It's all down to the myelin.

Updated: Sep 28, 2019


As I start this new blog, I am mindful of how a blog can be a "flash in the pan" affair or, at it's best, a long-term tool to inform, educate and entertain. How it turns out will be a measure of my commitment to practice. By practice I mean to repeat, mindfully with curiosity and joy.  



Clearly, I would like to create something of value which connects me to the people who are interested in the key thing that I have to offer; which is learning. 

I am a teacher, but as my teacher Moshe Feldenkrais said, "I am going to be the worst teacher you ever had" to his last group of students, not because he was old, but because, he made the distinction between being someone who tells others what to do and someone who creates the conditions for learning to happen. That is the kind of teacher I aspire to be. 

 I teach people how to get more out of their lives with the tools most easily available to them. What are they? Well, they are YOU! As a Feldenkrais practitioner, I am committed to asking people to take a closer look at how they do what they do already and then, gently, see if there are ways of improving those things, through the prism of movement. 

This brings me to the myelin. Myelin is a fatty acid which coats the nerves or neural pathways. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/myelin

Put simply, the more a signal is sent from the brain to the muscles the more myelination will happen along those particular nerves, and therefore will make a movement feel familiar. This is vital in learning. It is the way that we humans and animals learn how to do anything and sustain that knowledge or understanding as we get older. 



There is a down-side to this as well as an upside. Many of us get into what we might  call "bad habits", whether it's slouching, stiffness or even chronic pain. We cannot tell that they are "bad" because we have spent so long developing them; they are well myelinated

This means that to actually create better habits we need to "fire" different signals from the brain to body and back from the body to the brain. This is where myelination can come in very handy, but only if the new neural pathways, as they are known as, are developed mindfully or with awareness. 

I was reminded of this wonderful natural resource when looking at Anat Baniel's excellent book on child development, Kids Without Limits  this morning. (A word about Anat. She is, perhaps, the foremost Feldenkrais practitioner in the world, although she has created what she calls the Anat Baniel Method, which is sourced heavily from  Feldenkrais Method but with better organisation and geared towards children with developmental issues. She was a protege of the great man himself; she travelled from her native Israel to assist Moshe on his American adventures, especially the last huge training of nearly 300 practitioners at Amherst, Massachusetts, in the early 80's. I came across this particularly interesting passage about slowing down or as I have suggested moving/doing/thinking mindfully; 



"As your child slows down and begins to feel, notice , and is able to perceive differences better; as she moves and experiences her own body and environment, actual physical changes and growth immediately begin happening in her brain at an incredible rate. The axon, a long slender extension of a nerve cell, called a neuron gets INSULATED WITH FATTY MATERIAL; THIS IS KNOWN AS MYELINATION, which allows for the electrical impulses to travel faster through the cell and communicate with other nerve cells. " 

What, in effect, Anat is saying, is that for a child with leaning difficulties to begin to learn more effectively, she and her teacher or parent must SLOW DOWN so that new habits can be gained more thoroughly. As she says, also, so pithily, "Fast we can only do what we already know". What I am saying is that for the people I teach, I will always ask them to slow down; pay attention and then gather in the joy of genuinely learning something NEW, and creating the possibility of genuinely new habits. 

So, I hope that my first effort in the new blog is at least a little informative, entertaining and educational, and that I have started a practice here. To achieve long-term satisfaction for you and for me in this blog, I must slow down, pay attention and see what joy comes from taking each little subject I choose to talk about on its own merits. You could say I need to myelinate the habit of blogging. 


Tags:

myelin

practice

mindfulness

neural pathways

feldenkrais

anat baniel

habits

Guzzie Armitage

human

older

developmental

brain

movement

awareness through movement

functional integration

difference

nerves

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