Walking – the perfect form of exercise for city folk!

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Walking is wonderful, freely acknowledged as great for improving your health, and your fitness – but I am sure you already know that. If you are anything like me you are probably guiltily aware that you would benefit from walking greater distances, more regularly, and consequently you may not be that keen to read yet another article on the subject. 

I like to run a Feldenkrais workshop on the theme of walking during the summer, because there is always the hope of nice-enough weather for us all to experience all the pleasures – and gain all the benefits – that walking offers, even in a busy city such as London …and naturally an upcoming course prompts me to update this article on the subject.

I am aware that describing walking as the “perfect” exercise might seem a bit over-confident, after all, the current paradigm under discussion in evolutionary biology is that we humans are particularly suited to endurance running; that we as a hunting species are surprisingly well able to run down animals that may be able to sprint faster than we can, but which also run out of stamina, and overheat, more quickly than we do. There is plenty of information in support of this hypothesis on the net if you are interested; here is a brief article on the subject from one of the (many) fascinating ‘Barefoot Professors’ out there. If you would like more detail, here is the longer article from Nature that the author mentions.

Watching a program on Evolutionary biology presented by Dr Alice Roberts I was delighted to discover that our unique-among-primates willowy waist is the structural design feature that enables our striding gait – other monkeys can walk on two feet but they tend to totter and galumph rather than glide along in the elegant way we do. The most sophisticated example of chimps walking on two feet that I have come across is this short film of Bonobos below – already a particularly interesting species of chimp for both researchers and the rest of us, thanks to their culture of preferring to use sex rather than force as their main social negotiation strategy. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that we get to see the proud stance of an alpha female moving with natural confidence and authority in this clip.

Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement uses very simple tools to enable you improve your walking ability; in this course we will be…

1. Exploring different elements of the organisation of our extraordinary human foot from the inside out.

We can do this so effectively because Awareness Through Movement has been specifically designed to heighten our sense of kinesthetic awareness – this article includes a nice little film of why walking barefoot is so important for the health of our feet – although I would also say that, although my recent investigations into biotensegrity concepts have left me rather wary of mechanically-focussed explanations, the visual evidence is very interesting.

Daniel Lieberman: This film begins with an example of barefoot running that shows how nicely the human skeleton can distribute the impact of running on a hard surface without any need for padded footwear.

2.  Experiencing directly the way each element of your compressive skeletal system connects with the next in order to to transfer your bodyweight smoothly from one foot to the other.

…And all this happens with just the right amount of impact against the ground to keep your bones strong, and your posture true, and so that your distinctive long, mobile neck can maintain the effortless balance of your head over your spine, meaning you rarely trip up, and you can easily keep both your eyes and ears peeled for any upcoming obstacles and enjoy the scenery at the same time. 

Walking is so complex that it is very difficult to animate convincingly…

…and it is only now that computers are involved that cartoon characters can be seen walking in a way that conveys a sense of weight interacting with gravity, and the subtle internal shifts that walking with lightness and grace constantly requires.

Walking With Your Whole Self…

…the Feldenkrais way, with Rhythm, Ease & Grace 

Monday – Friday   June 6-10th
Online + Recordings & Notes

1 pm – 2.30 pm BST  [9 am – 10.30 am EDT]

£75/£50 (suggested fee, or any donation welcome)

In this daily class we will be exploring all the different elements involved in achieving the fluid easy rhythmic gait of a well-organised adult human – the potential benefits of this are very wide-ranging, and include:

The soft-tissue* structures of your torso working with a greatly enhanced natural synergy (*neurological, fascial, muscular, and skeletal)

Improving the freedom and ease of your breathing whilst you are in motion

Balancing with greater ease, whatever the terrain you are travelling on

Experiencing a style of walking that is light and fluid, so that your legs and head seem to weigh less, and you walk with the natural rhythm and flow of a dancer – after a bit of practice and self-integration of course!

As with all Feldenkrais work, your spinal/neuronal energy centres will be becoming better aligned and integrated, increasing your sense of well-being and vitality

It always surprises me how accepting most people are of the steady loss of physical ease and mobility that can be a natural result of decreasing levels of activity as we age. Maybe that acceptance is itself a part of the “ageing process”, an unconscious ‘decision’ to give up on the ‘effort’ of living life to the full.

In actuality a vital and active daily life comes more naturally when we learn to move in a well-organised and well-coordinated way – and once we can move with maximum efficiency and minimum effort then our chronological age becomes much less obvious to those around us.

The wonderful side effect of this learning process is that improving your organisation in this way can relieve tension and ease pain anywhere within the self – and this effect is not just a physical one, as there is plenty of evidence for the emotional – and even intellectual – benefits of walking as well.

This daily course will be gentle enough for anyone with hip, back, or knee pain to take part – providing you are prepared to work in the low effort style that Feldenkrais requires – and will be surprisingly beneficial for anyone with shoulder or neck pain as well…

As we all know, sitting for long periods also requires flexibility, mobility and the efficient use of your spine, your lower back and your hip joints, so this course will be useful for all the elements of our daily activity, supporting you in developing greater awareness of your natural balance in sitting, standing, walking, and even running.

I really enjoy this animation, there is something very charming about all these elemental creatures stomping forwards in such a determined yet aimless manner…

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