Client Conversation - Doris

Steve chats with Doris, a regular client

Steve: Hi Doris, how are you today?

Doris: It is hard to keep up with all the changes going on in my body. But this is wonderful, it is so much better than the physical therapy I have been going to. 

Steve: Yeah, I have heard that before. But, there is a place for physical therapy. It is just a different way of thinking of things.

Doris: I visited my grandchildren last week and I have a 4 year old, a 2 year old and a 13 year old.  I have been looking at them with new eyes, and it is TRUE that kids really DO have much better movement that we do. The 4 year old walks with a bounce to his step that is nice to see. The 13 year old used to, but someone told him it was not the right way to walk, so now he walks more stiffly.

Steve: Yes, the same thing happened to me. In Junior high, I was a track runner. The coach told me not to bounce up and down so much as I walked and ran, it wasted energy he said. So from then on I made it a project to not to do that. Some sense of rhythm and life died in me, I can see that in retrospect.

I think we adults have a lot to learn from kids, how they move, how they sit, how they use their eyes. Usually parents welcome a young child into the adult world the more they walk. This encourages the child to walk more. And leave behind all the wonderful baby moves, rolling on the floor moves that we adults have lost.

 The foundation of the nervous system is built with those early movements. Feldenkrais often pointed out that all mammals, except man, are born with a brain hard-wired to do almost everything it needs to do in life. Walk, run, jump, eat, etc. But for man, these things are a matter of learning. The brain is not so myelinated in a human at birth as for a horse, or deer, for example. Soon after birth, these animals can walk.

But we leave behind those early developmental movements - playful, experimental, seemingly random movements that babies do. This is a tremendous gift from Nature, and much of the magic of the Feldenkrais® Work is in reacquiring those qualities, those movements.

Doris:  Yes, but on the other hand, kids today are probably not so natural in their movement as in past generations -- what with TV and video games, junk food and broken families, and less room to run and play as we get more crowded in the cities.

Steve:  I think there is something to that. More than the usual criticism of the young by the “wiser” older folks. Kids today are more compromised, more damaged than in past generations. I think lots of people recognize this today.  My opinion is that TV and computers have done most of the damage. Junk food is right up there, though. The Feldenkrais Method® has given me lots of insight about that. Would you like to hear it?

Doris:  I am all ears. You know me, I am soaking up this Feldenkrais® stuff.  As far as I am concerned it is the most important thing I have ever learned in my life. I get as much benefit out of what you say as from what you do. And, I guess you know, I will definitely be taking a Feldenkrais Training.

 Steve: That is good. You’re ready. Your life will totally change. You get a taste of it from me, but there, you will get full meals.  So, you really want to hear about my opinions on TV and video games, and computers?

Doris:  There is so much violence on TV and in the movies.  I think that is the worst thing, wouldn’t you say?

Steve:  No actually, I disagree. The Feldenkrais Method® has helped me understand that as bad as the violence is, there is something even worse. Do you know of Joseph Chilton Pearce? He works with Radio Free Maine, has written several books, my favorite is The Magical Child.  He has a lot to say about child development. And the damage done by the medical system to mothers and babies. And  also the damage that is done by TV and computers. He cites studies showing measurable brain damage to children if they watch TV even on a limited basis. He feels kids should not use computers or watch TV until after age 12 when the brain is more mature.  He speaks of a study with several groups of adults. Each group about the same age, same intelligence level, etc. They are tested on their ability to remember a story.

The story was from a 5th grade textbook. One group was allowed to read it. The second group viewed it on a movie screen. The third group viewed it on a computer screen. Memory of the details of the story was much better for those who read it. The group who viewed the movie screen did OK too, but the computer group was very significantly less than the other two groups.

The scientists conjectured this was because the computer is giving out direct light. You see, In the Feldenkrais Method® we look a lot at evolutionary history - why we function as we do. You have to admit; neither cavemen, primitive cultures, nor animals look at direct light sources for very long. We never stare at the sun, for example. The moonlight is reflected, not direct light. So we can look directly there with ease. Starlight is direct, true, but so faint as to be not an issue. A campfire? A caveman would lose his night vision by looking into the fire.

I think the brain goes into a bit of shock when forced to stare at direct light for long. So memory. cognitive function, learning will not be optimal using a computer or TV to learn things. Books are better.  Movies are not direct light, so it’s healthier for the brain, but sit closer to the front row than the back row if you go to the movies. It forces the eyeballs to move instead of stare straight ahead, as we do watching TV or using a computer. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but later you’ll see how it helps your vision.

When I go to the movies, for example, I sit in the first or second row. At first this was a strain, but now I look forward to it. The first few minutes the eyeballs have to work harder than usual, but quickly they adjust. The movie gives them a good workout.

Doris:  It sounds so obvious when I hear it, but I  have never heard of these things before. You don’t get this kind of information from the mainstream press. 

Steve:  It’s strange isn’t it? When you hear these things it makes immediate sense, it rings true. Now I did not give you much in the way of double blind studies, references, etc, but the truth can speak for itself.  It is a characteristic of The Feldenkrais Method®;  You get involved, you start to discover things that are so obvious, but nobody else has a clue. Nor did you, for that matter, before you got involved. Moshe Feldenkrais even wrote a book titled The Elusive Obvious that focuses on this very topic.

 I keep wondering when the movie producers will learn what a tremendous advantage they have over TV - and computers, DVDs, etc.  They could market that advantage:  “We Don’t Do Direct Light!"

The other thing about TV and computers, from a Feldenkrais® perspective, is what it does to the posture, to the movement of the body.  It makes us not turn the head. We get sort of fixed into a straight ahead body organization, as if the only important thing that will ever require serious attention will be directly in the center of our visual field, directly in front of us. TV’s and video games teach you this, like it or not, and movies likewise, unless you choose to sit right up front in the first rows.

And really, little kids love to sit up front at movies and close to the TV,  but parents warn the kids - "Don’t sit so close! It is bad for the eyes!” - not realizing the kid instinctively knows better.  He wants to get involved in 3D up front in the middle of the action!  He knows staring is equivalent to dysfunction and death to the low brain, the instinctive brain.  Any wild animal that stares long and fixedly at one thing, disregarding the rest of his environment, would be committing suicide. You think the low brain of children does not remember this? Of course they do.

So anyway, TV and video games diminish peripheral vision and awareness. It cultivates tunnel vision and tunnel vision thinking, too. That is the worst thing. This is how western culture has produced so many business executives who can “focus” so well, and accomplish wonderful things.  But I always wonder at what price? They don’t concern themselves with the environment, with human suffering, with long term consequences. Just accomplish the goal.

Our whole culture is organized around tunnel vision brain function. Go to any health club , 90% of the machines there don’t even require turning the head. I always tell clients, choose an exercise activity that at least requires that you turn the head!

This includes basketball, badminton, soccer, volleyball, baseball, racquetball, martial arts, dance, tai chi, chi gung.  On the other hand, running, cycling, swimming, working out at the gym mostly encourage stiff necks and staring eyes. Of course it depends how you do those things. From my Feldenkrais perspective, I’d even say walking is better exercise than running. Most runners are too goal oriented, they stare fixedly as they run. Walking, enjoying the scenery, the head at least turns. The eyes are seeing movement in 3D.

Doris: And football? My grandchildren love it.

Steve: Football? No, I am not going to include it on my recommended list. Like all team sports you need to look around and turn the head, but the violence on the body is too much. I have seen a few studies on retired football players -- they suffer a lot of pain, many concussions, brain damage, they die younger, they are heavily injured.  And many of them have serious damage from the steroids and other drugs they used to perform at that high level. They are over-muscled and no longer doing the killer workouts, so all that muscle is a burden on the heart. And unless they learn to eat less - now that they are less active - all that food can clog the heart, making them prone to heart attacks. The statistics show this. 

Anyway, there are my extra two cents! 

© Copyright 2015 Steve Hamlin