Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movement and Embodied Cognition

Many people ask me, once they’ve worked with me or with one of our programs, how they can make this experience last.

The experience they are talking about is the feeling of calm, the feeling of being “lighter”, the feeling of being able to move more gracefully, with much less effort.

They also find that their thinking is much more clear after doing a “movement lesson.”

Recent research on embodied cognition is showing that memories and experiences are multimodal and are spread throughout the body.

What does that mean?

It means that thoughts that reside in the mind are only one component of an experience that includes an entire constellation of perceptions, movements, and sensations that make up the experience.

It means that the communication that takes place between the mind and body isn’t so one directional as was once thought (with the mind only controlling the body) – and because cognition is “embodied”, the body exerts a powerful influence on shaping a person’s thoughts.

Remember, as we’ve discussed before, you take action (whatever that action is – whether it’s engaging with a customer, lifting a patient, or solving a problem) based on your self-image. And your self-image is made up of four components: thinking, feeling, emoting (showing emotion) and moving.

So, by engaging in this movement re-education process, you begin to “integrate” more of who you are into what you do. And when you integrate more of who you are, you become better able to:

- Think more clearly
- Feel and Sense more accurately
- Exhibit finer variations of emotion (you will no longer “lose your cool” as easy)
- And Move in a much more effective way (which will give you more energy and vitality throughout your day)

So what are you waiting for? If you want to take advantage of this two-way communication between our body and our mind, there are several options available. There are programs specifically for nurses, for improving posture, and for improving back, shoulder, and neck functioning.

This is also incredibly powerful for children with special needs, who often-times have incredible difficulty making sense of (and integrating) their outside world.

Our brains are powerful organs that we are only beginning to tap into.

To answer the initial question of how someone makes these experiences last, you soak it in.

You feel the feelings of what it’s like to be “organized” like this. How do your shoulders feel? How does your back feel? How are you moving? How is your breathing? How is your thinking?

Paying attention to all of the subtleties you discover during a movement lesson will allow you to recreate them whenever you wish.

So if you find yourself stressed out, high strung, or so tense that your movement is restricted – remember what it felt like after your lesson. By anchoring your experience with as many details about it as possible, you will be able to recreate that feeling by simply remembering what it felt like.

And as you do this more and more often, you will discover that you will develop more control of how you take action by simply tapping into the communications that take place between your body and your brain.

How are you tapping into the power of your brain?

Contact us and we’ll provide for you a free “movement lesson” for you to experience for yourself


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Are You a Sponge or a Rock?

Interesting what we are continuing to discover about how our brains work.

A recent study is showing what was intuited almost a half century ago by a true “movement genius” – that our awareness is developed, and can be enhanced, through movement.

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli Physicist and Engineer, discovered that our ability to discern differences has it’s roots in movement.

He, as well as those who have trained under him, experienced that the more you are able to detect finer and finer differences in ways that you move, the more you are able to differentiate in your thinking, sensing, and emoting.

THIS study demonstrates that sensorimotor circuits (circuits that have both sensory as well as movement abilities) are the basis for our ability to understand language.

You see, if you are carrying around excess tension within your muscular system, you are hindering your ability to integrate fully your interactions with the outside world (i.e. being able to be fully ‘present’ in business dealings, in relationships, and with life in general!)

If you’re tense and uptight, you are simply going to be missing some things.

So, in developing, and refining your capacity to move, you will continue to evolve, develop, and gain in this process called life.

Think that sounds pretty cool? It is…


What are you doing to enhance your ability to take in more of life?


Let us know if what you think of the above. We’d love to hear from you!


Chad Estes

Movement Specialist

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How You Move Affects How You Think

I have become fascinated lately with an emerging area of science: that of Embodied Cognition. Embodied what? What the heck is that?!?!?!

Those that study Embodied Cognition believe that the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body.

Let me cite some research examples:

• A recent study at the University of Vanderbilt was the first to demonstrate that the brain uses bodily cues to help understand and solve complex problems. Participants who were instructed to swing their arms in a particular way were 40% more likely to solve the problem than the control group.

• A study conducted at the University of Amsterdam showed that subjects thinking about the future leaned forward, while those thinking about the past leaned backward.

• Researchers at Yale found that subjects holding warm coffee in advance were more likely to evaluate an imaginary individual as warm and friendly than those holding cold coffee.

• Students told that that a particular book was important judged it to be physically heavier than a book that they were told was unimportant.

• In a parallel study with heavy versus light clipboards, those with the heavy clipboards were more likely like to judge currency to be more valuable and their opinions and their leaders more important.

This leads me to think about all of those folks in America who are experiencing chronic pain – particularly back pain since it’s so prevalent.

If you are in chronic pain, how do you believe that it affects the way in which you experience the world?

The answer – it affects it a great deal.

You see, chronic pain causes limitations in the way in which you move.

If you have limitations in movement, you will have other limitations in your self-image – the way in which you think, feel and emote.

As Dr. Michael Merzenich, Professor Emeritus at UC San Francisco states, Awareness, cognition and movement are really inseparable…isolated weakness or loss in ‘movement’ or ‘awareness’ or related ‘cognition’ is a human impossibility.”

So if chronic pain takes away some of our freedom of movement, it will also cause us to lose our ability to think, feel, and emote in a clear fashion.

The implications are HUGE.

If we are able to learn to move in a more efficient way – in a way that is more harmonious with our structures, thereby decreasing or eliminating chronic pain – we would then be able to think, feel and emote more efficiently as well.

We would become much more highly evolved.

And more intelligent.

And more productive.

And more creative.

the possibilities are endless.


Chances are, you have experienced persistent, chronic pain at some point in your life. How did it affect you?


Leave a comment and let us know if this makes you rethink the importance of efficient, effective movement in your life.


Chad Estes

Movement Specialist

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Path to a Healthier, More Productive Brain

According to Fred Gage, researcher at the Salk Institute, there is concrete evidence that neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells) occurs in adult brains.

No longer is it believed that the brain is limited to the number of brain cells we are born with.

New brain cells are born well into the EIGHTH decade of life!

One of the main drivers of this process is voluntary movement/exercise. What supercharges this process is focused, directed attention to your movements.

You don’t have to go the gym to exercise to reap these benefits, however. In fact, pushing too hard and using too much effort will limit what you’re able to achieve.

You see, there is a scientific law that states that the more you slow down and the more you reduce your effort, the higher your capacity is to perceive differences.

The more differences you perceive in your movements directly translate to more movement possibilities for your nervous system.

By perceiving finer and finer differences in movement, you are actually increasing the number of dendrites branching out from your brain cells. These are the very parts of the neuron that tend to deteriorate with age (dendrites are the bushy projections through which a neuron receives signals from other neurons).

It has become a universal truth that the better connected a brain is, the better it will function - period.

And as Dr. Michel Merzenich, a pioneer in brain plasticity research states:

"Movement is inextricably controlled on the basis of ‘feedback’ from our bodies and brains, and movement control is guided very directly by the cognitive resources that guide all of our behaviors. They are weaker or stronger, enabled or disabled TOGETHER. Neurological processes that control the flow of cognition and thought are not really different from those that control the flow of movement — and in fact are complexly, inextricably inter-twined!"

With that being said, you can see how refining your movements to higher and higher levels of quality will enable you to refine your cognitive abilities as well!

You’ll actually become smarter!

Experience changes your brain structure.

Through your focused, directed attention to your movement experiences, you create richer and more complicated brain circuits.

It’s ALL in your hands (and brains).

Are you directing your attention to the same old stuff day after day, or are you slowing down, reducing your effort and looking for new ways to do things?

Let us know what you’re doing for yourself to create a more richly connected brain.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Posture or Acture?

We have all heard that non-neutral postures are associated with a higher incidence of work related injuries, but what does that really mean to us?

First of all, I believe the term posture to be inaccurate. Words are very powerful in terms of their effect on us. This is one of those cases.

And what the heck is non-neutral!?

Posture contains the root word “post”. The idea of a “post” implies a static position. This couldn’t be more inaccurate!

Posture relates to action, not to the maintenance of any given position.

Proper posture, then, should be dynamic!

Dr. Feldenkrais, who we’ve written about many times here before, actually coined the term “Acture” to refer to the body’s positioning.

What, then, is proper Acture, and how does it benefit us?

Proper acture, he stated, would give you the ability to move in any direction without preparation.

You are not coming from a place of having to “get out of your own way” to initiate action.

That is, if you have chronically held muscular contractions (think holding your abdominal muscles in for that “flat tummy” look), you have to work against those patterns in order to accomplish what it is that you’re trying to do.

I would then think that non-neutral means that you aren’t holding chronic muscular contractions that don’t serve you.

A neutral posture would then be described as having the skeleton aligned in such a way that would enable it to support the majority of our weight in our dance with gravity.

Sounds all well and good, but what does that feel like?

You see, unless we know what something feels like, we can’t integrate it into our daily actions.

We will go about our daily activities utilizing those muscular patterns that we have learned up to this point because they feel “right” to us – regardless of how inefficient they may be.

Telling someone to sit up straight, or stand up straight, or to “lift with your legs” doesn’t do them any good because if they have to consciously correct themselves, they will return to their habitual patterns because those feel “right” them. They don’t have to think about them.

Providing experiential learning experiences for people, then, is the ONLY way to facilitate changes in our Acutre (or posture if you still want to hold onto that term).

People need the feeling of what efficient movement is like for them.

As similar as we all are, we are all very, very different.

So providing an environment to enable individualized learning to better understand what efficient movement feels like is essential.

Essential to you and your employee’s health.

Essential to you and your employee’s productivity.

And essential for the health (and the bottom line!) of your business.

The question is, are you or your company neglecting this essential?

I hope not, because in a economy like the one we find ourselves in now, it will be those companies that take care of those essentials who will come out of this economic mess the strongest.

What are you doing to take care of the essentials in your business?

Start paying attention to yourself and the way you move more. Do you notice any chronically held contractions that you have to work against to initiate action? Let us know what you find out about yourself!


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stress Management

It's More Important Than Ever!

survey conducted by a large pharmaceutical company demonstrates that now it’s more important than ever to take care of your employees in terms of health and wellness programs.

According to the results, stress in their home or personal life made them physically ill in the past year and 38% said the same regarding workplace stress. Nearly 30% of respondents said they did not get much work done when experiencing stress.

I’ve written time an again how important
stress management is to the overall health of a company. The cost of stress to U.S. businesses is $300 Billon per year! Left unchecked, it creates a cycle of dysfunction within both your employees and your organization that will spiral out of control.

Stress management is not simply about telling someone to calm down. In fact, according to research done by Fulbright Scholar Angela Patmore, and described in her book
The Truth About Stress, how we handle stress in our lives will either empower us our tranquilize us.

Patmore explains that by calming people down as a form of stress management, you “reduce their coping skills, making people more cowardly and unwilling to take up new challenges, through which they can grow in life.”

In these tough economic times, empowering employees through education is not a luxury, it’s a necessity – at least for those companies that want to thrive.

Amen to that!

Let us be reminded here that there are specific body patterns (breathing, muscular tension, movement, and structural alignment) to stress, anxiety, and fear. Employees need to be educated as to what their individual patterns are so that they have the “tools” to deal with them.

With those “tools”, employees will be more empowered, more effective, and more productive. And their company will be able to demonstrate a tangible return on that investment. It truly is a “win-win”.

Now, more than ever, we need to shed our scarcity mindset and begin to look at how we can enable our workforce to do what we’re asking them to do – and not make them sick in the process.

What have the effects of stress cost you and your company?

Leave us a comment and let us know any unique ways that you or your company are handling the effects of stress.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Monday, May 18, 2009

Your Brain, Learning, and Vitality

What is it that keeps our brains vital?

It’s L-E-A-R-N-I-N-G.

What type of learning is best?

To answer that question, we must first look at how our brains are organized.

What I’ve come to discover (and what neuroscience is now demonstrating), is that our brains are organized through movement.

Read that last statement again, slowly:

Our brains are organized through movement.

When you think about movement, what comes to mind?

More than likely, you mind goes to the movements that occur in our:


You know, all of those movements that allow us to move around and take action in the world.

Did you ever stop to think about it in more detail?

Like how you speak, for example.

The movement of your lips.

The movement of the air over your vocal cords, driven by the movement of your diaphragm, to create the sounds that make up the words that you use to communicate to others.

And don’t forget the movement between the nerve cells in your brain that initiates and makes possible this ability to speak.

Movement is the language of our brains, and our brains are the great organizer of ALL movement

Movement is everything.

Without movement, life ceases to exist.

What has been shown in recent research – what we as Anat Baniel Method and Feldenkrais Method practitioners have known for quite some time – is that the quality of our movements are a manifestation of the quality of the workings of our brains.

According to Dr. Michael Merzenich, pioneering researcher of our brain’s plastic nature:

"Movement is inextricably controlled on the basis of ‘feedback’ from our bodies and brains, and movement control is guided very directly by the cognitive resources that guide all of our behaviors. They are weaker or stronger, enabled or disabled TOGETHER. Neurological processes that control the flow of cognition and thought are not really different from those that control the flow of movement — and in fact are complexly, inextricably inter-twined!"

What we have found is that when you begin to refine your movements, you begin to refine the way it is in which you think.

It’s called ‘embodied cognition’.

And this is clearly demonstrated in this study.

What it shows is that movement actually helps organize our brains ability to solve problems – and solve them faster.


… from just movement?

How does 40% faster sound?

Gimme some-a dat!

As neuroscientific research marches on, you are going to see a new paradigm in terms of how this is implemented into educational and corporate training programs to:

Boost memory
Increase problem solving skills
Create perceptual changes in the way we take in and process information (which will increase creativity)
Enhance the way we handle stress and anxiety (which costs American businesses $300 Billion dollars per year!)
Eliminate repetitive stress injuries
And increase employee productivity

All through movement and attentional training.

We just happen to be at the forefront of this.

So if you’re looking for that edge, that extra something that’s going to enable you to outpace your competition. Give us a shout.

You’ll be glad you did.

What are you or your company doing to keep you (and your brain) from being stuck in the rut of rote repetition?

Let us know how you apply the power of movement in your daily life.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

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