In Feldenkrais and early learning for aging well I encourage one to consider the long term effects of sitting in a chair. I suggest the training to sit begins in primary school.
More on learning on how to increase the connection between physical mico-movements and the classroom chair for developing a child’s ability to age well
The furniture to focus on as a disrupter to wellness is the chair. The physical structure of the skeleton is designed to squat, not sit in a chair. In fact, the ability to squat activates the most powerful force of movement in functional movement. It increases the ability to balance and counterbalance in all movement postures. Sitting in a chair for long periods of time reduces the availability to this squatting action. From long term sitting this ability to squat disappears completely.
My observations of working with students as young as 18 and up to 94 are that they all struggle to activate a movement action in the pelvis. Each one will attempt to move their pelvis by tilting their head, shoulders and spine forward and back. What I observe is they all have a gap between hearing the guidance for action and then activating the pelvic muscles for making this suggested movement pattern. Once again this is something they all have this in common. For me this means they all learned the same pattern in their earlier life. The introduction of the chair and sitting for long periods has shifted the whole direction of movement in the west. As the brain’s neural pathways for sitting in a chair develop as a functional movement, the neural pathways for squatting dissipate until this functional movement disappears.
Many strategies have been introduced for adults to shift sitting habits for long periods. There are desks designed to stand, walk or run and all types of new chair designs. However these solutions take that latest pattern of habitual movement one has already into a new strategy for movement behaviour. If one has lost the connection to their pelvic functional movement they will not be activating it in any activity.
A great solution is education and in an ideal world it would begin as children enter into a learning institution where sitting in a chair is introduced. If an educator has the luxury of working at these early ages I encourage that a regular break be implemented for the kids to stand and do a number of squats. The purpose is to offset the time spent sitting that causes their pelvic muscles and soft tissue to go numb. I would definitely encourage an educator to implement this prior to kids doing any exercise. Especially after sitting for long periods. The reason for this recommendation is that it would be the difference between increased pelvic movement function or functional movement being recruited from ones back muscles. If one is not using their pelvis they are using their back unwisely.
- Guidance for squatting and mentoring students to squat in standing
Have them squat on their own a few times and observe their ability to counter balance as they go into and out of the squat. Then choose one repetition to begin guiding them verbally through the squatting process without correcting them. Let your students hear your verbal clues and process your words to create their own pattern. Simply repeat your guidance pattern and notice the changes each time you go through this pattern with them. The difference in focus is letting them integrate it through their functional process verse learning a strategy. This brings up another point of this not being an exercise. So, go slow and encourage they slow down to notice how they sense the shift of their own weight in the transference through the shift in movement.
- As they begin to squat suggest to them to bring their head forward and take their behind back. (counter balance)
- Mention that as they begin to take their head forward to bend their knees so that their upper body weight is going through to their feet on the floor. (important reminder of weight transference)
- As they begin to come upright into a standing posture, suggest to them it is in reverse of squatting down; keeping head forward, behind back, and begin by straightening their knees, followed by swinging their pelvis forward to bring their torso upright. In other words using the joint movement to straighten not the back muscles.
- After a few repetitions of 2 and 3 bring their attention to dropping the weight into their feet going down and then pushing through their feet coming up with no strain on the back muscles.
- Then once or twice when they are in a squat have them swing their pelvis forward and back a few times.
Try this yourself first. It is the ability to curl your sacrum and tailbone forward and back in unison with movement through the whole spine with no effort. It is the counterbalance effect of the posture transition that removes the burden of effort. It’s one’s ability to thrust forward and back that is so important in walking and balance. Without this ability the back is being strained as it is recruited to take over the thrusting action of the pelvis.
This is an important consideration for joint health in hips, knees and ankles and a healthy back and neck. In later years I notice that those who have lost the ability to squat have trouble walking efficiently, cutting their toenails and getting up and down from the toilet. It has also led to many hip and knee replacements and the discomfort of edema.
The only way to change is action
Feldenkrais in the Classroom integrating Awareness through Communication & Awareness through Space
1st Level – Getting Started (Introduction & Pattern)
2nd Level – Getting Intouch (Experiencing & Connection)
3rd Level – Integration (Embodiment)