Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Exercises CAN I do?


I recently finished the fourth workshop of my Change Your Age: Vitality at Any Age series.   Toward the end, a dedicated, curious student asked, “But what exercise SHOULD I do now?  I have to keep exercising to keep my weight down and stay fit.”

Good question.

So, I explained how small, easy movements might be better for overall well being than large, difficult ones.  I had shown in the workshop how it was more beneficial to elongate our muscles rather than stretch them.  The students had gotten the experience of being able to bend forward and backward and how important all movements are if we want to live a normal life.  I reminded the group how we’d talked in class about not constantly holding our "core," and even experienced letting go of the vaginal muscles (and how it just might be time to give up on those Kegel exercises learned 30 years ago.)  . 

“Well,” she said, “that just about wipes out whatever exercise routine I had!”

So what can you do?  The short answer is,   DO WHATEVER EXERCISES YOU WANT TO DO.  I recommend that you do what you like and what gives you pleasure.  That’s because it’s not about WHAT you do, but HOW you do it.

What is fitness, really?   When I posed that question to the class, the answers ranged from, “being healthy” to “losing weight” to “being able to do yoga poses”.  Most still believed they aren’t really doing exercises or doing it right unless they sweat, feel pain, or work to exhaustion.

I am here to say the exact opposite. We do not gain by exercising beyond the point of pain and stress. We do not gain by straining as we exercise.  We do not gain if we are in too much pain to move the next day.

Alright then, how do we do “any exercise we want?”  We pay attention.  We use awareness (no matter what type of movement you’re doing!)  We move with intention.  This will not only make you stronger and more heart-healthy, it’ll make moving fun!  Here are a few tips to get you started:

1.     Have less ambition and more curiosity about your routine.
2.     Strive for more work rather than more effort: move smarter, not harder.
3.     Be present as you move or exercise. Explore what you are doing.  
4.     Pay attention to your breath:  how are you breathing in, how are you breathing out?  (Are you breathing or are you holding your breath?)

Would you like to feel just how awareness feels and the difference it makes?

Sit on the edge of your chair.

-How do you sit?  What part of your buttock is in contact with the seat?
-Are you on your tail bone?   Or are you all the way forward, on your pelvic bone?
-What is your belly doing?  (Is it pushing out?  Held tightly in?)
-Where is your head?  (Is your chin down, or up?  Is your right ear closer to your right shoulder than the left ear is to the left?  Is your nose facing forward?)
-Are you breathing?  How?  Where do you feel your breath?  Touch the parts of you that move when you breathe.  
-Lift your right arm up. Lift your left arm up.
-Bring your arms down and rest.  Just observe. 

Take a breath in and release it, noticing where and how the air travels.  If you do this, observe breath, assess where you are, where all of your parts are,  with every exercise routine, you will definitely get more benefit and less discomfort from your program.    To continue with our Awareness Through Movement® lesson……. 

-Turn and look to the right.  Find your “spot”:  where is it most comfortable to easily see?  (No stretching, straining, or creaking, please!)
-Come back to facing front.
-(A)  Turn and look to the right again, but this time turn your head and shoulders.  Move slowly. Move just a little bit at a time.   Repeat several times.
-(B)  Turn your shoulders to the right and hold them there.  Bring your head to the front several times, keeping shoulders to the right. 
-Repeat steps A & B on the left.
-face front again
-turn to the right, turn to the left

Did you range of motion improve?       No stretching here.         How do you sit now? More comfortable?                  Do you feel connected?                      Get up and walk. 
                           How do you feel?            Go, take on your fitness program. 
                                         Move with ease, awareness, and connection.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Are You Moving with Joy?

I was at the gym when a notice for a Pilates class caught my eye.  I was there and thought, why not?  I’m pretty fit; let’s see what this is really about.  After all, who knows?  I might just look like that cute instructor when we’re done, right?  (Hey, a girl can dream…)  I am a movement teacher.  I know how to move.  I felt ready to take on something new.
  The warm up was a bit fast for my taste, but I kept up. The leg work also was a little quick for me to feel like I had used myself efficiently, but I was ok.  Everyone around me, however, was huffing and puffing and going “great guns.”  Nobody was smiling.  And the Cute Little Young instructor was, quite frankly, looking less and less cute.

     Personally, I like to start a little slower and build up to the hard stuff, but Cute Little Young Instructor had other ideas.  We got to the more intense “core” work, which involved lifting the head and the legs at the same time.  Immediately, my old neck pain returned .

     So, I disobeyed Cute Little Young Instructor’s  commands and did the class my way.   Luckily, the pain in my neck pain vanished and didn’t come back, but I couldn’t help wondering what was happening to the necks (and backs, and joints) of my classmates.  Were they working out in spite of pain?

     Doing an exercise that is so difficult doesn’t just inflict physical pain, it also causes emotional pain.  Going to a class where you can’t keep up can make you feel like a loser and if you’re uncomfortable, you probably won’t be back.  Who goes in for torture?  Besides, I am interested in the quality of my movement, not the quantity of the sweat it produces.   And I’ve seen too many clients who come in with injuries from classes just like these.

     Traditional exercise is about increasing fitness.  It is not about fun or feeling better.  But it doesn’t have to hurt.  If we have the ability to listen to ourselves and to what our bodies are telling us, we can become fit.  Then we cane

Learn to engage in physical activities that you enjoy without hurting yourself. 
Learn how to listen to the wisdom of your body.

Does reclaiming the joy of movement sound interesting to you?  Call me to discuss how you can exercise to be fit throughout your life without hurting yourself. Engage in whatever fitness program you want to, but feel great while doing it.

Would you like to free your head and neck of pain and stiffness?
Sit toward the edge of your chair. Feel your buttocks on the chair.
Feel your feet on the floor. Allow your arms to rest comfortably on your thighs.
Turn your head to the right to where it comfortably goes,
Notice what happens to your shoulders?  Does your right shoulder go forward or back as you turn your head to the right?
What does you L shoulder do?
Turn your head and shoulders to the right and back to the middle, several times.
Now turn your head to the R again and notice how it moves.
Do you turn more with less stiffness and no pain?

This helps you to be aware of HOW you move, not how much.  This little movement lesson can not only free your neck pain.  It can help you understand that being mindful of how you move, you can move more safely and without discomfort.  You are then able to do any exercise program you want to do.     No Pain, More Gain.

Classes and private sessions are available. Call 310 645-7904 for a consultation

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Spring

Naaseh v’nishma”


The Vernal Eqinox is upon us this weekend. Important holidays are coming. It is a holy time for Jews and Christians. All of these are a time of reflection and joy.

I would like to wish everyone a spring full of sunlight and growth. This time of year brings me to thoughts about being human, and what we all share. As a matter of fact, I think about being the best human we can be.  Allow me to set a stage for a very important moment for these two faiths.  We are at the foot of Mt Sinai. Moses has brought the Ten Commandments down to the Israelites. He has given detailed rules. What did the people say?  Was it, what we might think? We will listen and we will do?? NO. They said, “we will do and we will listen.” Filled with so much faith in these commandments, they instinctively understood that these were instructions to be followed to the letter.  There would be time later to fully comprehend their meaning.  

The Cantor at my synagogue, Lonee Frailich, wrote about this a few weeks ago.  I paraphrased what she wrote in our temple bulletin about the Torah portion from that week.

These words struck me because, although the people of Israel were not only given tools to act, they were given these laws to help them reach beyond their limitations.  The understanding and meaning behind these actions could only come from the experience itself.

What does this bring up for you?  This probably sounds familiar to those who engage in awareness and learning.  In Awareness Through Movement® we move, and then we learn. We help our students  become aware of what they do, of what is happening. We do and while we are doing, we explore, and learn.  Moshe Feldenkrais gave us tools to be able to learn more about ourselves, about our possibilities for growth and health, and to live with grace.
In either a “hands on” or group session, understanding and meaning of our actions comes from the experience of moving being mindful, and connecting the parts. Dr. Feldenkrais taught us that we all, no matter what our situation, ability, difficulty, or disability is, can learn and improve. He taught us that even if we are high level performers, we have more potential to grow.

Moshe Feldenkrais obviously did not invent these ideas. They have been around for thousands of years. He pulled from a lifetime of learning and experience.

Although we strive to learn and do good deeds for others, we must remember to take care of ourselves. Part of helping the world, is helping yourself and staying healthy.   Sometimes it is hard to take the time to learn something new.  I tell my children, “act as if, and you will see and feel the change.”
Now I am inviting you to do and listen.   Experience an Awareness Through Movement® class or an individual session with me. Learn to improve vitality and confidence. Decrease your pain, improve your posture.  Come and learn about yourself. 

Naaseh v’nishma.

Chag Sameach and Happy Easter!
Beth R

Movement Matters   Connection Matters    Mindfulness Matters

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Aging" is the cool thing. And I couldn't be happier!

 Growing Bolder.Com is my new favorite facebook page.

I read Helen Dennis’ column, “Successful Aging,” every Sunday in the Daily Breeze.  I’m thrilled that she discusses topics relevant to today’s thriving Baby Boomers and seniors.   No more languishing unsung in the corner for this demographic; we’re about to start getting the respect and attention we deserve!

The topic of aging is dear to me for two reasons.  The first is that I find myself advancing past middle age in a sea of media that’s geared toward twenty and thirty somethings.  But ours is an age group that’s vital and worthy!  It is about time that we are invited to the party. 

Second, I have a bit of an odd family history:  We either die in our forties or, like my mother, live well into our 90’s.  Since I’m approaching my 64th birthday and am quite NOT dead, it seems I’m following in my mother’s footsteps toward longevity. 

So, I have chosen to age with grace.

And I’m not alone.  There’s a whole generation of people who want to learn how to be mindful and take charge as they learn how to manage stress, tension, and pain.   That’s why I teach people how to explore what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.  That means showing people how to undo the habits that are undoing them.  Exercise for fun and fitness, but, as Moshe Feldenkrais said, 
“If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.”

The recent Daily Breeze column asked, “Should older adults join fitness centers?”   The author urged us to “listen to our bodies.”  Good advice indeed, but to me it came up a bit short.  Just HOW do we listen to our bodies?  If something hurts, do we just quit?  If we get tired, do we just quit? Unfortunately, that might find a fair few of us taking up residence on the sofa. We might listen, but how can we change what is happening. First, we must know what is happening.

So, a few tips:
  1. If you are using a piece of equipment, or doing a particular exercise and you hurt, don’t just stop, and definitely don’t “muscle through it.” This is no time to be a martyr.  If you feel an exercise gives you pain, examine what you are doing. HOW are you doing it?  Often, you can figure out another way to do it, which will keep you active and engaged.

  2. If you get tired, take mini rests throughout your workout.  In strength training, there’s no benefit to exercising until you drop.  Just forget that whole “no pain, no gain” thing. You could actually end up tearing muscle fibers rather than building them!   Slow and steady is the key here. These rests might just help your brain catch up to your muscles. Rest BEFORE you fatigue.

  3. Know what muscle groups are important for basic functions like walking, reaching, twisting, and lifting. For example, how many people know the importance of the muscles on the back the the thigh, the gluteal and hamstring muscles for upright walking?  This is where I, a Feldenkrais Practitioner® can really help; you can experience how the body works, allowing you to SAFELY build muscle while protecting joints and ligaments and connecting all of this to your brain so that you will continue to function easily.

I go to a gym and I watch as seniors come in.  Most walk while looking at the floor, afraid of falling. I teach my senior clients how to feel themselves on their feet and how to be in gravity; how to feel at ease being upright.  Strength training and stretching won’t improve function.   

Starting this spring, I’ll be teaching a “Change As You Age®” workshop that will begin as 5 two-hour segments twice a month. We’ll explore habits, how to spot them and how to change them.  Participants will gain an understanding of how our minds and bodies work together to feel and function better.

Our joints don’t have to wear out before we do!      

 You can maintain your active life style!

Here’s to getting better, healthier and aging with grace.

Best of health,    



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Feathers, New Hat

Connection Matters      Movement Matters      Mindfulness Matters

“So…why’d you become a Feldenkrais teacher?   And what’s the difference between that and physical therapy, anyhow? ”

I get asked this A LOT.  I became a physical therapist in 1975 because I wanted to help people, stamp out disability, and cure mankind.

Lofty, no?

As a young PT, I didn’t just want to help people and make them feel better, I wanted to save them.  I took as many post graduate classes as I could find.  I found that once I was out of school, I loved learning. I took loads of courses on neurophysiologically-based treatment approaches. I took too many manual therapy courses to count.  I had studied with Maggie Knott herself and was considered a PNF expert.  I served on the faculties of two physical therapy programs.  

Still, I had nagging doubts.

Why did some patients recover quickly and fully, while others did not?  

Even when dysfunctions or disabilities were similar, about 20 percent of the folks I worked with just did not get better, though I certainly did just about the same thing on everyone.

So what was up? 

I decided that I needed see something different.  I needed to look at what I had learned, how I learned it, and what I thought I knew. I realized that being a “therapist” who knew everything, wasn’t working.  It was actually a heavy burden. I didn’t want to work with people by rote and I certainly did not want to “burn out.”

Well, I would soon find out that we don’t get better answers until we start asking better questions; and I was clearly asking the wrong ones concerning my patients. 

I decided to get out of my “box.”

What??  I didn’t even know there was a box…let alone that I was *in* one!  So how could I get out?   

I knew there was more, and, I knew it had something to do with the brain and the body/ brain connection.  That meant it had to involve movement.

I heard about the Feldenkrais Method®  and it looked interesting. I went to an introductory workshop with trainer Mark Reese, who was later to become a mentor to me.  The first day of that workshop, I thought I already knew what he was saying.  I knew about the brain, right?

The second day, when he worked on students, after I picked up my jaw, I said to myself (and to anyone who would listen), “I need to know what he knows, see what he sees, touch the way he touches.”  I was sold.  I knew I had to learn THIS approach.

When I started my training to become a Feldenkrais Teacher® in 1988, I thought I was going to get another feather in my cap.  Another tool for my toolbox, if you will. 


What I soon found out was that what I was getting was a whole new cap.

I am privileged to have had the opportunity to go from being a therapist who “fixes” people to one who helps people learn.  I teach them how to pay attention to how they are moving, and empower them to become investigators who can explore how they hold tension and how to change the habits that are the culprits of their pain or other issues.  I also learned how to learn with them.  Better still, I found I didn’t have to KNOW all the answers. I just had to help them ask better questions.  Our dialogue became not about what was wrong but about what was happening. I now help my student (rather than patient) sense and feel what has been invisible to her. Together we explore how to use her whole self differently, or more efficiently.

This delights me, this exploration and discovery.   And I love that this method is soundly based in the science of neuromuscular reeducation and neuroplasticity.  Current research tells us that by utilizing mindfulness and motor and sensory information, the brain can reorganize and form new pathways for thinking, learning, and recovering skill.  

We all are controlled by the information we give our brain, and by the information our brain gives back to us.

I love this work because I too, explore, discover, and grow.  My specialty is working with Baby Boomers, who, like me, want to keep moving and stay fit as we age.  We are limited by our habits, and we can’t change if we aren’t aware of them.
 Check out my new hat, full of beautiful feathers. 

I look forward to continued awareness and learning every day.

All plumed,


Monday, February 2, 2015

Best Foot Forward

Connection Matters   Movement Matters   Mindfulness Matters
Why do my feet hurt??

Many baby boomers come to see me with the same complaint:  excruciating heel pain in one or both feet.  I feel like it is becoming an epidemic!   I can’t say for certain, but I believe it’s because we’re exercising more than the generation before us; and we have greater expectations of aging gracefully.

I’m often asked, “Should I walk less?  Stretch more?  Tighten my core?  Get a massage?  Change my shoes?”  These are examples of advice given by most professionals who treat plantar fasciitis,  (heel pain that spreads to the underside of the  foot)  which seems comes on for no APPARENT reason.

They have taken anti-inflammatories.  They have eased activity.  They have been stretched, taped and braced.

But the pain always comes back. 

People ask if I treat sore feet.  As Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais said, “I treat people, not diagnoses.” 

What do I do differently?   I help you figure out another way *to do* your activity, not *stop* doing it.

First, you must start learning how you move.  Here are some simple steps you can take right now:

1.       How often do you notice your feet when they aren’t hurting?  Touch your feet.  Play with them, the way you did when you were a child.      Meet Maddie   Adorable right?

She’s actually working as she is playing in this picture.  Her job right now is to form connections in her brain because that’s how her brain develops and learning occurs.   Babies play with their feet because it’s how they form those critical connections.

So how do we re-connect with our feet as adults?  The same way we did when we were Maddie’s age. Take the time to get to know them again by playing with them!

We need to explore the way babies do.  We need to let go of old patterns that no longer work for us and form new sensory and motor pathways that will in turn improve skill and action.  (And don’t worry, we can learn a lot without sucking on our toes…unless, of course you wish to.)

2.       Think of your foot as a triangle; the ball of your foot by your big toe, the ball of your foot by your little toe, and your heel.  Notice the triangle as you sit with your feet on the floor, as you stand, and as you walk.  Pay attention to how each part feels on the floor.

3.       Sit on a chair and put a tennis ball under your foot, one foot at a time.  Allow the ball to roll in different directions under your foot as you move your leg.  This is something you can do easily as you sit and watch TV.

You are never too old.

You need to rediscover what you already know but have forgotten:  how to move with comfort and ease in order to maintain your vitality.  It’s the key to being free from pain.

Once you do this I promise you, you’ll never think of your foot the same way!    You’ll have opened the door to awareness…and that’s the first step toward healing.  You need to rediscover what you already know but have forgotten:  how to move with comfort and ease in order to maintain your vitality.  It’s the key to being free from pain.

When we work together, we’ll explore how your body connects to itself; and to your brain.  Remember, it’s not about muscles, it’s about movement.  We’ll explore how you move and discover what works best for your body.  I help people learn.  We work together to discover the way you, as a unique individual, move.   I help lead you to a place where you can do whatever activity you want ; not through stress or effort, but through comfort and mindfulness.

Exploration and awareness is thedifference that makes the difference.

Stepping into awareness,