here…

In my last two posts, I touched on how we approach the issues of knowing where we are in space, spasticity, coordination, and balance.spasticity, coordination, and balance   Here, we’ll look at heat and stress, fatigue, and flexibility.

Heat can cause a temporary worsening of MS symptoms and stress and tension can raise core body temperature. With the gentle movement of a Feldenkrais® lesson, a participant can learn to release stress and tension.  This helps turn down the heat while allowing body energy to flow freely. By using attention and breath, one can learn to detect (and thereby avert) increased body temperature *before* problems begin.                    

Living with MS can mean change and stress. Stress depletes an individual both emotionally and physically and adds to fatigue to boot.  Using the Feldenkrais Method® helps those with MS learn how to function in a more relaxed state, thus quieting the sympathetic nervous system (your “fight or flight” response.) Since the movements are based on functional activities, people are given the opportunity to notice their habitual anxiety patterns and to explore more effective ways to cope. While teaching regular classes for the MS Society, we frequently met in less than optimal facilities.  There was often noise or movement in the room, but I chose not to change the location of these sessions because I knew my students needed to learn to calm and sense themselves in all surroundings.  After all, malls, noisy restaurants, and traffic jams don’t go away just because you have MS!

Fatigue can be the biggest challenge because we can create it without even knowing it.  Strain, tension, and fatigue are often the result of smaller muscles doing the work of larger ones. Learning does not occur when fatigue is present, so students are given the opportunity to modulate their own sense of fatigue.  Because participants are able to move or rest at their own pace, they gain more control over fatigue.

Flexibilty is the ability to switch and use a different part of the body for an activity.  Learning to use muscles to move rather than to support will improve range of motion and aid in increasing energy.  Initiating motion from large muscles closer to the center of our bodies also allows for more proportional distribution of movement, and that conserves energy and strength.  Those are the keys to maintaining the joint and muscle flexibility that is important for walking and other daily living activities.

Although I accommodate all ability levels and use many positions, I like lessons on the floor because it helps people feel and sense in a different way and explore what works.  This enables students to discover a new way to walk, get up from the floor, or play with a child.  I teach my student to notice what is happening. 

I ask students to do less than they can so that they can focus on learning how to be their own “inner advisor”.  Once moving becomes easier, they naturally want to do more.


Comment or ask questions here, or contact me at beth@movementmatters.us

Keep exploring and keep asking questions,

Friday, July 15, 2016


More About How I work with Multiple Sclerosis





Let’s get more specific about what I do for people with Multiple Sclerosis

In my last blog, I wrote about how the Feldenkrais Method® can benefit people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This blog will be the second of 3 blogs about MS and will get into more details for folks who would like more information.

Most people don’t ever think about what they do or how they move, that is until movement becomes a little harder.  When we slow down and pay attention to how we move and what we do, we are able to fine tune our movements and actions.  In other words as Moshe Feldenkrais said, “If you don’t know what you do, you can’t do what you want.”  This is exactly what we learn when we practice the Feldenkrais Method®.

If you have MS, or know somebody who does, (there are approximately 200,000 people in the US and 2.5 million worldwide with MS) then you know about some of the debilitating symptoms. Because the symptoms are so varied, when working with MS, one must have a clear understanding of the interweaving nature of the brain and body. One cannot “correct” one part without affecting the others.  We cannot change walking if we don’t work on breathing or knowing where we are in space. The Feldenkrais Method® is based on connections of parts and the whole and how they work together and separately.

I will use the example of walking and in this blog, I will cover 4 symptoms of MS and how I work with them.  I will cover 4 more in my next blog.  Some of the words I use may not be familiar to you, but if you have MS, or know MS, you know what these words are.

Walking is the primary reason that people with MS come to my practice.  What do you need to be able to walk?  We will start with an awareness of where your body parts are in space. In medical language, this is called kinesthetics/proprioception.  I take you through a series of movement sequences, either verbally or by touching you.  These very gentle, easy movements allow you to relax.  When you become relaxed you can explore the movement. You can become aware of movement patterns that are holding you back. You can learn how to abandon habitual movement patters that are not working.  No doubt, they used to work, but not now.  Through the subtle movement lessons, one can develop awareness, leading to flexibility and coordination.   

Another symptom that makes walking difficult is spasticity. Spasticity is a state where certain muscles are contracted at all, or inappropriate times.  The Feldenkrais Method® encourages students  to move with little effort, enabling them to stop or reverse any movement before the muscles can become excited or overexcited.  Movements are slow, gentle, and safe. You will be better able to modulate the how your muscles begin action. You now will be allowed to make minor adjustments based on your own perception.

Problems with coordination are quite common among people with Multiple Sclerosis, because of decreased communication within the brain and spinal cord.  Coordination is complicated, at best.  Actions utilize certain muscle sequences.  An example, you bend you knee, and lift your foot before your hip moves your leg forward for walking.  However, before you even move your legs, you see something you want to walk to or for, either in reality or in your imagination. You also have to maintain an upright posture and you must be breathing if you want to move efficiently.   The movement sequences in either modality of the Feldenkrais Method® teaches control of movement in space. This includes the ability to control direction, quality, and speed. 

So often people with MS have difficulty maintaining balance.  Through the Feldenkrais Method®, students with MS are given the opportunity to explore “dynamic posture,” where the skeleton carries the weight and the muscles are freed up to move more efficiently.  The relationship between the skeleton and muscles is explored.  Movement through the center of the body is emphasized, rather than holding at the “core.”

My next blog will explore heat sensitivity, fatigue, stress, and flexibility.
Contact me if you would like to talk about yourself or a loved one with MS


Beth@movementmatters.us




http://www.everydayhealth.com/multiple-sclerosis/living-with/feldenkrais-method-multiple-sclerosis/More on Feldenkrais and MS

Do I Work with People with Multiple Sclerosis

The first of three.....


The Feldenkrais Method explores how the brain can change. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects the brain, the nervous system.  I often work with those who have Mulitple Sclerosis, (MS). I have worked with folks with  Multiple Sclerosis but I also have a relationship that’s up close and personal.  While I don’t have the actual condition, it’s been a part of my life since I was four and my father was diagnosed.  The disease took him two weeks after my fourth birthday, on April 30th 1955.  My father's brother, Benjamin (for whom I am named) was diagnosed and died of it in the 1930's.  In 1986, it claimed the life of my sister, Susan. 

Multiple Sclerosis has left its indelible mark on my family.


My family has been involved with the MS society for as long as I can remember.  As a small boy, my brother Eli walked house to house with the little box collecting for the MS “hope chest.”  My friends and I put on backyard shows, charging money and donating.  My brother and I remain quite involved and I still write and speak about MS to whoever will listen. My daughters and I have participated in the MS walk every year since they were born.


When I was a young physical therapist in 1976, I started the first class for MS patients at UCLA. In 1991, after I became a  Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practioner® I taught a weekly Awareness Through Movement®class sponsored by the MS Society.


Here’s why I find that the Feldenkrais Method® to be an ideal approach to work with people with Multiple Sclerosis:

Since we know that MS can affect any part of the nervous system that is covered with myelin (the “insulation” covering nerves), any approach to increase function must involve the whole person.  That makes the Feldenkrais Method® a good match; not only because it connects one part of the body to others, but because it involves no stress, increased energy use, pain, or sweat.  Also, it actually can lower an over-heated body temperature by relaxing the “fight or flight” system.

What also makes the Feldenkrais Method® such a great fit for MS is that depending on what type a person has, symptoms can vary widely from day to day.  Since the Feldenkrais Method® is about awareness, how to attain it, and how to use it, the student (patient) is able to assess herself continuously and create her own strategies for change.

The combination of awareness and flexibility is very powerful in combating the effects of this disease. Using muscles to move rather than to support will improve range of motion and aid in increasing energy.  Initiating motion from the large muscles closer to the center of our bodies will allow for a more proportional distribution of movement, thus allowing energy and strength conservation, two major concerns for MS patients. In turn, these components add to the maintenance of flexibility of the joints and muscles that are important for walking and other daily living activities. 

All of us have enormous potential for learning, no matter what our physical ability is in any moment.  Learning about awareness, flexibility, and change will  enhance function.

 Think about this for a bit. I have two more blogs coming on this subject.  Contact me with questions or comments

Beth Rubenstein, MS,PT, GCFP

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Posture: What are our Notions


People have many ideas and notions about posture.  I have recently overheard conversations and read facebook posts and am concerned about what people go through to achieve a position that they think will make them look better without any regard for how they feel.

     I would like to share my   FAQ's about Posture  or   Myth vs Reality

1. I have so much trouble standing or sitting straight.  I must be weak.  What muscles should I       strengthen to be able to stand or sit straight?
    Very often we think that if we tighten the muscles of our chest and belly, and of our back, our muscles will hold us up in a straight position. However, the opposite is true.  By doing this, you will have muscles pulling from the front and the back and your spine becomes compressed in the crossfire. When you are not holding so tightly you can feel the lightness and length of your posture. You can feel the pressure on your feet, where it belongs and not in your neck, back, hips,or knees.
2. My mother always told me to "stand straight."   What does that mean?
    Some people think of themselves as a stack of bricks, straight and strong. They are immovable. See myth number 1, 2, and 3.  We are not a stack of bricks. We have brain. Even in the age of "smart" building, a stack of bricks does not have a brain. Bricks, or a building, cannot adjust for the nuances of balance and function. We are moving beings, not static towers.
3. I do loads of sit ups, but still can't stand for more than 10 minutes without pain.  Why is that?
     If your posture creates pain, then it is not working for you. You need to move differently and not stand like a stack of bricks.  Posture is not about strengthening any muscles. It is about how we organize and coordinate the movements of our head, back, hips, arms, and legs. Our anatomical design, as humans allows us to stand upright but we have to allow our muscles to be relaxed and our skeleton, or bony pelvis to support our belly.
4. I try very hard to stand straight. Why does my neck hurt?
    See question # 1.  Our muscles are meant to move us, not hold us. Our neck muscles are very small. They are for quick movement, for scanning our horizon, for keeping us out of danger; they are not for holding our heads up. Heads are heavy.  Again, our anatomical design allows our skeleton to support us and our muscles to move us.
5. How can I stand up for a longer period when I am wearing high heels?
     High heels move our center of gravity forward. If we are aware of our pressure on the feet, it won't matter if we are standing on pebbles, rocks, dirt, sand, or high heels. Again, we have a brain. If we can sense what we need to do and adjust for different situations, as long as we are wearing shoes that fit correctly we can stand in or on any surface.
6. I can't stand or sit for longer than 5 minutes. Everyone says I have beautiful posture. Is it supposed to hurt?
     See question previous questions.  Our posture needs to come from inside of us. It comes from sensing what we are doing and what we might do differently, not from what it looks like on the outside.
7. My mother tells me to pull my shoulders back. Can I wear a band to keep them back?  Or is there an exercise I can do to strengthen my upper back?
     You could wear a band to hold you, but you would probably fight against it the whole time you are wearing it and as soon as you took it off you would revert back to your original posture and be in a great deal of pain. Good posture comes from the inside, not from an outside force.
8.  Sometimes when I sing in the choir, my throat feels tight. I try to hold my head up straight. Is there an exercise I can do to strengthen my neck?
    Again, this has nothing to do with the strength in your neck. We do not sing with our necks. Singing is about breathing and how you control and coordinate all of the muscles involved. It is not about strengthening. You need to hold your head in a way that allows your muscles are soft and your neck is comfortable. A lesson with a trained voice teacher might help you
9. I read about a gadget that I can sit on at work that will teach me to sit up straight. How does that work?  Does it work?
    Our posture is not static. We cannot depend on an outside "gadget" to know what our brain wants to do and when. A quick fix is a way not to pay attention to ourselves. We need to know where we are and where we want to be. This happens  through learning to be aware.
10. What is good posture anyway?
     Posture is not static. In order for your posture to be "good," it has to allow you to move in any direction at any given time. The better question is, "How adaptable is your posture to different situations." What are you standing for- to talk to a loved one, to give speech, to navigate a room full of strangers?  Our posture will be different for all of these activities.

My hope is that these answers will help clear up some common misconceptions about posture.
The key to understanding and improving our posture is to move with ease and grace.


Contact me to learn more about your movement, your balance, how to decrease pain, and creakiness at http:movementmatters.us.