Neck & Shoulders & Brain?!

Written by Michael on . Posted in Blog

Brain anatomy  - cross sectionDan Rindler, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner

What does the brain have to do with my Neck & Shoulders Feldenkrais workshop?  One of the things that makes the Feldenkrais approach unique is that it doesn’t teach a limited set of exercises that one repeats mindlessly every day.  One can’t practice Feldenkrais effectively with headphones on and a tv screen in front as we see people use at the gym!  Instead, each Feldenkrais class and private session incorporates varied and novel movement sequences to help lead you to new ways of coordination and therefore, relief from pain.  If you have neck and shoulder pain, it’s likely that your posture and movements are habitual and limited.  That you’re moving in the same way over and over, which is leading to pain or strain.  It’s also very possible that chronic pain has limited your variety of movement and posture even further.  This is all happening not just at the level of the muscles, but in the brain – where the coordination of the muscles largely takes place.

Michael Merzenich a leading researcher in the field of brain plasticity says the following about avoiding cognitive decline.  “You have to continue to exercise the machinery that controls brain change.  That is to say that controls learning itself.  Not just using those same old strategies that you’ve always learned, but acquire new skills, acquire new abilities.  Use your brain in really new and fresh ways.  Your brain loves that: that’s brain food.  [Being active] isn’t good enough.  Especially when it means that you’re going to do those old familiar things that you’ve always done…It doesn’t count enough – it doesn’t matter enough to your brain.  You have to take on new challenges and engage your brain in new activities.”

Its almost as if he is describing the Feldenkrais Method!  (Actually from what I have read, he is very familiar with it.)   In classes such as the current workshop, there are new and varied skills and abilities discovered each week.  We use movement not for a workout, or for stretching, but as a means of learning new coordination.   The aim is to open new neural pathways, through movement, so that each person leaves with a clearer sensory understanding of what was causing pain.  And each student finds new options for posture and coordination of movement to prevent future problems.  In short, movement as “brain food”!

Michael Merzenich quote transcribed from an interview on “The Brain Science Podcast” with Dr. Ginger Campbell, Episode 105, January 21, 2014