Open the Door

“What I’m after isn’t flexible bodies, but flexible brains.”
~Moshe Feldenkrais

What are you waiting to experience in your life?

People often find me as their last resort in their healing journey or struggle with performance. For nearly 30 years, I’ve immersed myself at the cutting edge of mind-body work as a Feldenkrais Practitioner and Teacher who incorporates nature awareness. The Feldenkrais Method® has pioneered the field of neuroplasticity in mind-body learning for performance, healing injuries, chronic pain and neurological recovery.

Annie Thoe w patientsOver the years, I found success for healing and personal growth requires three things:

  • Physical Skills
  • Self-Awareness
  • Confidence

There was a boy who taught me how an impossible dream can open the doorway to new possibilities. If he can do it, we can too.

“The Boy Who Could”

Over ten years ago, a mother brought her 8-year-old son, Jason, who had cerebral palsy to work with me. Because of brain damage at birth, Jason was unable to move anything with control except to speak haltingly with a few words. His arms, legs and head were strapped to his wheel chair to prevent them from randomly hitting things and injuring himself.

Jason had a cunning smile and light radiating from his eyes. I could see his mind worked remarkably well for a body that didn’t seem to respond to his thoughts. After a few minutes of questions, I discovered he had a passion to play baseball.

Of course Jason couldn’t play baseball at that moment, but what if I could help him begin the process? I made a mental list of the movements of baseball: throwing, catching, batting, watching the ball, standing, running.

I translated these skills to body movements he would need to develop

I picked one skill: turning. Turning was necessary for batting, throwing and tracking the ball. Wouldn’t it be fun to actually do something “impossible?” Fun would also be motivating.

“Let’s work on batting, today!” I exclaimed as I carried Jason from his wheelchair to the floor. All four of his limbs moved around so randomly they reminded me of wild puppies dispersed at a dog obedience class.

I helped him form his hands around a lightweight plastic bat. We imagined ourselves on a ball field, batting together. In very slow motion, I held Jason’s hands and gently guided him in turning with the bat while he lay on his back on the floor.

Slow movement and sensing connections of the bones to the ground is the key with the Feldenkrais Method®

His entire nervous system must create a clear, stable map for movement. I stopped on one side of the swing and gently pushed against the bones of his leg so he could feel how his bones felt in this position and also connected to his trunk.

We waited awhile (sometimes a long time) until his muscles relaxed and he felt the stability of the position and his bones on the floor. Each time we moved to a new position, I stopped and slowly pushed through his bones to feel his movement from the inside of his skeleton. We connected his bones to the floor again and then moved. We stopped and rested so he could feel these things.

We repeated this process again and again until his awareness of his bones and movements were solid

His face beamed with wide smiles after each lesson as he slowly built an internal map of awareness and skills for turning.

Test of confidence- Learning for a Lifetime

After three months of weekly lessons, Jason’s internal map for movement had blossomed to many skills. He giggled as he turned and rolled himself from side to side. In six months, he developed his own version of batting practice called “stacking.” He could finally use his hands and fingers (for the first time in his life) to pick up a foam pad and roll to the other side to release and stack the pads in a pile. While the traditional version of “batting” was still in the distance, we began a path of success he could build upon.

I moved my practice and unfortunately we weren’t able to continue our work. However, I met Jason a few years later where he showed me how he improved the use of his hands to write a clever, humorous book on the computer complete with illustrations!

Whatever is impossible in your life, open the door to your dreams by making a list of the skills you need to develop. I’ll be addressing these building blocks to dreams in the future.

For more information visit www.sensingvitality.com

Or email Annie at annie@sensingvitality.com

About Annie Thoe

Annie Thoe, GCFP is a master practitioner and teacher of sensory learning from Seattle. She combines her clinical work of the Feldenkrais Method® with her naturalist education to move beyond injury or limitation toward one’s dreams. Her guided audio or video lessons are available at: www.sensingvitality.com.

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