Future Client Conversation - Waldorf Teacher

Steve chats with Joanna, an administrator at the Waldorf School in Los Angeles

Steve meets a Waldorf School teacher at a Los Angeles World Fest event.

Steve: Joanna, I am glad to meet you, my name is Steve.  I heard you teach at a Waldorf School. I have heard good things about Waldorf. What do you do there?

Joanna: Hi Steve. I am an administrator, teach part time, and am the mother of two kids.

Steve: I am not a parent but I do a thing called Feldenkrais® which - how can I explain it?  Well this World Fest has a lot of booths on raw, organic, even vegan food, right?  Feldenkrais® is raw, organic movement. It is our birthright, but very few adults have it, and usually we lose it as youngsters, and school plays a large role. To put it bluntly, most of us have junk movement, it is just like junk food.  Do you know about Feldenkrais®?

Joanna: No, I have never heard of it.

Steve: Feldenkrais® is to movement what organic food is to diet.  You could call it organic movement.  What Nature intended. That  people like you don’t know what it is,  is SUCH a frustration to me. People like you especially should know about Feldenkrais®! Can I give you a quick education?

Joanna: Go ahead, I am all ears.

Steve: Mistakes are made by parents and teachers, which rob children of organic movement.  In the same way, if you raise a child on junk food, what do you get? But, so few people understand organic movement, this problem is not recognized as much.

Joanna: What kind of mistakes?

Steve: Well, I am not a parent, nor do I teach young children, but I have studied and worked with movement for over 10 years now.  One common mistake is encouraging toddlers when they first begin to walk. Parents may smile, clap their hands, or even worse hold their little hand and try to get them to stand and walk again. This is HEAVY interference with a natural process. Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of this work,  once looked at an x-ray of a spine and immediately knew he was a first born child.  You see, parents are a little worried about first born kids. Will they be normal? Will they walk normally? So they keep monitoring the process and encourage the results. But you see, kids may stand and take a step or two, but that does not mean they are ready to do more.  Balance, confidence in standing is a slowly learned process.

Joanna: I am first born, and my whole life has been one continuous episode of back pain.

Steve: There you go.  If you encourage walking too soon balance is unstable, and what happens? You can feel this for yourself.  Close your eyes and tense your feet.  This makes your balance a little unstable. Look what you are doing!  Your breathing has stopped. Your ribs have tightened and you are clenching your jaw a little bit. Do you feel all that?  THIS is what you do to a child by giving encouragement to the process of learning to stand and walk.  Don’t do it.  Just let them develop as they will, as if they were not a first-born child.

Joanna: What other kind of mistakes do we make raising kids?

Steve: Commercial diapers are too big, for example, because they interfere with normal use of the child’s legs. Cloth diapers are more trouble, but they are not so large and won’t interfere so much with organic movement.  Another thing – once a child begins to stand and walk, parents should still get on the floor with them and encourage them to crawl, roll around and play, just like they did before. For most kids once they begin to stand and walk, the earlier movements are left behind. This is not so much the case in aboriginal cultures, where they are closer to nature. In fact, in The Feldenkrais Method®, much of what we do is teach adults to re-learn all those baby movements on the floor. And this process brings wonderful – even unbelievable, results.  Can you imagine if we did not give them up in the first place?

I am not saying we should all go back to baby moves. But remember Charles Kauralt TV series, once he interviewed two black women over 100 years old, each of them. They wrote the book, and the play Having My Say.  And they credited their longevity to crawling the floor, or ground, gardening etc., for ONE HOUR per day. Can you believe that?

The very WORST thing we do to kids is let them watch TV and do video games and use computers before they are past age 12 or so. That teaches them eyeball immobility, looking down too much, elongated eyeballs from too much close focus, fixity of head and neck, over-stimulated breathing and sedentary body, a racing excited mind with a sedentary body – both of these are extremely unnatural, and will cause and perpetuate stress, overeating, over-breathing and much more, including asthma, anxiety and ADD.

Organic movement means the head can turn, the eyes are free. Because kids are not carried enough by mothers today, and cribs, carriages, chairs are used too much – we get a tunnel vision culture.  Too many specialists, not enough people with perspective. You can see what this has done to our environment. Look at health clubs – not one thing there where you have to actually turn the head. This is not good movement.  If you create activities for kids – or choose an activity for yourself – this should be the #1 criteria:

Does it allow or even require that I turn my head and use my peripheral vision? Does it involve more than just looking and moving straight ahead?

Leisurely walking, enjoying, looking around is wonderful. Fast, goal-oriented walking with a set jaw and over-striding legs is horrible. Running can be either. But most runners are locked in to a tunnel-vision usage of eyes and head and neck and chest. Only a few runners are not oblivious to what is going on around them. Same with bike riding. Sports that DO require open focus vision, 3D use of body, are team sports like basketball, football, baseball, martial arts, soccer.

Which brings me to CHAIRS, and the damage they do.  You see, if a normal baby is on his back and wants to roll over…stomach protrudes…we hold belly in…we teach pelvis to be out of self image….Western Education is a great way to produce slaves or obedient factory workers.  Wild animals, who get an immobile pelvis, don’t have long to live. Guaranteed. This piece of knowledge it well understood by the subconscious mind of the child. Some call it the dinosaur brain.  That brain has lot of wisdom. Squirming in a chair may not be such a bad thing! Sitting still, looking straight ahead, for prolonged moments, any wild animal would soon be dead meat. Something dies in our children when we make them sit up straight in chairs.

So, what typically happens in school settings, is a forcing to sit up straight.  It’s horrible! The kids that don’t do this so much, are more rebellious, they become the good athletes. They don’t lose so much organic movement.  Slumping is not bad. Kids do this more that adults not because kids are animalistic, uneducated, lazy or stupid! Actually the reverse is more the case.  The kids have it right. It is organic movement. We are born in flexion – slumping. Any good athlete hunches over – to catch a ground ball, to receive a tennis serve, to begin a martial arts fight, to wrestle. There is coiled power there, available to use in many ways. You try to do any of those things standing stiffly erect and you are totally powerless.  To encourage a child to sit nicely erect creates a powerless child. Some adults may be OK with that, but I don’t think you are, right?

Joanna: No, certainly not. But what you are saying is very new to me. And it raises the question about posture – you mean we should all slump? It looks bad, concentration is not so good, there is more alertness sitting up straight, I’d say.

Steve: Well, not many people have really thought about these things deeply. But you have just asked a very intelligent question – and the quick answer to that is that there is a better way to teach, and learn, to sit erect than “forcing”.  Will power is not the way to accomplish that.  There is a skillful way to teach ideal posture. This is a whole topic – no time here to explain. But one way would be to have a child sit and slump. Play a game – pretend you are hitting him with a soft roller or pillow, and he must defend himself by blocking you with his left or right forearm.  Three  minutes of play like that and the child will be sitting effortlessly erect, no tense muscles along the back, and he will look very powerful. Some adults are even afraid of a child like that.  Of course the best way would be to bring a Feldenkrais teacher into your school and have regular ATM classes – Awareness Through Movement. By the way, I’d be interested in a opportunity like that!

Even toilet training is another way we go wrong. If this is done before the sphincters can independently activate, the child will be toilet trained by forcing himself/herself to tense up the entire pelvic floor. Many, if not most, western adults carry an uptight pelvic floor with them all day long – a relic of impatient parents, who rushed the toilet training process.  

Now I know nothing about teaching kids to read. But I can tell you for sure there is a deep reflex we are have, whether genetic or learned I don’t know, which involves the turning of the head with the movement of the eyes. We are curious, we look, the head follows the lead of the eyes.  Healthy kids have this, for sure. Now, what happens when you teach a child to not move the head left and right while reading? That reflex must be frozen down. A child can only do this by tensing the neck, preventing head from moving.  So this child may spend a lifetime with unnecessary neck tension, reduced blood flow to brain, structural instability of neck perhaps!! You ever watch the people on TV selling speed reading programs? They can read incredibly quickly. But look at their neck and head. There is a little dancing movement. So it is not that you have to turn the head with each line of print, but you don’t keep the neck rigid either! All reading teachers should understand this!

Joanna: THANK YOU so much, Steve! You have given me such a gift here! I am really glad you stopped by. I will check the Feldenkrais® web site like you said. Here is my card, call me – maybe you could give a talk at our school one day?”

© Copyright 2015 Steve Hamlin  www.mybodycanlearn.com