Category Archives: Fitness

A photo of James Nestor with an illustration of the effects of breathing through your mouth on your facial structure.

Breathe through Your Nose (yes, when you’re sleeping too!)

Sometimes I learn something life-changing that I must share. This is one of those times.

As a Feldenkrais® teacher, I’ve studied and taught numerous ways of breathing. And breath has been a focus of several meditation practices I follow. I felt like an expert.

A series of ten therapeutic cathartic breathwork sessions showed me more. Breathing in a specific rhythm and manner led me into an altered state of consciousness where deep emotional healing was facilitated.

Then last fall my sister Gwen came to visit. A friend had recommended that she read Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. That friend was reading the book for the third time. I got Breath from the library, and Gwen and I tag-teamed reading it over the holidays.

My first take-away: breathe through your nose.

Whatever you’re doing, breathe through your nose.

Reading? Yes.

Walking? Yes.

Running? Yes.

Sleeping? Yes!

Halfway through the book I was already breathing through my nose while awake.

Nose breathing & sleeping

But what do you do while you’re sleeping? Tape your mouth.

That’s right.

Gwen immediately ordered “Hostage” brand tape and started sleeping with it. She reported that she forgot she was wearing it in the morning.

I did a little research, and it turns out all you need is a little piece of micropore tape holding your lips together. You don’t even need to cover your whole mouth. See this video the breath guy—investigative reporter James Nestor— recorded. Short, simple explanation. And it works.

I’ve been sleeping with my mouth taped for about a month. What I’m noticing so far:

  • No more snoring
  • No more tooth grinding (bruxism)—my mouth guard is going into deep storage
  • No more drooling while sleeping
  • Waking up with a moist mouth, as opposed to a dry one, which I’m guessing is a boost for tooth health (did you know saliva cleans your teeth?)
  • A better bite, which it turns out relaxes my jaw muscles
  • Reduced TMJ pain (it’s almost gone)

Did you know sleep apnea is growing by epidemic proportions? Folks are actually getting their jaws surgically altered sometimes to solve the problem, which can lead to permanent loss of sensation in your face. Sleeping with your mouth taped might be a solution. Seems worth trying; it’s way cheaper than surgery, at the very least.


Another practice to consider: increase the amount of time you spend chewing. When you chew, you can literally grow more space in your jaw, at any age. Which is great for your teeth, for talking, singing. Also for looking younger.

The breakfast cereal I invented takes prolonged chewing. And it’s delicious. One half steel-cut oats, one half chia seeds. Soak overnight. Add the spices you enjoy, salt. Cook around 25 minutes. Currently I’m eating a huge bowl every morning topped with cranberry and apple compote, flax seed meal, yogurt, and maple syrup or honey. Unbelievably tasty and wonderful texture. I wake up craving it. Let me know if you’d like a more detailed recipe.

James Nestor recommends a particular gum, which I’ve not tried yet.

What does it take to change?

Actually, I think a client of mine mentioned the book in 2020 when it was published. I was too distracted at the time to pay attention. I’m grateful Gwen mentioned it now, when I was ready to listen and take action.

Most folks seem interested when I tell them about the book. A few have said they’ve read it. But only one so far has decided to try breathing through their nose, other than my sister. Yet it’s virtually free, easy to try, and potentially has enormous health benefits for our internal organs, immune system, facial bone structure, and more.

I’m trying to understand what keeps the people I’m telling about it from trying breathing through their noses exclusively.

Maybe they’ve not reached threshold energy yet. That place where you say: Enough! The place James Nestor reached, where he said, There’s gotta be a better way. And went and did the research. And then shared it with us.

There are some complex techniques Nestor offers, in the second part of the book. But you can get started right now, before you read it.

Breathe through your nose.

Let me know how it goes.

Working with Internal Organs: No Guts, No Glory

I was lucky enough to do a day-long workshop with Elinor Silverstein at the 2018 Feldenkrais® conference. The subject was working with internal organs: “No Guts, No Glory.”

Feldenkrais training focuses on skeletal movement, so the idea of relating directly to our viscera intrigued me.

During the demo, Elinor’s fingers danced lightly across her client’s abdomen as she described the path. Then she led us through self-examination, recommending we use the pressure of “half a grape.”

Throughout, Elinor was bubbling over with infectious delight.

3D rendering of a male skeleton torso

3D rendering of a male skeleton torso

Elinor pointed out the open space in the middle of the skeletal model, where our internal organs nestle. It’s between our diaphragmatic arch and the pelvic bowl, and it’s huge! What an opportunity. And we lose that opportunity if we don’t help our clients and ourselves become aware of what’s going on there: digestion, elimination, acid reflux.

I’m not going to lie—feeling your way into the right amount of pressure takes practice. I did get nauseated during the first part of the session. But by the end of the afternoon, I was starting to get a handle on the Goldilocks pressure, just enough to connect and listen through my fingertips, and for my internal organs and tissues to listen to my fingertips. Closing the loop.

Fight or Flight

Vagus nerve vector illustration. Labeled anatomical structure scheme and location diagram of human body longest nerve. Infographic with isolated ganglion, branches and plexus. Inner biological ANS.So many of us live with the fight or flight switch constantly On. In other words, we live with lax vagal nerves. Our digestion suffers, and more.

Every Feldenkrais lesson offers the opportunity to tonify your vagus nerve. Notice during the next lesson you take how your breathing slows and deepens, how your circulation improves, how the floor beneath you seems to soften. All that is you shifting into para-sympathetic mode, rest and digest. Doesn’t it feel refreshing? That’s why you often finish a lesson feeling lighter, more cheerful, rested.

Falling into Winter

The fall caught me off guard. How about you?

The first time I really became aware of the seasonal shift was a few days ago when I noticed an familiar bird singing: a chickadee. I realized that I’d actually not heard a chickadee since I moved to Malden. Sketch of a black capped chickadeeSo I unfurled my Merlin Bird ID app, wondering who else was in town, and discovered that many of the birds I was listening to were quite different than the ones I’d heard last spring. House sparrows were still there, and Northern Cardinals and American Robins (English ones are different, y’all!) but now joined to the chorus were Blue Jays, Tufted Titmouse, Chipping Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatch. Gone were Catbirds and Baltimore Orioles.

My neighbor and I chatted yesterday, as I went by on my morning walk with Boodie. He asked if I still walked three times a day in the middle of winter. I told him, yes, that’s why I had winter clothes, and we shared a laugh. But it made me think: how often do we give up moving because of bad weather? Stop going outside, and stay in controlled environments? Daily movement, whether you call it “exercise” or walking your dog or gardening, is essential for our health, in all senses. Winter, when flu begins to circulate, is exactly when we need to take even better care of our health, and yet that’s when many of us move less.

Movement is necessary, yet not sufficient. My neighbor walks regularly on the high school track. He’s rarely challenged by uneven pavement.

Yesterday on my walk, I tripped on the pavement and fell. No big deal: I fell well, got up and kept walking.

None of us can live forever in controlled environments. Electricity can fail. Shoelaces come untied and we trip over those. A tornado touches down (yes, even in Massachusetts). Pandemics arise.

Are you prepared for changing seasons? The changing seasons of your life, as well as of the earth?

How are you cultivating resiliency, and, better, anti-fragility? So that, whatever happens, you’re able not only to take care of yourself, but also others around you?

Today I’m sipping the first ginger tea of the season. Like to join me? Here’s my recipe, in another of my autumnal musings. (Scroll down to the bottom of the blog, and, if you like, send Finn Finn fond thoughts as you go.)

When Practice Pans Out

So this year I’ve already fallen twice. Which has actually delighted me.

What I learned, again, is that I can trust myself. That the years of work, time, and attention I’ve devoted to practicing and teaching the Feldenkrais Method® have given me skills I can draw on instantly.

The first time I fell, I slipped on the ice and fell backward. I caught myself on my hands. My hat flew one way, the dog poo bag another. A little boy walking to school asked if I was alright, and brought me the poo bag, holding it with two fingers. The position I landed in was actually a transition position from a specific Feldenkrais lesson which I’ve re-visited multiple times, because at first I couldn’t use it to get up, and I wanted to learn it.

Illustration of a human figure in multiple positions: standing, lying, walking, dancing, anything you can imagine. When practice pans out.Last Friday, Boodie (my dog) and I were walking really fast and my left foot hit a heave in the sidewalk. I fell forward, again onto my hands and knees. Just skinned my knee and bruised my toe.

I know you’ve heard me say this, if you’ve come to class with me, but it bears repeating: all our lessons on the floor are so we can bring what we learn into the rest of our life. So we can be more aware, resilient, calm. Enjoyable as it is, Feldenkrais matters because practicing it makes us more equal to the demands of our lives.

Have you found that to be true for yourself?

Move Small So You Can Move Big

Are you in training for something? Maybe getting ready for a dream vacation or a competitive run?

Or maybe you’ve noticed that you’ve started to limit what you do: you’re not walking as far, or you’re carrying less weight. And you’d like to turn that trajectory around.

Russ Mitchell wrote an excellent blog about training smart and limiting injury with the Feldenkrais Method® which you’ll want to read. His explanation of the function of our different kinds of muscles makes it simple to understand: keep reading for an excerpt from his blog.

Postural Vs. Phasic Muscles

“You have two basic types of muscles: postural muscles and phasic muscles. If you cook a turkey, the postural muscles are the “dark meat,” and the phasic muscles the “white meat.” (Look at where that meat sits on a turkey… it becomes pretty obvious why each is where they are pretty quickly!)

The postural, aka “slow twitch” muscles are weaker — dramatically weaker — than the “fast twitch” phasic muscles. But “fast twitch” doesn’t mean “faster to execute.” The “Twitch” in these fibers’ names is in regard to how quickly they exhaust. “Slow twitch” fibers are called that because they may not be strong, but they’re long-lasting, and they come into action before the phasic muscles do. . . .

Easy example: postural muscles work all the time to counter-act gravity, mostly without any conscious awareness on your part. But ever accidentally exhausted the muscles in your jaw? Wasn’t that fun?

If you can't do it slow you can't do it fast.So why does this matter, and where does the Feldenkrais Method come in? Well, put simply, for you to avoid injuring your joints with explosive movements, you need to be able to get yourself into an alignment where you can muster your awesome athletic and artistic forces properly. The slow-twitch fibers are actually the first to be recruited once you have an idea of the movement you intend to do, in order to get your skeleton into position to “do the thing” properly so that you can jump, throw, swing, twist, dive, etcetera, easily, fluidly, and without strain.

Otherwise, even if you’re not in a squat rack, performing these activities with bad alignment tears up your body just as surely as would trying to perform a heavy squat or deadlift while standing knock-kneed. Anthony Bourdain, before he passed, used to lament the long-term damage he’d done to his hand just using a whisk. And any string musician can tell you what “bad form” will do to your wrists and elbows.”

Read the rest of Russ’ blog here.

Moving Forward

Does this inspire you to learn more about practicing small to move big? Join us for an upcoming class or workshop! Get more info here.

More about Back Pain: Crooked Author Interviewed

If you’re an adult, you likely have had back pain or you know someone who does. It’s a sad fact of contemporary life.

Students in a ballet class. Dancers may think back pain's inevitable, even when they're young. It's not!Even folks you’d think would be pain-free, like elite dancers and athletes, may be moving through it. Someone told me a couple of years ago that half the first-year students at one of the best US dance programs come to campus with back pain. And these students are professional caliber. Heartbreaking! And unnecessary.

We can talk for quite a while—and if you’ve been in one of my classes, you know I do!—about why back pain is endemic in our society.

Front cover of CROOKED: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry & Getting on the Road to RecoveryIn 2017, investigative reporter Cathryn Jacobson Ramin published a groundbreaking book on the “back pain industry”—a disgusting phrase if ever I heard one. Her own pain led her to look for help. She found a whole lot of stuff which doesn’t help, and can harm. And she found some modalities which do help: the Feldenkrais Method® is one. (If you’ve not read Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery, do! Aside from the great info, it’s a good read.)

It turns out that Cathryn has practiced Feldenkrais continuously since publishing Crooked. She was interviewed recently for the Feldenkrais website. She said: “I’ve sent countless people to Feldenkrais. I mean it is my ‘go-to,’ absolutely… it is a matter of gaining confidence that you can move and you will not die. And that is what Feldenkrais does: to actually tell your brain that you are in no imminent danger and things will improve.” Read the full interview here.

If you know someone living with back pain, share the interview with them. Or visit the Crooked website, which is chock-a-block with resources to help change their trajectory.

The takeaway: we don’t have to live in misery. We don’t have to suck it up, or push through, or grit our teeth. If we choose, we can move away from pain.

Lose Your Balance & Find It Again

What do you think of when you hear the word “balance?”

Do you immediately think— “I wish mine was better.”

Join the club!

It’s hard to stand on two legs. It takes us about a year to learn it, to build the muscles necessary.

Winged Victory of Samothrace: the wide base ensure it won't lose balance.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

“. . . The human body is badly suited for standing. Statues of human figures have to be strongly connected to a heavy base to prevent them from toppling over at the slightest disturbance.”Moshe Feldenkrais, Body & Mature Behavior

Humans start with a disadvantage: we stand on two feet. We’re top heavy: our trunk and head are on top, and our base is tiny. In Body & Mature Behavior, Feldenkrais writes: “A Martian visitor would not hesitate to conclude that the human body is the closest to an ideal frame designed for movement and the least suited for standing motionless.”

Finding Balance

Little boy rides a bike. Lose balance and find it again.We humans are always seeking to be in balance. Whether in standing, so we don’t fall over. Or in dealing with a psychological challenge. What’s interesting: balance is inherently unstable. When we seem to be in balance we’re actually constantly moving, making tiny adjustments in response to our changing environment. We’re afraid to lose balance, yet we’re continually losing and finding it again. Just watch a baby learning to stand up! The only way to develop the ability to stand is to fall repeatedly.

Maybe losing our balance as grown-ups could be no big deal, too.

What are tools you can use to clarify your balance?

  • The ground
  • Your breath
  • Your skeleton
  • Your muscle system
  • Your awareness

Ready to Lose Balance?

Lose balance & find it again walking a slack line

The only way to walk a slack line: lose balance & find it again!

Join us for the next series! Find details here.

Learning vs. Doing

“… learning is very different from doing.”Moshe Feldenkrais, The Elusive Obvious

Angela smiling in Boulder with mountains in background.

Insane view of the Flatirons from this parking lot! Yes, this is after my spill.

I’m just back from Boulder. What a beautiful place!

I hiked, walked, and took an electric bike tour. The bike ride gave me a fabulous opportunity to do what I’d been learning with Feldenkrais®. Coming around a curve, I saw gravel on the path. No time to go around, knew I’d skid. Fell beautifully! I caught myself on four points: both hands and both knees. Yes, my left knee was skinned. But I broke my fall and my forehead hit only lightly. You bet I was wearing a helmet! (Note to self: when the guide offers to take your back pack, accept!)

How is learning different from doing?

How could I fall so well? I’ve spent hours learning. Going slowly. Pausing frequently. Allowing a gesture to unfold piece by piece. Failing repeatedly, in as many ways as I could think of. That’s what a Feldenkrais lesson is. So when the rubber met the road (or not, in this case), I was ready. I could shift from learning to doing without hesitation. “In life an act must be accomplished at the right speed, at the right moment, and with the right vigor.” (Moshe Feldenkrais, The Elusive Obvious)

I was able to enjoy the heck out of the Feldenkrais conference in spite of my spill.

A child holds her foot, lying on floor. Children naturally alternate between learning, doing, and resting.

Ready to discover how Feldenkrais can help you meet whatever life brings? Join us for weekly classes!

“For successful learning we must proceed at our own rate. Babies repeat each novel action clumsily at their own rate until they have enough of it. This occurs when the intention and its performance are executed so that they are just one act which feels like an intention only.” —The Elusive Obvious

Move Your Shoulders Like Wheels

What’s Happening in May & June

The next Feldenkrais® series are just around the corner, and they’ll be shorter than usual: four and five weeks.

At the end of June, I’m going to the annual Feldenkrais conference for five days. Count on my coming back with a bunch of new ideas we’ll play with in class, as I’ll be training with my mentor Jeff Haller, as well as several other deeply experienced teachers. The theme this year is “Discover Ease: Finding What Already Exists.”

Interested? The conference has workshops open to the public. These include:

  • Your Vagal Nerve System, Why the Feldenkrais Method Is So Important, with Elinor Silverstein
  • Two Masters and One Nerd, with Moti Nativ, Jeff Haller, and Roger Russell
  • Jump Forever Rhymes with Young Forever, with Moti Nativ

Human skeleton dancing DAB, perform dabbing move gesture, posing on white background.The conference is in Boulder, CO, which has been on my bucket list for years, so I’m taking some additional time to explore and perhaps do a short retreat in July. Classes will likely begin again the second or third week of July.

The focus in my May and June classes will be shoulders, arms, and hands. Most of us have injured our shoulders, or dealt with Carpel Tunnel or another repetitive-motion issue. We all benefit from understanding more clearly how to mobilize this area. (How often do you find your shoulders up by your ears?)

More about Your Shoulder Girdle

“Nearly every bone in the trunk, from occiput to pelvis, furnishes surfaces for the attachments of muscles which are also attached to some portion of the shoulder apparatus. . .”—Mabel Elsworth Todd, The Thinking Body: A Study of the Balancing Forces of Dynamic Man.

Classic Awareness Through Movement lesson.Todd points out that our shoulder and arm muscles have a wheel-like distribution. She writes, “The muscle power must be applied so as to operate through as many arcs as the range and direction of movements require. This is accomplished by a wheel-like design whereby muscles attached through great distances over many surfaces of the skeletal framework converge about the shoulder joint. . . . It is this wheel-like arrangement of lines of muscle force through all planes which gives such enormous power to the arms and hands, not alone in doing heavy work. . . but also in the control of delicately centered movements of the hands and fingers.” (Ibid)

We’ll be rolling those wheels in June: register here.

Sunday Classes

Russ Mitchell, fresh from the latest segment of his Feldenkrais training, will teach five classic lessons on Sundays. You can bet I’ll be there! Register for his series here.

Saturday Classes

Do Saturday mornings work best for you? Consider coming to Patterns Lab, 11:30 am-1:30 pm. Prerequiste: at least one series of classes or package of private lessons with me, or previous experience with the Feldenkrais Method®. Please email me if you’re interested in joining.

Children, Bare Feet & Movement

Barefoot Is Better for Developing Motor Skills

Close-up of a barefoot baby girl's foot.

A baby’s foot.

A recent study showed that children who tend to go barefoot have better motor skills than those who habitually wear shoes. The barefoot kids had better balance, among other advantages. When you consider how many shoes restrict the foot‘s ability to move, the results make sense.

Also, I wonder, do barefoot children just tend to move more in general?

Read the entire article here on Neuroscience News.

What’s the Best Kind of Shoe?

Barefoot toddler on tiptoe with magnets in front of refrigerator.

A toddler’s feet.

Clients often ask me, “What kind of shoe should I wear?” My answer, “The one with as little support as is comfortable for you.”If you’re currently using arch support or orthotics, don’t suddenly stop using them.

Could you practice walking at home, five minutes at a time, barefoot? Or in flat shoes with no built-in arch? Or can you practice walking with your orthotics, without collapsing your feet into them, but using them as a point of reference to organize your feet around?

And yes, we can practice using our feet and entire skeletons so that your arches awaken. I was diagnosed with flat feet as a child. I can now distinguish support in my two longitudinal arches and the one transverse arch; of course, that’s clearer with one foot than the other.

Standing Lesson

One simple movement to play with: stand with your feet slightly further apart than usual, barefoot if possible. Shift yourself a little left and right. Imagine that your whole skeleton is like a pendulum above your feet, so you lead with the crown of your head.

Feel how you’re using your feet. Do they collapse as you shift weight? That is, does the contact of the standing surfaces of your feet with the ground change as you shift from side to side?

Imagine now that, as you shift your skeleton left, it’s your right foot that sends you. As if you’re distancing the crown of your head from your right foot. Let your left foot send you right.

Do this a few times. Stop and observe yourself. How did your awareness of your feet change?