About Movement Intelligence
“Movement Intelligence – Your personal compass for navigating optimal movement.” (Ruthy Alon)
Ruthy Alon has written and produced an excellent four video series about the “Movement Nature Meant” (see Want to Learn More? at the end of this page). Her first video opens with the idea that movement is the essence of being alive, and that each person’s individual unique way of moving reflects not only the person’s level of wellness but the person’s entire personality - the way one sees oneself taking a place in the world, and that no matter who one is, whatever condition one is in, with whatever personal history one has, a person can always learn to improve the quality of what he/she does.
Ruthy Alon has dedicated her adult working life to inquiry into the questions, How much of creatures of habit are we humans? To what extent are our habits a sacrosanct part of our identities? Do we ever think to question the origin of our habits? How well do our habits serve us?
The habits we cultivate throughout life enable us to survive and even thrive. They also can create limitations in how we live our lives. In her work Ruthy Alon emphasizes the importance of giving oneself permission to recover natural movement patterns which come through harmonious coordination that feels safe and graceful. She believes that overcoming physical limitations and dysfunctions is as much a matter of working with the “software” of the brain as with the “hardware” of the body.
Ruthy Alon’s journey in promoting and restoring well-being in human lives began in 1959 when she, a woman in her 20s and mother of two, started attending Dr. Feldenkrais’ group classes for the public in Tel Aviv. At that time Dr. Feldenkrais was well-known in Israel, which included serving as the personal trainer for then Prime Minister David Ben–Gurion. In addition to being a student in Dr. Feldenkrais’ group somatic learning classes, she also taught them, which contributed to her being selected in 1967 as one of thirteen individuals to further study with Dr. Feldenkrais in Tel Aviv. In 1972, as a practitioner, she accompanied him to the Esalen Institute in California, and also met with Stanley Keleman, another pioneer and leader in the field of somatic therapy. When Moshé Feldenkrais passed away in 1984, she conducted the first four-year professional Feldenkrais training in San Diego, as well as directed Feldenkrais trainings in other locations around the world.
In recent years, she completed a Ph.D. in Movement Intelligence. As an octogenarian, she continues to travel from Jerusalem (her home) to other countries to facilitate trainings in Movement Intelligence as well as continues to develop additional programs in specific topics of Movement Intelligence.
Albeit Movement Intelligence is the phrase Ruthy Alon now gives to her life’s work, her roots are firmly planted in Feldenkrais, witnessed by her wonderfully clear explanation about Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement in her video Movement Nature Meant, Part 1:
“That when you come to relearn your authentic way of moving, you rely on your own awareness, the exclusive human talent to imagine the smallest detail of doing. You listen to what is happening inside yourself as you move. You observe the subtle changes which make the big differences. You develop your sensitivity to discern what works best for you. You learn how to ask yourself questions and receive the answers from within. You invest your resources in refining the quality of moving. You use your senses to discover connections and interrelationships throughout your entire self. You explore a variety of non-habitual patterns and challenge your nervous system to update your habits. You are like a child led into a huge playground filled with unfamiliar games. Inspired by curiousity, you decipher your body, the most sophisticated of all games, and learn to be the master of your movement. Through investigating variations of a function you enrich your movement vocabulary with new options. Awareness Through Movement is a space in which you can go back and allow yourself to believe that life can be easy, to accept that easy is right, to sense that right is pleasurable.”
Movement Intelligence represents an expansion of Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais’s work. Ruthy Alon defines Movement Intelligence as the ability to use “one’s internal compass for innate efficiency. This internal compass is a pleasure-driven center that instinctively knows: how to rest in support, which way is up, how to find the ‘sweet spot’ in any activity, how to engage the entire self with least effort, how to intuit the path of least resistance; and when one has had enough.”
Each of us has an innate capacity for clearly transforming intention into action, and finding optimal coordination of movement and human functioning. However, through life experiences and the effort of conforming to social and cultural codes we learn to forget, deny or ignore the connection with this innate capacity. Movement Intelligence (MI) helps a person to recognize and reconnect with their ability to organize “organically” — that is, to organize elegantly and in entirety from within, with spontaneously coordinated harmony, for optimal efficiency, maximal efficacy, and pleasurable, sustainable living. The Movement Intelligence programs incorporate conventional kinesthetic concepts of flexibility, balance, alignment, strength, integration, and endurance with ‘something more.’ The ‘something more’ is an intrinsic sense of effortlessness that comes from heeding well-calibrated sensory-motor feedback. Furthermore, in line with the latest research on neuroplasticity, MI recognizes that overcoming physical limitations and dysfunctions is as much a matter of working with the “software” of the brain as with the “hardware” of the body (http://movementintelligence.org/define.html).
The principles of Feldenkrais guide all Movement Intelligence programs. Movements are those of traditional Feldenkrais lessons, and are also movements that Moshe might not have used. For example, more movement sequences are done in vertical rather than prone or supine orientation, or are done using a wall as a substitute for the floor. The rationale for this is that: we live and move in vertical orientation in response to gravity, and dynamic movement in this orientation confirms any changes in structure that have been learned. To facilitate change, props such as walking poles, wraps, pillows, and walls are used for support and alignment, so movement can pass through the body less disturbed. These props are used for self-monitoring and feedback.
The intention of all Multiple Intelligence programs is to provide individuals with practical guidance of how to free themselves from compromised levels of moving, by restoring the organic and inner sense for self-correction. MI classes are generally taught in a group setting and do not involve hands-on, like in Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes. Instead of calling them lessons as in Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement, they are called processes. The Movement Intelligence umbrella consists of five programs.
Bones for Life®. The first Movement Intelligence program, now taught in over 30 countries. The Bones for Life Program applies the somatic learning principles of the Feldenkrais Method in the reality of vertical posture to stimulate bone strength and weight bearing posture, power management and rhythm. Bones for Life recognizes the need for impact in moving safely and with power, and that optimal posture depends on a well-tuned gravity response.
Walk for Life. A program designed to help people improve and enrich their walking experience - with benefits for anyone, though it is especially oriented to aging walkers. Walk for Life focuses on different aspects of the walking experience in order to promote optimal gait dynamics and walking “the way Nature meant.” When used, walking poles produce pressurized impacts into the ground. The resulting counter-force from the ground upward to the poles’ pressure into the ground thrusts the shoulder blades toward the vertebrae, helping to restore flexibility in the often stiff, neglected area of the upper mid-back spine. Pole usage in walking also increases vitality. Using walking poles also helps redistribute effort by reviving the arms’ primal function (like the front legs of quadrupeds), and helps maintain equilibrium. Including the traditional Feldenkrais invitation to “please lie on your backs”, other positions are used: sitting in a chair, and standing next to a chair or wall. Some sessions take place in the outdoors and include practice walking up and down hills.
Chairs. A program of short, practical, simple movement processes [lessons] for cultures (like ours) who sit too much in fixation - to transform sitting from being a trap to being a tool. The processes in this program also benefit people who have difficulty getting to and from the floor. The intention of the Chairs program is to shake us from habitual maladaptive use of chairs to options for dynamic sitting, as well as to promote more proportional coordination. The program provides ‘greenhouse’ conditions for learning how to best cope with gravity whilst systematically cultivating the ingredients necessary for getting into and out of a seated position. Movements made while seated emphasize transmission of force throughout the entire skeleton, which is essential for efficient cultivation of bone strength. Selective use of a chair’s confinement can also produce desirable results not as easily obtained through other means. For example, when seated facing a wall, with one foot pushing the wall, it is easy to elicit a rounding of the lumbar spine and the entire lower back, fostering a better aligned bridge for the transmission of force in daily life, and it models a safe pattern to partner a stepping foot.
Mindful Eating. A program about the inner ‘game’ of chewing - of optimizing your style of moving in eating, choosing what to eat and when to stop. We each have an internal signal of satisfaction but we may not listen to it, for several reasons, including the grand variety and quantity of food we are presented, and the noisy, hectic pace of modern times which leads us to rush through eating whilst multi-tasking. This internal signal is one well worth listening for and to, as it can help us to restore a modicum of balance back into our lives. Like any movement habit, the way we chew can become a fixed set of mechanical gestures and pre-programmed attitudes. Examining personal patterns of chewing reveals addictive eating habits and loss of control over these habits. Through Mindful Eating we can learn to listen to the whispers within from our internal sense of satiety and overcome loss of control in an easy, non-confrontational manner. When using awareness to identify our organic signal of satisfaction, we spontaneously come to heed it.
Solutions for Optimal Mobility: Self-care Strategies for Functional Limitations. A program of processes to help people recalibrate their internal compass and feed their organism with a wider palette of options from which, completely on its own, their organism can spontaneously select and enact the optimal moves at any moment, in any circumstance, without any conscious interference or manipulation. The processes in the Solutions for Optimal Movement program presents opportunity for skillful re-patterning of the neuro-muscular system to resolve common issues people have with their functioning. Each specific issue is approached through the Feldenkrais integrative perspective of dealing with the reciprocal interdependency between the specific suffering part and its corresponding bio-dynamic partners throughout the entire body network. Rather than impose correction and change in an isolated part which seems unfit, individuals are led to explore unused options of moving this part of themselves, with emphasis on the involvement of the corresponding interaction with the rest of the body. Reminding oneself of the experience of supportive cooperation awakens one’s own self-correcting intelligence. One spontaneously knows how to reset more sensibly and restore the harmony of well-coordinated functioning, as nature meant. Enhanced body wisdom allows one to become more confidently poised and self-possessed to restore a youthful, childlike, inner curiosity, creativity and zest for life - which Ruthy Alon calls “Biological Optimism.” Benefits include releasing lower back compression, awakening articulation of upper back vertebrae, aligning hip joints, restoring ankle and knee springiness, restoring neck ease in movement, building up wrists’ tolerance to pressure and awakening resourcefulness for recovering balance and asymmetry difficulties.
KATHERINE’S STORY WITH MOVEMENT INTELLIGENCE
During her Feldenkrais training program, Katherine heard about Ruthy Alon, one of Dr. Feldenkrais’ first students and practitioners, and hoped that she might have the opportunity to study with Ruthy. Katherine’s journey of studying with Ruthy Alon actually began in 2014, after graduation from her Feldenkrais training and attainment of Guild Certified Practitioner status. Though interested in both the Walk For Life and Chairs programs, when she learned that Ruthy Alon would be in Berkeley, California, teaching the first segment of the training program for Solutions For Optimal Mobility, Katherine immediately made plans to travel to Berkeley. She looks forward to part 2 in 2015, and part 3 (completion) in 2016. Since starting her training in the Solutions For Optimal Mobility program, Katherine has also undertaken the Walk For Life training with Anna Haltrecht, a Movement Intelligence Senior Trainer, and anticipates completion and certification in this program in 2015.
Movement Intelligence Programs are the intellectual property of Ruthy Alon, Ph.D. Bones for Life® is a registered service mark of Ruthy Alon, Ph.D.
“How you use your structure is what is important, not the structure. Each of us has a dynamic range for holding ourselves up and transmitting power through. This cannot be controlled by mere thinking, instead it is controlled by movement intelligence.” (Ruthy Alon)
WANT TO LEARN MORE? - VIDEOS & WEBSITES
- Ruthy Alon in Munich 2011 (14:09 minute video in which she explains the evolution of her work from strictly Feldenkrais to Movement Intelligence, shows how and why a wrap is used in many of the Movement Intelligence lessons, talks about writing her original book as a way to better understand Feldenkrais, describes Bones For Life, and offers a mini-experience related to sitting posture and walking)
- Interview with Ruthy Alon on Self Health and Vitality (6:55 minute video in which Elinor Silverstein interviews her about how one can take care of oneself, especially in the elder years and for women. She gives great emphasis to continuing to move throughout life and allowing oneself to move in a variety of ways as the key to wellbeing.)
- Ruthy Alon – Interview on Israeli TV, 2013 (8:45 minute video in Hebrew, not subtitled in English, in which she demonstrates uses of the wrap in her programs, talks about the influence of African women walking with loads on their heads on her thinking, and invites the interviewer into a mini-Chairs program experience)
- Movement Nature Meant, Part 1 (6:53 minute video showing Ruthy Alon demonstrating the restorative power of natural movement through harmonious coordination that feels safe and graceful and describing the autonomous learning process of the Feldenkrais Method. Following by a mini-exploration in going from lying to sitting using the wisdom of the spiral to cope with gravity)
- Movement Nature Meant, Part 2 (2nd of 4 videos, 8:05 minute video by Ruthy Alon about learning about the wisdom of the stomach/back balance through folding in, whilst lying on back, and safe variations for arching backwards or extension, not through contraction, but release into full length)
- Movement Nature Meant, Part 3 (3rd of 4 videos, 6:49 minute video by Ruthy Alon about exploring how your back operates and what it is able to do, and about reorganizing the back through primal locomotion – crawling and primal swimming motions - in order to take care of your back and help free yourself of back pain)
- Movement Nature Meant, Part 4 (last of 4 videos, 4:27 minute video about the movement of creeping as a way to address a bothersome neck and heal neck-torso distribution of labor, followed by a segment about rejuvenation through exploring non-habitual alternatives)
- Ruthy Alon Walk for Life (4:54 minute video produced by Feldenkrais resources showing Ruthy Alon teach a part of one process in the Walk For Life program)
- Movement Intelligence (main front page of Ruthy Alon’s website and all Movement Intelligences programs)
- Foundation for Movement Intelligence (home page of the North American non-profit sponsor of Ruthy Alon’s Movement Intelligence programs)