The message of this chapter is: Movement matters! The quality of your movement is a key to the quality of your life. By that I mean, the way you move-the way you sit, stand, walk, climb stairs, reach for the phone, tap the keyboard, swing a golf club or tennis racket, or carry a baby-has a tremendous impact on how you feel and how you do in all your daily activities, including sleep.
Light, easy, well-coordinated movements feel good and are good for you. They produce feelings of physical and mental ease, self-assurance, and pleasure. They provide a basis for happy and creative living. And most important for our purposes, they relax your body and reduce stress, which as you know is the number one enemy of sleep. Anything that makes your life less stressful is going to support your quest for more peaceful sleep.
Now consider the other side of the coin. Awkward, ill-coordinated, overly forceful movements feel heavy and uncomfortable The misdirected effort of the movement rebounds on the body, damaging muscles, bones, and other sensitive tissues. The end result can be stiffness, aches and pains, premature fatigue, low mood, and reduced ability and achievement. Living this way is stressful. The more stress there is in our lives, the harder it is to get a good night's sleep.
So movement does matter. And happily, we've got a choice. Whether we are young or old, weak or strong, healthy or ill, we can always improve the quality of our movements. Using our own senses as a guide, we can become aware of old, habitual ways of moving that don't work and replace them with new ones that do. And it doesn't have to be a big deal. Often, a relatively small change in the way we move can bring a meaningful change in our quality of life. Later, we may choose to make further, deeper changes. In this way can we improve our lives step by step.
A Path to Meaningful Change
How can we make these meaningful changes in ourselves? The best way that I have found is something called the FeldenkraisMethod.Created by the Israeli physicist, engineer and judo master Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1900-1984), this fascinating and highly effective method of movement education is taught by over six thousand practitioners worldwide and is enjoyed by millions of people from every walk of life. Students of the method enjoy better posture, breathing, and coordination as well as greater mental and physical flexibility. They typically report enhanced performance, creativity, and pleasure in activities as diverse as walking, skiing, dancing, running, golfing, gardening, mathematics, the arts, and business.
What kind of people study the Feldenkrais Method? People like you. For example, Feldenkrais helps people with backaches, injuries, or muscle and joint pain to discover new options for easier, more pleasurable movement. This was confirmed by studies conducted by the Santa Barbara (California) Regional Health Authority and at a Saab factory in Sweden. In the Santa Barbara study, Feldenkrais teacher and author Steven Shafarman taught an intensive two-week program for a small group of chronic pain patients with various musculoskeletal and stress-related conditions, including chronic back pain, migraine, and physical trauma. Data from a questionnaire compiled by the American Academy of Pain Management showed that the Feldenkrais program was more effective than standard treatment protocols at about one-tenth the cost. Participants' medical costs declined by roughly 40 percent in the year following this program.
The Saab study, reported in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, was designed to investigate whether physiotherapy or Feldenkrais training resulted in a reduction of complaints from the neck and shoulders among ninety-seven female workers. Researchers measured range of motion in neck and shoulders, oxygen consumption, endurance, and physiological capacity according to a dynamic endurance test. Each worker was assigned to one of three groups: One received standard physical therapy (PT) and ergonomic intervention, another received Feldenkrais movement education, and a control group received no intervention. The physical therapy and Feldenkrais program lasted sixteen weeks each during paid work time. Results? The Feldenkrais group "showed significant decreases in complaints from neck and shoulders and in disability during leisure time." The PT group showed no change, while a worsening of complaints was recorded in the control group.
Tags: Mental Health
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