Learn to move for better health
Class explores a body and mind approach to gaining an awarenessof how one’s body moves
LA GRANDE — Licensed physical therapist assistant Scott Forrester of the Mountain Valley Fitness and Health center in La Grande is teaching a new class, “Awareness Through Movement.”
The class is designed to increase a student’s awareness through deliberate body movements. Among the benefits are improved posture, skeletal alignment, heightened athletic performance and improved self-esteem, Forrester said.
Classes are being held from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Saturday at Mountain Valley.
Forrester earned his student instructor status in 2012 after finishing his second year of instruction in the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education in Eugene. He’s been a certified personal trainer since 2000 and received his education as a physical therapist’s assistant in 2010.
Forrester is also the president of the Grande Ronde Road Runners and is an avid distance runner.
“In September, I will begin my final year of Feldenkrais instruction and become a guild-certified Feldenkrais practitioner. Then I will be doing functional integration, the one-on-one, hands-on portion of the method as well as ATMs,” said Forrester.
As an ATM instructor, he is teaching his students how to think of muscle groups as a finely designed machine, all parts working together to function smoothly. Forrester guides his students verbally through a series of movements, emphasizing awareness of how the movement is being done.
“The movements are intelligently crafted to let students experiment and learn from non-habituated movement patterns to explore how we are moving and how we might make our movements easier,” Forrester said.
In a quiet atmosphere, a student lying on a padded surface with knees bent can be taught to explore movements such as flexion, extension and rotation. In doing so, the student may feel gentle and natural movement of vertebrae, resulting in better posture and gait after the lesson is completed. The lessons are easy, fun and best of all relaxing.
Forrester said, “The lessons are more about how we move than the movement itself.”
For that reason, Forrester doesn’t describe his classes as exercise classes, but a body and mind approach to awareness of just how the body moves. The Feldenkrais Method allows for more than 1,000 ATM lessons and also hands-on work called functional integration.
ATM classes can help a broad scope of people, including athletes, those who perform repetitive motion at work, yoga practitioners, musicians, actors, artists, children, the elderly who want to move with less pain, those in chronic pain and “any area where improvement of a human function is desired,” Forrester said.
The Feldenkrais Method is used to help stroke patients recover more function as well as to help dancers, artists and others perform with a higher level of ease.
“The method teaches us how to learn to function more efficiently and easily at any task,” Forrester said.
The body and mind are inseparable and dependent upon each other for the whole person to function well. Many physicians agree that a positive attitude will affect the body in healthful ways, whereas a negative attitude can impact the body in harmful ways.
“Many times, our thoughts get in the way of our being able to function,” Forrester said, “because we are telling ourselves that we are not strong enough or flexible enough to do a movement when in reality we are unaware of how we are doing the movement and how parasitic movement patterns and contractions are preventing us from doing a particular thing with ease.”
In Forrester’s class, a student will start by standing without shoes on and with arms straight down to the side of the body. He will observe the student’s natural posture, how the weight is distributed on the feet, the position of the knees and feet, and the gait. The student is asked to be aware of how his feet, ankles and knees feel as he stands on the floor before the lesson begins. Taking time to learn awareness is essential to the student’s ability to assess the benefits of the lesson.
This examination is used as a baseline for comparing later how the student’s posture has improved, how his leg length may become more equalized and how discomfort has been relieved, for example.
After an initial posture check, the student will recline and follow the verbal lesson instructions Forrester gives. The lessons are broken into simple tasks that help a student learn what his or her body is capable of doing by means of muscles. Best of all, the taught student can take these life-long lessons home to practice whenever they are needed.
“Improving movement can be the most direct and positive way to improve the person,” Forrester said. “ATMs use movement to help a person know what he is doing so that he can do what he wants.”
For more information or to enroll in ATM classes, call Mountain Valley Fitness and Health center at 541-663-0462.