Learning How to Walk for Life

I first met Gretchen Langner in the early 90s, when I did a story for WCSH-TV about the Feldenkrais Method. Gretchen is a certified Feldenkrais practitioner who has taught not only in Maine, but around the world.

What is Feldenkrais?
The Feldenkrais Method is named after its originator, Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc., who died in 1984 at the age of 80. According to the Feldenkrais website, he was a Russian born physicist, judo expert, mechanical engineer and educator.  The Feldenkrais Method uses gentle movements and directed attention to help people increase their range of motion, and improve flexibility and coordination. My brother-in-law, Bill  Vondras, who is a carpenter, swears by Feldenkrais. He has degenerative disc disease in his neck. “My neck, back and arms were always hurting. The instructor taught me certain movements. After each session I always felt 100% better — it even cleared my head.”

Bones for Life
Back to Gretchen for a minute. I ran into her recently and she told me she still teaches Feldenkrais, but is also the US Organizer for Bones for Life.

The Bones for Life program is the life work of  Ruthy Alon, a senior Feldenkrais trainer. Based on Feldenkrais movements and principles, it goes several steps further, so to speak, and emphasizes “organizing the skeleton into a safe weight-bearing posture to sustain springy pulsations of force — the natural code for bone strength and suppleness.”

In other words, this program teaches you how to walk in such a way that you can carry yourself safely. It even teaches you safe ways of falling.

Diane appears to be a klutz
I think I need this program, because for some reason, I am prone to falling. I will now digress, and share my pitiful litany of times I have fallen down. Last week, for the second time in a year, I fell down the stairs. Some of you will recall that last September, I either missed or overstepped the bottom step of our back staircase and ended up in the Mercy Hospital Emergency Department, needing about two dozen stitches in my head. Thank you again, Joe Rolland for not only being kind and gentle, but also for being so handy with a needle and thread.

My latest mishap occurred this past Monday morning on our front staircase. I was wearing slipper socks and my left foot slid across the edge of one of the treads and with my hand clutching the bannister, the rest of me kept on going. This time I have an enormous deep purple bruise on my thigh and and an ache to match. I’d share a picture, but some might consider it x-rated, a potential problem if I ever decide to run for office.

I was totally shaken by both events, because in each case I wasn’t hurrying and I thought I was being careful. I can’t blame it on my advancing age because I have fallen before. From a tree in Greece, when I was in my 20s — footloose and fancy-free, backpacking through Italy and Greece. Some friends and I decided to visit ancient ruins, only we had no money so climbed a tree to get inside. I fell smack on my tailbone and had difficulty walking the rest of the day.  Raised a good Catholic girl, I was certain it was my punishment straight from God for not paying.

I’ve slipped on the ice more than once, and tripped over curbs and uneven bricks. The brick incident was on Congress Street, in front of Joe’s Smoke Shop. A tattered looking gentleman ran over to help me; he even put my shoe back on. I was so moved by his kindness that I forgot my embarrassment.

Other than my show stopping head injury fall down the stairs, my most memorable was about six years ago on East End Beach in Portland. That time no kindly gentleman ran over to help me when two large romping dogs turned suddenly and walloped me good, propelling me into the air and then down onto the hard packed sand. I reached out with my right hand to break my fall, but landed full force on my poor old tailbone. I knew I was in trouble when I tried to get up. I called out weakly,  “Is anyone going to help me, please?” I heard a man’s voice from behind me. “That’s why I’m here,” he said curtly, and then quickly added. “It wasn’t my dog that knocked you down.” I had a compression fracture in my lower thoracic spine. And no, I didn’t sue anyone.

Walk for Life retreat
At any rate, I believe in serendipity, and here’s Gretchen back in my life telling me about the Bones for Life program and that Ruthy Alon is holding a five-day retreat called Walk for Life in Greenfield, NH in October. Simple yet sophisticated movement strategies that affect beneficial long-term change in movement, strength, posture, flexibility and sense of well-being, says the flyer. Researchers from the University of New Hampshire will also be there conducting clinical research in human locomotion. Locomotion — I like that word.

Definition of  locomotion
lo·co·mo·tion [loh-kuh-mohshuh-n]
-noun
the act or power of moving from place to place

Perhaps it would be to my benefit to head over to New Hampshire this fall for the Walk for Life retreat so I can learn how to locomote without tripping over things, including my own two feet!