Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rocky terrain

Various rocks amongst the weeds in my backyard sunroom. The flat river rocks on the left can and have been used for hot stone massage.

We live in a flat world, modern society has done it's best so that every surface we walk on is flat. This has helped us to be more efficient in our movements whether by foot or wheel. A downside to keeping our experience flat is that it limits our options on what we can do or at least what we perceive we can do.

Correct posture or acture is one of a fluid experience rather than a static one. We have our self-concepts of what standing or walking with good posture is, but does this also include while on rocky terrain?

In our lessons we're looking for what we can learn to make our life easier and more enjoyable. And if we can learn to have the same sense of stability in an uneven world it makes life in the flat world that much better.

Take a walk on rocks (small ones, medium ones, sure....even big ones). Feel how your feet interact with the rocks. Notice what parts of yourself (pelvis, ribs, your breath, etc.) are used, or not used when moving over this uneven surface.

I find that walking on rocks helps me function in the flat world with much greater ease. So rock on!

For more on the Feldenkrais Method® you can go to:

Erik LaSeur
Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher®

Monday, April 21, 2008

Can I keep it?

Last weekend we had our first taste of real warmth, it got up to 78 here at the beach.

So one of the remnants I found on my (okay, it's really all of ours) sidewalk was this hat-------->

I really don't want the hat and am hoping whoever lost this hat comes and gets it...>


It's on the fence...............................___>>>>>>>

Can we keep what we learn?

I hear this question from students "how can I keep this position?" after a lesson. With new attention comes the want not to slip back to our old habits. And long have you had the old ones?

"I'm not after flexible bodies, rather flexible minds." moshe feldenkrais.

One thing I've learned on my journey is a greater ease and ability in changing deal with change.

Okay, so what does changing the body have to do with the mind?

Usually when we're spinning our day's travails through our mind we're only using our head at best. Our brain is more than our head. Wherever a nerve impulse is possible we can consider that the brain too. How often do you catch yourself thinking with your head only?

Self image is the image (picture or actor or alter-ego) you employ in your every day life. What part of you do you know is here?

The more in touch with who we really are, physically and mentally, the more whole our existence can be. To life!

But back to the original question. Yes, you can keep new, more efficient patterns. It takes time, and many different approximations before it's yours. Only remember that it's not about keeping anything....okay!

For more on the Feldenkrais Method® you can go to:

Erik LaSeur

Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher®

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Taking a stand

I've had a love affair with giant trees, especially redwoods, for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite places to meander is through the Avenue of Giants in Humboldt County, CA. It's home to some of the oldest and largest redwood trees still standing in the western U.S.

We all have moments in our lives when we have to take a stand for something, if not for ourselves. While this may look like many things in your individual thought processes, it can also be looked at from a metaphorical perspective.

Because the physical and mental areas of our brain are so close together we can use this to our advantage.

Taking a stand can be as simple as feeling the ground beneath your feet. How do you stand normally? Where do you put more weight on your feet? Do you collapse your arches?

These are all questions you can ask yourself whenever you're about to take on a new and/or stressful situation. Often we find ourselves up in our heads going over possible scenarios before we actually act, and also while in the act. Only afterwards wondering ... what just happened?

Next time you're about to move into unfamiliar mental territory, whether it's an interview or meeting someone new or having to confront a troublesome neighbor, check in with how you physically stand.

You can practice this by giving a test talk to yourself (out loud) while changing where you have your areas of support. First you can collapse your arches, bringing your knees a bit closer. You may notice a rounding of the back, rolling forward of the shoulders, lowering of the head, and a shorter breathe. Then slowly roll your feet so that your support moves to the outside edges of each foot.

This might be a strategy I'd use with someone who wants to be heard better, carry a nicer singing tone, or learn to fill the room with their presence more effectively. Surprisingly, it's also useful in the act of going from sitting to standing.

I know this doesn't necessarily take place of what you can learn in a group (Awareness Through Movement®) or one-on-one lesson (Functional Integration®), but hopefully you can glean something out of this to help the next time you feel an uncomfortable situation arising.

For more on the Feldenkrais Method® you may go to:

Erik LaSeur

Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher®

Monday, April 14, 2008

Compassion and more potent action

An original by my late wife Yvonne

All the buzz lately has been on the Dalai Lama's Compassion Tour 08'. Yes, I agree with him that we all need to show more compassion for those around us. But I think a more potent strategy, and one less people are probably willing to undertake, is to have more compassion for ourselves.

When we put ourselves out to others we can only do so to the extent that we know. We can only love others to the extent that we know how to love ourselves. There is that saying 'God helps those that help themselves.' While I'm about as religious as a rock, I do find many sayings from many different religions to be spot on. What most of the participants at the Dalai's events this weekend will most likely experience when they 'practice' their compassion on others is that they'll end up confronting themselves, and the limitations of their own experiences.

I by no means am a saint and am speaking mainly on my own experiences (I'm a Virgo, so self-deprecating behaviour is ever present).

How do we learn to be more compassionate to ourselves?

There are ample opportunites throughout the day to get a base measure of your self-compassion.

One is to check into the internal dialogue or self-talk that you have about yourself. Are you being compassionate to yourself or self-deprecating? What do you say to yourself, both outloud and in the silence? To witness your own language can be eye opening, it was for me.

Another way, which is an easier tool for measurement, is to watch how much effort you put into the simplest of movements. When you strain to do any movement is that an act of compassion? I think of those in yoga class that strive to attain a yoga position. The pain and violence we can put ourselves through to attain that position, as if once we get there we'll attain some sort of enlightenment.
I see enough joggers and runners carrying themselves in positions that have to be causing damage, if not immediate then long-term. Arthritis is mainly the long-term shearing force of using yourself in non-compassionate ways.

There are many challenging Awareness Through Movement® lessons in Feldenkrais® that no way could I 'attain' some theoretical position, not without injuring or at least inflicting some sort of violence on myself. Fortunately, in ATM® lessons it's not about attaining anything but rather a chance to observe oneself in the act to see how we do it. And the chance to notice the violence, whether it's physical or emotional, we inflict on ourselves in our every day existence.

So, yes, practice compassion. It begins at home, with yourself. I know it can be scary, but it doesn't have to be. :-)

For more on the Feldenkrais Method® you can go to:

Erik LaSeur
Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher®

Friday, April 11, 2008

How straight do you want?

The clumping (Fargesia) bamboo is quite active this time of year. Notice the new shoot on the far left. About 1.5 feet already in less than a week.

Bamboo starts out quite straight, shooting upwards toward the light gods. But what is straight when talking about posture and more specifically the spine?

The street fair season is coming upon us and with them come the little booths with the 'Free Posture Check' signs of your local chiropractor. So naturally after checking you out they'll say "you know, your spine is out of alignment...blah, blah, blah."

Our skeletons have two major curves, lordotic and kyphotic. The lordotic curves is both the cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back). The kyphotic curves are both the thoracic (mid and upper back) and the sacrum. These curves counterbalance each other and are essential for our ability to weight-bear on our skeletal system.

So perhaps they mean something else when they are talking about us being out of alignment?

Side to side we will naturally be out of alignment (or symmetry). The reason being....we're not symmetrical beings.

Sure we have a leg on each side, and an arm on each side. A right and left eye and ear. So what's not symmetrical about us?

Our internal organs however aren't placed symmetrically in our bodies. The heart and liver are good examples of non-symmetrical placements. Also there may be slight differences in how long or large one leg is from the other, one arm from another, one breast from another.

Another thing that will keep us from being symmetrical is how we first develop favoritism when it comes to rolling, rolling to sitting, sitting to standing, etc. We have our favorite sides. That side will hence become more developed both in a physical sense and in a self-image sense.

Our survival actually depends upon our ability to have a dominant side, we're more prone to have most skills housed in set habits and patterns that are one-sided. Habits are necessary to exist.

There is a concept called functional symmetry, whereas even though the body isn't perfectly symmetrical, our use of it can be. Given we use the right side differently from the left side we need to come up with different strategies for each to be fully functioning humans.

Mickael Barishnikov...some ballet dude. He's not physically symmetrical, but he did figure out how to be functionally symmetrical. In fact he made lots of dough at it. When working out new moves he mostly tried them out on one side as he (like most of us) highly favored a side. Perhaps because he was so strongly in favor of using one side, that became his strength and ability to make his moves look effortless?

Next time someone tells you you're out of alignment you can tell em "and there aint nothing you can do about it." They are shooting for a model that doesn't exist in nature with animal beings.

Find out how you can become more functionally symmetrical with a Feldenkrais® lesson.

Erik LaSeur
Guild certified Feldenkrais Teacher®

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hedge row

It was nice to get the hedge trimmed this past weekend. I'm sure in a month or so it'll be having it's wild parts again.

So with great anticipation I watched King5's 'Learning to Learn' special. And I was let down. All these great scientists got together to decide that babies learn from day1....."Noooo, you've got to be kidding!"

Okay, I'll give that one to them. Not everyone is up to date on their child development theories. Just in case you'd like some good reading on this try:

by Joseph Chilton Pearce

Where I think the ideas went sour was the emphasis on intellectual learning for infants. Not that exposing them to new ideas is bad but the very nature of setting goals for your baby sets them up for the achievement game. Learning is thwarted when achievement enters into the equation. The child eager to please his parents by doing physical acts he's unprepared for (walk, stand), will put aside the process (unfortunately forever) for the short term joy.

I was recently reading another blogger who had concerns their child wasn't reading yet. Should we see a speech person? What was their real question?

Babies and infants are in a very rich learning environment where they're teaching themselves everything they need to survive in this new world. This learning place involves much discovery and creativity, there are also no time constraints, nor blue ribbons.

The satisfaction comes from learning to be whole beings.

Sourdough Slim has no trouble:


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Not anatomically correct

I never thought I'd be displaying original art on this site, especially on my second post.

But here goes:
These are probably the best stick figures I've ever done. I'd starve as a visual artist!

As you've probably figured out, the above figures represent different ways of picking up or setting down an object. Or maybe it's a new dance craze? Doing the 'box'.

Figure b is the classic locking the knees, bending at the waist, road to slipped discs and nerve pain.

To counter this, the 'save the back' proponents have come up with an alternative.
Figure c. Keep the back straight (in a vertical sense), bending the knees and conversely powering the quads through the knees on the accent.

Now that we're saving the back, we're killing the knees.

Is there another alternative?

The Duwamish train bridge to the left is a good example of an alternative.

The counter-balance.

As the the land based portion of the bridge starts moving to the right the roadway portion of the bridge starts moving to the left.
Over a common base the bridge is dispersing the forces in opposite directions, thus creating a condition where little effort is needed to carry out the action.

Figures d and e illustrate the counter-balance move related to lifting and setting a box down.

The movement initiates as the pelvis makes a small movement backwards and upwards. Weight goes backward (that'd be your butt) allowing weight to go forward (box, upper body, head).

This movement can be done, lowering of the box to the floor, without unneccesary stressing of the back or the knees.

A good way to test whether effort comes into the movement is to notice when/if the breathe becomes held.

Of course, the above can most easily be learned once you understand the underlying habits in the movement. If you don't know what you do, change is difficult.

For more on the Feldenkrais Method you can visit:

Erik LaSeur
Guild certified Feldenkrais Teacher

Sunday, April 6, 2008


The purpose for setting up this blog is to hopefully put to written word my continuing experiences of learning to learn. This quest into organic learning is fueled by my on-going training in the Feldenkrais Method since 2002.

Future ideas for topics:

Finding our voice.

Symmetry, an offbeat notion.

Easy lessons to make your day go by with more pleasure.

Habits, why we need them and why they're in the way.

Compassion of self, a lesson that keeps on giving.

along with occasional general topic articles.

For more information regarding what perhaps I could be talking about, check out: