How you walk is a sign of intelligence!

200102-omag-goddess-300x205I am writing about functional movement, cognitive brain function and the Feldenkrais Method.

I want to explain to you that it is easier than you might think to learn about your movement and how you can improve your performance on a day to day basis and by doing so you insure your mental functioning will serve you well during your lifetime.

Concepts of learning, mental cognition and body function discussed here are derived from my knowledge base of the Feldenkrais Method.  The Feldenkrais Method is a unique model and teaching theory of body centered learning.

If you receive body work and or experience pain or discomfort from any kind of habitual performance, meaning work, posture, injury or athletic related… then please read on:

I will be teaching a series of Feldenkrais workshops this spring that will teach you how to pay attention to your movements and improve both your body and brain function.  These workshops will include two dedicated lessons each called Awareness Through Movement along with tips and information to help you take control of your bodies functionality while enjoying better movement and know how to get yourself out of painful, unstable, inflexible and habitually inefficient movement.  These workshops do not require that you are super fit but require that you are open to learn something new about how you move.

It is generally accepted that regular physical activity is essential for healthy aging.  Most often, however, the benefit of exercise has been linked only with physiological improvement, such as increased strength, flexibility and endurance.  Recent discoveries are beginning to document that an active lifestyle may play an important role not only in improving the body, but also in making the mind function better.  In referring to some peer reviewed studies comparing sedentary individuals with those who exercise support the claim that aerobic exercise reduces the risk of dementia.  Results of one such study states “aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia and it cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60%.  Another study observed in a group of 27-year-olds during a 12-week exercise regime found that when participants exercised, their brain function rose and when the program stopped their prefrontal brain function fell.

Moshe Feldenkrais, Mind and Body, 1964  wrote  “I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning. A brain without a body could not think…the muscles themselves are part and parcel of our higher functions.”

Some of the statements in this article were taken from an article written by Marek Wyszynski in the Feldenkrais Journal No. 26 called Science 2013 if you would like to read the entire article which has more technical Feldenkrais practitioner-oriented jargon contained in it please contact Roxanne Derkson GCFP at

I want to refer to gait (the term for walking) and how the unity of your thinking brain and your body are co-dependent in the healthy developing and in particular here to the ageing individual. Speaking of research studies and relating them to our Feldenkrais work a Swiss scientist named Stephanie Bridenbaugh studied over 1100 participants with some level of challenged cognition.  The New York Times in its online edition did an article called “Footprints to Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Are Seen in Gait” they included facts and video found in the Bridenbaugh study:

” One 72-year-old woman’s first walking test betrayed no problems.  But when she walked while counting backward from 50, her gait worsened dramatically,” said Dr. Bridenbaugh, head of the Basel Mobility Center.  The subject walked much more slowly and more awkwardly, and her balance was markedly compromised when she was asked to perform the dual mental tasking. “She almost tipped to the one side and she didn’t even notice any of it,” Bridenbaugh added.  “She was mad that she didn’t remember more numbers.”  Cognitive testing that followed the gait analysis showed the woman had mild cognitive impairment.

Conclusions and facts are that changes in walking often occur long before observable cognitive changes.  Gait analysis, Wyszynski suggests, could become a valuable tool in the early detection of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  And who could be better at observing changes in gait than we Feldenkrais practitioners who spend years of our professional lives studying and making sense of the most subtle changes in our clients’ movements?  This is especially true because most Doctors and specialists who focus on cognitive impairments do not examine their patients’ everyday movements like, walking or getting up from the floor, the bed, or a chair.  The simple test of comparing a client’s “normal” gait with his or her walking pattern while counting backwards by twos could become a standard component of an initial assessment of older clients for many hands-on practitioners including of course Feldenkrais practitioners.  The obvious deduction here is what the New York times article writer Pam Belluck said: ” The more trouble people have moving and walking, the more trouble they have thinking.”

So that is it in a nutshell.  If you are thinking you might want to assess your own cognitive decline relative to your knowledge of how well you move for your age, do it.  Walk backwards for a few minutes on an unobstructed route outside or in a large or hallway.  Then repeat the performance while you count backwards by two.  Have a friend or family member observe both activities and give you feedback.  If you are curious about what the Feldenkrais Method can do for you and would like to try a private lesson or a group one as mentioned above please contact the writer Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner since 1996 Roxanne Derkson.

Feldenkrais Practitioners are trained to detect subtleties of change in movement and gait.  The repertoire of lessons we teach private or public are constructed to bring improvement and reversal to functional deterioration. Practically every Feldenkrais lesson can be considered a form of training to shift attention and improve spatial orientation (how you respond to your external environment), proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness, and coordination and balance.