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Walking is wonderful, 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 not very 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 be getting full benefits from all the pleasures that walking offers, even in a busy city like London. I am updating this old blog post (originally published 18.7.13) in order to promote my next daily course.
Walking With Lightness And Grace has come around a little earlier in the year because, as our year-long lockdown gradually comes to an end and we all emerge, stumbling and blinking, into the spring sunshine, many of us have possibly forgotten what our legs are for!
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 humans are particularly suited to endurance running; that we as a hunting species are surprisingly well able to run down animals that sprint faster than we do, but which also run out of stamina more quickly than we do. There is plenty of information to back this up on the net if you are interested; here is a nice short article on the subject from one of the – many – fascinating ‘Barefoot Professors’ out there. If you would like to know more here is the longer article from Nature that he 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 because of their preference for using sex in preference to violence as their main negotiating tool. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that here we get to see the proud stance of an alpha female moving with natural confident authority in this clip.
Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement uses very simple tools to help you improve your walking technique; 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 our kinesthetic awareness – this article includes a nice little film of why walking barefoot is so important for the health of our feet.
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 to transfer your bodyweight smoothly from one foot to the other. All this happens with just the right amount of impact against the earth to keep your bones strong, and your posture true, so that your distinctive long, mobile neck can help you keep your head balanced so efficiently that you rarely trip, and so you can easily keep an eye out for obstacles and enjoy the scenery.
In fact, 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 Lightness & Grace
For this theme 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 muscles of your torso working with a greatly enhanced natural synergy
*Improving the way you are breathing while you are in motion
*Balancing with greater ease, whatever surface 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 of course!
As with all Feldenkrais work, your spinal/neuronal energy centres will be becoming better aligned, increasing your internal sense of self-integration and physical vitality. This bio-physical dynamic alignment can be experienced as a lively, responsive interaction between your skeleton, your deepest core muscle systems, and the sensory-fascial web that contains, interconnects, and enlivens your bodily sense of self.