A lively sit-uation

When I sit, I do aspire
to rest my flesh as it requires;
One leg up, the other down,
or the other way around,
the chair, a friend, a cherished clown.

Writing vs. speaking a lesson

I was asked for an exercise to help with a painful left shoulder, and I said, “Maybe try my video Good Night Shoulder Circles.” And later that night it bothered me to remember that this video is only for one side, the right shoulder.

So I thought I will quickly rewrite the original text for the other side. But as you have it, I ended up doing a complete rewrite. Which cost me half a day. At first. And then I thought how about I have it read by AI instead of me, in an old British voice, David Attenborough style.

Another full work day later, yesterday night around 11pm, I finally completed a first video — only to realise that I need to rewrite the lesson text quite some more.

The lifting of the head, that’s a movement strategy I wanted to remove from the script entirely. To lift the head would introduce a new pattern, and not finishing it will not add anything useful to the lesson. And I also considered removing the shoulder circles themselves… do they really add something useful to this lesson? But then… Shoulder Circles… that’s my lesson’s title. So I had to leave them in.

Furthermore, I needed to regenerate the audio again, sentence by sentence, and then find the right timing for pauses. This I do by lying down and practicing along myself. A rather tedious process. So that’s what I’m going to be busy with today, and unfortunately maybe even longer.

Working with AI generated audio takes a lot more time than I have anticipated. But what surprises me most is this: Why is writing a lesson SO MUCH MORE WORK than just speaking it free from my heart?

A better name for psychomotor learning

Alfons: A better name for psychomotor learning.

ChatGPT: “Sensory-Motor Proficiency Training”

Alfons: Sensory-Motor sounds so dated.

ChatGPT: “Neuro-Kinetic Learning”

Alfons: Something everyone will feel they understand upon first hearing.

ChatGPT: “ActionMind Learning”

Alfons: Is it hopeless to try to make “psychomotor learning” sound any better?

ChatGPT: Finding a more relatable name for “psychomotor learning” isn’t hopeless, but it’s a challenge. The term is rooted in the fields of psychology and education, and it may require some explanation to those who are not familiar with these areas. For instance, you could focus on the “physical” and “mental” aspects of the term, or you could emphasize the concept of “learning through action” to help bridge understanding. While it requires creativity and experimentation, a well-suited name is attainable.

Types of activity that promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus

I’ve just had a 2-hour long conversation with ChatGPT about Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic neuromuscular disorder.

Despite ChatGPT still being convinced that Survival Motor Neuron (SMN) proteins are nothing like the yellow and purple Minions from the cartoon “Despicable Me”, in my search for treatment ideas I was able receive a list for types of activity that promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus—which plays nicely into my expertise in the field of psychomotor learning, somatic education and Feldenkrais.

However, concerning improvements to the spinal cord, my conversation with ChatGPT did not yield positive results:

While much of the research on neurogenesis has focused on regions like the hippocampus in the brain, the concept of neurogenesis occurring in the spinal cord is a topic of ongoing investigation and debate. The spinal cord is primarily associated with transmitting sensory and motor signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Unlike the hippocampus, it doesn’t exhibit the same degree of ongoing neurogenesis. [..] The challenges of promoting significant neurogenesis in the spinal cord are substantial.

However, despite treatment pathways that rely on biomedical engineering and pharmaceutical options, there might also be activity-dependent plasticity of the spinal cord. I now copy/paste the list I got for neurogenesis in the hippocampus, for your reference:

Yes, engaging in new activities such as playing a sport or learning a musical instrument can indeed stimulate neurogenesis and enhance brain plasticity. Neurogenesis refers to the process of generating new neurons (nerve cells) in the brain, particularly in regions such as the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory. While the extent of neurogenesis in humans is still an area of active research, studies suggest that certain activities can promote the creation of new neurons and the strengthening of neural connections.

Here’s how engaging in new activities and movement can lead to neurogenesis and enhanced brain plasticity:

  1. Learning and Novelty: Activities that challenge your brain stimulate neural pathways that might not have been heavily used before, leading to increased neural activity and the potential for the creation of new neurons.
  2. Complex Movements: Engaging in activities that involve complex movements, fine motor control, and coordination can activate multiple brain regions simultaneously. This coordinated activation can promote the growth of new connections between neurons and strengthen existing ones.
  3. Physical Activity: Physical movement and exercise have been linked to increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth, survival, and differentiation of neurons. Higher BDNF levels are associated with improved cognitive function, mood regulation, and enhanced brain plasticity.
  4. Stress and Adaptation: Challenging activities and learning new skills can initially induce stress on the brain. In response to this stress, the brain adapts by generating new neurons and optimizing neural circuits to handle the demands of the new activity more efficiently.
  5. Practice and Repetition: As you practice and refine your skills in a new activity, your brain strengthens the neural pathways associated with that activity. This process involves synaptic plasticity, where existing connections between neurons are modified and strengthened through repeated use.
  6. Mind-Body Connection: Activities that require a strong mind-body connection can lead to changes in brain structure and connectivity. The brain regions responsible for motor control, sensory processing, and coordination become more interconnected and specialized.

It’s important to note that the benefits of neurogenesis and enhanced brain plasticity are not solely limited to movement-related activities. Engaging in a variety of cognitive, social, and physical challenges can collectively contribute to brain health and cognitive function throughout life.

In summary, new and challenging activities that involve movement can indeed stimulate neurogenesis and promote brain plasticity. The brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself in response to novel experiences is a remarkable aspect of human biology that supports lifelong learning and skill development.

Improving sensory abilities

Almost a decade ago I had the idea (and courage) to call my Youtube channel “Feldenkrais With …”, and was the first to do so. However, last year I renamed my Youtube channel from “Feldenkrais With Alfons” to “Improving Ability”—in order to better reflect what my channel is about.

In my videos I often work on improving abilities. But what are those “abilities” that I am speaking about?

For example, mechanoreception, proprioception, and equilibrioception are all abilities — sensory abilities to be more precise. Abilities are often thought to be innate and immutable, but in fact you can—and you may—improve them, and why shouldn’t you? Let’s look at a definition of these 3 examples:

This ability involves perceiving mechanical stimuli such as pressure, touch, vibration, and tension. It allows you to sense and respond to physical interactions with your environment, like feeling the texture of an object or detecting pressure on your skin.

Proprioception is the ability to sense the position, orientation, and movement of your own body parts. It helps you have an awareness of where your body is in space without needing to look. This ability is vital for coordinating movements, adjusting muscle contractions, and maintaining stability during activities like walking, picking up objects, and fine motor skills.

Equilibrioception, also known as the sense of balance, enables you to maintain stability and an upright posture. It relies on various sensory inputs, including the inner ear’s vestibular system, proprioceptive signals from muscles and joints, and visual cues. These combined inputs enable you to perceive and respond to shifts in position, movement, and gravitational forces, ensuring that you remain steady and oriented within your environment.

For example, a question (Alfons):
When I tilt my head to the right I can feel the skin of my right cheek slightly hanging down (minuscule but still perceptible due to my training), and the skin of my left cheek pressing against my left cheek bone. Is this attributed to equilibrioception or mechanoreception or something else?

Answer (ChatGPT):
The sensation you’re describing when tilting your head is primarily attributed to mechanoreception rather than equilibrioception. Mechanoreception refers to the sense that allows organisms to perceive mechanical pressure, touch, vibration, and other physical forces on the body’s surface.

In this case, when you tilt your head to the right, the changes in the orientation of your head and the gravitational pull can cause the skin on your cheeks to respond to the shifting forces. The sensation you feel—where the skin on one cheek slightly hangs down and the skin on the other cheek presses against the cheekbone—is a result of mechanical pressure and deformation of the skin due to the change in position. It’s the mechanoreceptors in your skin that are detecting and signaling these tactile sensations to your brain.

Equilibrioception, on the other hand, primarily relates to the sense of balance and spatial orientation. It involves the detection of changes in head position and movement through the vestibular system in the inner ear, as well as feedback from proprioceptive receptors in muscles and joints.

To conclude…

There are many more abilities. For example, the ability to appreciate your innate abilities, find comfort in them, and feel grateful. 🌺🥰

And in fact there are many ways, methods and settings to improve those abilities, if you think about it. However, to stick with my lessons on my Youtube channel “Improving ability”… what did you find has improved through working with my videos, for you, on a deeper level, and on your abilities level so to speak? And how did this improve your life?

Psychomotor learning

Psychomotor learning refers to the process of acquiring and developing skills and abilities… …that involve both mental and physical coordination… but what doesn’t?

Skills are cultivated through training, education, and experience. They allow for effective and proficient performance. Examples of skills include playing a musical instrument, cooking, programming, or writing.

Abilities are inherent or natural capacities possessed by an individual. They are often regarded as being innate. Abilities serve as the basis for acquiring skills. For example, spatial reasoning could be seen as an ability that can facilitate learning and excelling in fields like architecture or engineering.

Abilities provide the foundation (or potential) for developing in particular skills. Abilities can be seen as the tools or resources you have at your disposal, and skills as how you build upon or apply your abilities to achieve specific tasks.

Psychomotor learning:
The term “psychomotor learning” is composed of two elements: “psycho” and “motor.”

  • “Psycho” originates from the word “psychology,” which relates to the study of the mind, behaviour, and mental processes.
  • “Motor” refers to movement and physical actions.

When combined, “psychomotor” refers to the interplay between the mind (psycho) and physical movement (motor). It illustrates the connection between cognitive processes (thinking, understanding, perceiving) and the execution of physical tasks.

Creating a new Feldenkrais lesson from scratch

So, first of all, a new lesson cannot be called “Feldenkrais” because The Feldenkrais Method®  is a trademarked term and subject to legal protection as a proprietary method. Likewise one can’t just make a new drink and call it “Powerade” or “Coca Cola”.

The difference is that while Coca Cola Inc. would sue one’s home-brew out of existence, the Feldenkrais community quite handsomely counts any new creation of their own toward the Feldenkrais brand popularity (and ultimately tends to attribute any new creation to Moshé Feldenkrais, in full, or at least in part.)

However, the drinks have enclosing categories: Powerade is a “Sports drink” and Coca Cola is a “Carbonated soft drink.” And Feldenkrais? Is it a “Somatic Education”? A Soma…what?

“Somatic Education” being the umbrella term doesn’t help much with category recognition because it’s not as descriptive as “Sports drink”; and upon hearing it the first time people wouldn’t know what “Somatic Education” actually is—including myself, to some degree, especially from a legal and trademark perspective. 🤷‍♂️

However, I’m fine with the word “Education” and with being a private teacher. And walking down the path of breadcrumbs I would guess “Physical Education” is the sub-category of choice, and then “Psychomotor learning.” In case nobody has claimed that as a trademark, certification training or proprietary academic field. I didn’t check. I wouldn’t even know how. So here’s the breadcrumb trail:

Education > Physical Education > Psychomotor learning

“Psychomotor learning is the relationship between cognitive functions and physical movement. According to the three-stage model of psychomotor development, individuals progress through the cognitive stages, the associative stage, and the autonomic stage.” – Wikipedia

Furthermore, it’s obvious to me that the “Feldenkrais Method” is very different from the work and legacy of Moshé Feldenkrais himself. Therefore we’re looking at two different things here. Confusing these two with each other might come from the fact that the legacy of Moshé Feldenkrais is monetised and guarded by the same legal entities that own the “Feldenkrais Method” and all related trademarks (I guess.)

To conclude, I think there should be an alternative to the “Feldenkrais Method.” Especially since they put the legacy of Moshé Feldenkrais behind closed doors. In their own words: “The materials are published by the IFF to [..] prevent the Materials from entering into the public domain” (from the License Agreement with the International Feldenkrais Federation Distribution Center – IFF). I guess there should be an openly accessible Moshé Feldenkrais Society, just like, as a model example, the Julian Jaynes Society – julianjaynes .org

So- it’s the 13th of July 2023 and over the past two weeks I’ve created a movement sequence for Psychomotor learning from scratch, and it’s called “Your knees can bend better, Lesson 5.”

Actually not entirely from scratch. All the movements I found through experimentation, teaching and reflection. And the movements and strategies that I chose and sequenced for Lesson #5 are actually the logical continuation of my previous Lesson #4. Which in turn is a continuation of Lesson #3, and #2 and #1.

I started to create Lesson #1 when one day I was lying on my back and noticed that my right foot slides better to the right than my left foot to the left. Why is that? And furthermore, after playing with that for some time, I noticed afterwards that my knees felt more flexible and stronger. And that I was standing upright easier. And that I could breath more freely. Therefore I started to explore the ingredients of this movement…

  • What is relevant to the bending of the knees and what isn’t?
  • What are strategies that contribute to it?

And that’s how eventually Lesson #1 came together.

Ok, now I’ve already spent more than 2,5 hours on this blog post (and another 3 hours since then.) I need to get on with my life. Here’s the outline of Lesson #5. I wrote it down to make sure I have a complete lesson. So- that’s another interesting question: what makes for a complete lesson?

Title: Your knees can bend better (5)

“In this video, the instructor focuses on improving the flexibility and range of motion in the knees. The viewer is guided through various movements to explore how different body positions and movement pathways affect their body. The emphasis is on observing any changes in comfort, knowledge, range of motion, and quality of movement. The instructor concludes by inviting viewers to reflect on their perception of themselves and their movement abilities before coming up to standing.” — Summarize .tech AI 

Step 1. Review the sliding of the foot

Stand both feet. Pick one foot to slide and observe.

Step 2. The position of the other leg

Come back to the question of the 1st lesson: Where to put the other leg? How does the leg position affect the pelvis in terms of a) mobility of the pelvis b) connecting the legs to the torso and up to the neck, head, and shoulders?

Cross the other leg over the sliding leg, like a piggyback ride. How does it change everything?

Step 3. Introducing instability

How much does the middle of the back press flat against the floor, to create stability? And how much the shoulders, neck and arms? Let’s change that, to see the difference. Therefore, do the following:

Put your arms behind your back. Cautiously. Or use a rolled up face-towel instead of your arms. Continue sliding one foot with crossed legs, then the other, what did change?

Step 4. Increase the instability

To increase the instability even more we will be increasing the flexibility of shoulders, arms, and chest. Rest on your front-side, slide your arms up and down, lift them backwards in see-saw fashion, extend both of them backwards which will also lift your head, an extension movement.

Side-theme: Observe whether you are moving your shoulders backwards and at the same time forwards… this creates a conflict that we now have the time and opportunity to resolve.

Step 5. Observe the differences for your knees

Back on the back, slide your legs, experience the increased flexibility, connection and sense of connection, the many details.

Also, by this time the foot should be able to slide more smoothly and further towards the pelvis, which means the knees bend better, and also, bending the knees should now be more of a coordinated teamwork of multiple body parts and systems.