Sept. 8, 2020, 12:06 p.m.

5 minutes of neuroplastic healing

Alessandro Bombardi

About a couple of years ago I bought a wonderful wooden rowing machine. It was one of these new year resolutions, I decided that I needed some regular aerobic physical activity to add to my Yoga and Feldenkrais classes. After a period of excitement and regular activity I noticed a quick decline in how often I was using the machine.

What happened? Why did that activity that was so enjoyable become so boring that I could not bother to begin it?

After a few months I decided to start again using the machine and again a couple of months later I abandoned it. The pattern was repeated a few times and, given my interest in awareness I decided to pay attention to what was causing it.

The reason emerged quite clearly, I stopped the activity usually about a few weeks after I decided to increase the time and commitment I dedicated to it and to calculate the number of hours or the number of strokes per minutes that I was supposed to achieve or the calories that I I was supposed to burn. Maybe that approach will work for some people, but it is just not who I am and that pleasurable activity became just another task with very specific goals attached and after the objectives I set for myself became too distant to be reached there was just no point in keeping doing it.


The disgrace in this story is that I was feeling much better and I was improving a lot my rythm, my breathing even when I was just practicing 20 minutes per day, but for some reasons it was not enough for me. Maybe because some of my friends were regularly spending 1 h per day running or cycling and told me that their phone "app" was constantly pushing them to run faster and be effective in their daily training that my aimless 20 minutes didn't compare well.


We are often under the wrong impression that nothing can be done in a few minutes, in reality a very short but regular practice can have surprising effects. This is particularly true if you are just approaching a complex and rich practice like the Feldenkrais method.


Awareness through movement provides a powerful tool to regulate your autonomic nervous system but it is not possible or beneficial for every individual to start with a very long sequence of movements. Your practice will need to meet you where you are. A good point to start with is small but surprising movement.


A first one that you can try in your own time is the following one, it only takes 5 minutes but it is extremely powerful.


Choose a comfortable position, close your eyes if it is fine for you, otherwise let them wander somewhere ideally not on an electronic screen. It can be the sea, or a meadow, or the sky or some flowers if you are outside but also a pattern on a wallpaper.

Cross your thumbs and let them rest in the palm of the opposite hand. Wrap gently the four remaining fingers of each hand around the opposite hand thumb, you may have to adjust the thumb position. This setting creates an element of novelty and confusion in your brain. There are so many points of contact that it will be not obvious for your brain to figure out what is going on. Confusion is almost always a gateway to change. Let your forearms rest somewhere, it can be on your laps, or on a desk, or if you are lying down on your belly.

Very gently coordinating it with your breathing and leaving your arms quiet, start to move the two hands together a little bit away from the surface that they are in touch with. It is a small movement in your wrists almost invisible foran external observer. Every time you inhale the wrists tilt a little bit upward, every time you exhale the wrists will return to the original position.


Pay attention to the temperature of your thumbs, maybe you will start to feel a gentle tiny pulsation, like a wave, let your attention move to different points of contacts your left thumb, your right thumb but also different parts of the thumbs and why not the other fingers. Just enjoy it and let it go completely when you want to stop. If you tried it and it felt like magic let me know...Pssst! Want to know a secret? it is not magic it is just neuroplastic healing: Speaking the language of your brain to heal and restore your system!


By the way a few months ago I started to row again, maybe now that I know what I am doing I will be able to keep doing what I want!

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Photo by Tincho Franco on Unsplash
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