The poem that wasn’t

I sat down to write a poem,
but not just that, I wanted more, an edu-poem:
part edu-tainment (which in itself is part education, part entertainment),
part poem.

But none of it had rhymes
and despite its 50 lines
it didn’t have a point.

Who preside over the arts

Do I get up earlier
or stay up late
for Billy Collins’ poems?
Sure not.

But whenever I read one of his
I feel inspired to write one of my own,
and that I must say
counts for a muse.

In movement we shall find us

I have, I guess—my estimate—something like 200 videos with movement lessons on Youtube, all free to watch. Some are experiments in film making, some are experiments in teaching online through video, some I consider properly done proper lessons. Each video lesson has (let me guess) something in between – I cannot say for sure – but maybe ten, maybe one hundred mostly favourable comments, some most favourable.

Update: a total of 5613 comments, as of 9th October 2021

”Alfons, you were the subject of a conversation I had with a physical therapist yesterday. I was attending a class for senior citizens on enhancing balance, and I mentioned doing the Feldenkrais Method to heal and balance my body after having injured it doing excessive yoga. It turned out that she, too, does this practice. Your name came up. We both agreed that we loved your work and that we find your presentations to be concise and FUN! Just know that you are loved and appreciated by two people in Las Cruces, New Mexico in the U.S…” wrote Dee Davis on my Hip Joints video #5.

Now, usually I read all of them. The latest ones first thing in the morning. But I’ve not done anything much with them. There must be thousand and thousands of comments and short stories. Thousands of favourable, loving, thoughtfully written sharings.

”Thank you so much. A brilliant exercise. I’ve begun to follow your work on Youtube and it is changing my life. I worked with Moshe Feldenkrais at Esalen and Berkley for a couple of years and actually a bit in Israel… and your work is bringing me home to the gift of his genius in FRESH ways.. I’m deeply grateful.” wrote Christine King on my Neck and Shoulders video #1.

”Your lessons have helped me overcome many years of crippling pain – in about 2 weeks. Now, I can walk without pain. No Doctor ever got close to helping me. Thank you so much!” wrote Anthony Charles on my Pelvic Floor Priming And Improved Walking video.

And marcanello wrote, ”I loved this lesson, Alfons, it was great for my back, and it cheered me up!!! I used to do your lessons with my 92-year-old mom. She passed a month ago, and now I think of her whenever I am with you.”

At the end of her/his comment marcanello penned an emoji, 💟. And I took a day, more like two, to design a card… a container, a basket, a display to hold, to copy/paste, some of those miraculous, wonderful, some very touching, some very cheerful, all uplifting comments. Not sure what to do with them exactly, but I intend to create one card per day and upload it to Facebook [link], of all places. I should collect them. I put a number on each card. Maybe I should create a gallery page next to my blog, just for the cards, just for me, just for us.

I’m outside. Outside of the medical establishment, outside of the schooling system, outside of the draconian rule of politics in therapy. I’m a private teacher outside of the strangling grip of hierarchy, compulsion, oppression. I’m outside, come find me. Within your movement practice, within your thoughts, in your heart. Let’s move together. Let’s move our worlds, together, up. Up.

Pelvic Floor Video 2: Diastasis recti

Ok, I don’t want COVID-19 politics to eat into my blog, at least not too much. Therefore, today I will write out the opening speech for my next video. Usually I speak everything completely free from my heart, without teleprompter or script or anything like that. But I figure if I don’t pull myself together (literally) this video will just linger about and the month will pass, and how will I pay my rent then? So here is my writeup for the intro.

I noticed something quite extraordinary about the core and the core muscles:

As you can see a light press against the right side of the belly makes the skin on the same side right next to the belly button bulge up.

This means that even the slightest compression of the right side is pushing so much against the midline, that it causes the skin, the soft tissue, the superficial muscles, and probably even the deeper muscles to be pressed together and being bulged up against the midline.

This made me realise that we can use this to address conditions such as diastasis recti, lower back pain, pelvic alignment, and upright posture.

And even better, I know the perfect exercise just for that. In fact, I will show you an exercise sequence that is so nice, you will feel almost ecstatic.

We will start in side-lying on the left side, and

[On screen bullet points]

  1. Activate the right side
  2. Activate the left side
  3. Buttonhole stitch
  4. Upright posture and walking
  • first activate the right side in a way that uses the full body, including your breathing,
  • then secondly, we will activate the left side with an unusual, surprising, slightly different strategy,
  • then as a third step we will turn around to side-lying on the right side, and improve on what we already did, almost as with the extra loop in a buttonhole stitch to secure fabric more firmly,
  • and lastly we will observe how all this can be used in sitting, standing, and walking.

Alright, so we will start in side-lying, please come to lie on your right side.

Their first duty is to connect

Did I fall away from time, or did I merely become more aware of the time that has passed? It’s morning, then mid-day, then evening. Then suddenly, it’s too late at night, and then it’s morning again. A rhythm of beats as fleeting as breathing.

At 7pm it’s already dark outside here in Ho Chi Minh City, in the South of Vietnam. And it’s silent. O for a muse did I miss the silence. I didn’t know how much I missed the silence until suddenly, at the first day of the total lockdown some weeks ago – or was it months? – I heard the sound of the the wind, and the night resting on the land. In  my mind I heard the absence of daylight, the absence of car horns, of reckless driving, of speeding, of broken mufflers on motorbikes; the absence of the sound people make when they hustle to earn a living at all costs, grinding, grinding.

Silence.

Then usually some reading. „Paths are the habits of a landscape. They are acts of consensual making. It’s hard to create a footpath on your own. The artist Richard Long did it once, treading a dead-straight line into desert sand by turning and turning about dozens of times. But this was a footmark not a footpath: it led nowhere except to its own end, and by walking it Long became a tiger pacing its cage or a swimmer doing lengths. With no promise of extension, his line was to a path what a snapped twig is to a tree. Paths connect. This is their first duty and their chief reason for being.” I read in Robert Macfarlane’s „The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot”.

I set the book aside. While reading about the caged-up tiger and the Icknield Way, old routes criss-crossing the British landscapes and waters, I started to think about Kegels and pelvic floor exercises. Isometric contractions of muscles that span from bone to bone without a joint in between. I recalled a short Youtube clip with Arnold Schwarzenegger, where he let his pecs dance on their own, one by one. Isometric contractions. His audience was laughing, he was laughing.

„Before my first [swimming] practice, I put swimming in the same category as walking and riding a bike: things one did to get from place to place. I never thought of how well I was doing them.” I read in David Sedaris’ book „Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls”, in a story called „Memory Laps.”

These days most of my walking is comprised by walking from the kitchen counter to the kitchen table, or from the kitchen table to the bathroom, or all the way from the kitchen to the living room area. These stations of my small, one bedroom apartment probably do not compare to Inns and B&B’s in the Great Plains or Scottish Highlands, but I still consider my walking as functional. Meaningful walking, real footpaths. But my walking is not long enough, not outdoors enough, to get much of anything from it.

Therefore I think of what’s available to me: my lower arm and my upper arm. They connect over what we call the elbow. A noun. To elbow. A verb. The elbow is not a thing on its own. It’s not a bone, not a muscle. It’s something that is created by using it, through its function: it’s a joint. The elbow joint. It starts to exist when we move the upper arm and lower arm in relation to each other. We also can lean on it.

There’s a big muscle, the Musculus Brachialis. That’s an old name. It’s from Latin, bracchium, and means just „arm” in modern English. So it’s the arm muscle. Interestingly the arm muscle doesn’t own the entire arm: it spans from the middle half of the upper arm down to the beginning of the lower arm, the outside bone of the lower arm to be more specific, the ulna. The arm muscle „is the prime mover of elbow flexion”, says Wikipedia, up to fifty percent more dedicated to elbow flexion than its prominent upstairs neighbours, the biceps.

„The (metaphysical) elbow joint springs into being only when we move through pathways that include arm flexion and extension”, I write, I can see a point, I think, „I’m listening, go on…”

I go on: there must be a whole lot of things in this world that only come into being through movement, through walking meaningful pathways. Friendship, love, like-mindedness come to mind. „It’s hard to create a footpath on your own”, I read Robert Macfarlane one more time. In this sense, for example, it’s hard to create kindness on your own. The possibility for kindness might exist just like a physical elbow might exist, but it must be exercised to actually spring into being. Kindness is only created by being kind—to someone else, or at least, to oneself.

I used to step out of the house at 9am and to walk over to one of the coffee shops that I discovered as my writing places. Mondays through Sundays. And I would return some time after noon, either when my writing was done or when I was feeling hungry, whichever turned up first. Now this rhythm, these pathways, are lost. But as long as I keep moving between places, no matter how close or far apart, new pathways are created. What will they be?

Thank you for reading, my dear.

Hey Siri, Fitness

Two months ago, when the hard lockdown started, I figured I should find a fitness video to hop along with (is it „to hop along with” or „to hop along to”?).

„Hey Siri, Fitness” I spoke into the Youtube search bar, and Youtube threw the big ones right at me: „Here, a big chested blonde woman in bikini and white sneakers, millions of guys like that!”, or „Here, a muscular guy tattooed from neck to toes without T-Shirt, millions of guys like that!”, or „Here, a group of extremely super fit fitness-professionals crushing it with a professional smile!”.

„Hey Siri, Fitness for Beginners”

Eventually I found a channel I felt quite comfortable with, Team Body Project. The instructors seemed passionate about movement and video, professional yet not only about the money. I felt treated like a human, and enjoyed the friendly, fun and light attitude.

I chose „Fat burning Beginner LOW IMPACT home cardio workout – all standing!” [link] , a 40 minutes workout to hop along with. I made it to 13 minutes and 45 seconds. Then I had to stop. Rewind. Watch again. Rewind. Skip back and forth. „Fascinating”, I quoted Lieutenant Commander Spock (USS Enterprise).

Here’s the part that brought me to a halt:

The instructors were demonstrating a simple exercise: a light bit of air boxing. But all three of them were doing the exercise differently! It’s not as if I didn’t know what to do, or as if I had a hard time choosing whom to follow – in fact, I tried all three variations; but the fact alone that such a simple exercise could be done in three, distinct ways threw me off track.

Of course one could argue „Not to worry, just move!” after all it’s just a simple, innocent cardio workout for beginners, and as long as you’re moving you’re doing good.  „And yet, and yet, and yet.” – to quote „The Sea, the Sky, the Birds Between: The Lost Logbook of Marian Graves” as quoted by Maggie Shipstead in her book „Great Circle”.

Now, two months later, I’m still thinking about the three good people who were doing the same exercise, but each differently. I can’t get over this, it seems like. Or maybe I just haven’t found the right fitness channel yet.

In order not to stall myself completely, however, I resorted to a bit of traditional stomping and hopping. Maybe something those old shamans on black and white film would do. I think of the rhythms of Louis Thomas Hardin, an American musician known as Moondog, and listen to the strange sounds of Apple Music’s „Signal to Noise” playlist. And stomp out some cardio to the wild workings of a heart beating in the 21st century.

The pressure of light on the pelvic floor

I woke up early. I was lying on my back, with my eyes open, before the talking would begin. My gaze traced the curtain and the light. I faced the ceiling, the matte, white, level screen floating above me, and watched what was there to be watched.

The light certainly has its ways, this I was sure. It slips through a tight opening, spreads out wide, and lights the room. It doesn’t seem to take effort in it. Neither does it look brutal, nor selfish. Yet here it comes, spreads, lights. This is the light. This is one of the crucial components for life. This is the thing that created eyes. Certainly it wasn’t the other way round.

I got up, ignored the bathroom scales, wiped the floor, took a shower, shaved, put on a fresh face mask, a baseball cap from a small company in Portland Maine, The Black Dog, and went downstairs, outside.

I switched on the Vitamin D management DMinder app, pressed »Start Sun Exposure« and hesitated. The strip of sunlight on the floor looked vigorous. The fiery version of strong rain. The light hit down hard onto the ground. The Vietnamese avoid being touched by it. Some even wear socks with their flip flops and dress in long trousers and long sleeved shirts with tall collars and have big hats on top. Only us foreigners run around in short trousers and short sleeved shirts.

I checked the DMinder app: it read an UVI of 8 for Ho Chi Minh City, which would be 14 a few hours later. I set the timer to 15 minutes. It felt good for the moment.

Side-note: UVI, an Ultra Violet radiation Index of 0-2 is considered save even for light skinned people, 8-10 is considered Very High and should be avoided. The public scale ends at 11 (Extreme).

Back in my apartment I felt like I had been sunbathing for a full hour. My skin didn’t tan much, but it was hot and dry. I felt some regret and put on aloe vera gel.

Then I opened one of the densely written medical books about the Pelvic Floor I’ve been meaning to read. I thought of a short imaginary exploration: imagine a flash light, one of those modern, small, strong flash lights, with bright LED lights… imagine holding it inside of yourself. Come from your heart and chest, point and shine downwards, towards your pelvic floor. Identify the different parts of your pelvic floor: the muscles in front around your urethra, and the ones in the middle, and the ones in the back around your anus.

But then, considering how I came back to my apartment, running from the light, I was thinking: the light needn’t go everywhere. We also need cool, secluded areas, serene shades, places of shelter, of safety, of retreat, places that are protected from the light.

Therefore, imagine to switch that flash light off again. In fact, forget about that flash light altogether. I’ll find something better. I closed the medical book and opened a page from „Nature as Teacher” by Victor Schauberger (1933):

„These very dark places and glistening water streams out of the Earth’s surface are the spawning-grounds of fish for good reason. If we examine such water at the very limit of light penetration, at the place where it first encounters light, a noticeable change can be detected: the first beginnings of life. The closer we approach the zone shielded from light, the more highly evolved the good bacterial life in the water becomes. Conversely bacteria are increasingly less complex the longer water flows in the light. For the fish, the closer the fish are to the spring, the tastier they are. Every fisherman knows that the powerful, stationary trout which live close to the spring, spurn every type of lure.”

Natural spring water from deep within the mountains, mountains that are covered by healthy old forests. The origins of life. The original microbiome. Nature, balance, health. Does this analogy compare to the healthy microbiome of the intestines, and the healthy microbiome of the bladder? To the balance and relations between the pelvic floor—that’s deep down in the pelvis—and all the other things, all the way out, including the surface?

I poured some stale oat flakes and chia seeds and bottled water into a bowl and called it breakfast.