Making Friends With the Floor

In Healthy Aging, Posture & Balance by MaryBeth Smith

Beth Rubenstein

by Beth Rubenstein

  • Are you a Baby Boomer or Senior Citizen?
  • Have you experienced balance issues, or perhaps even fallen?
  • Are your children insisting that you get some help, because they are afraid you will fall again?
  • Have you already tried other programs or workshops at your local gym or senior center?

The Feldenkrais Method® offers a  pleasurable way for you to learn to sense yourself and organize your movement for greater safety and enjoyment. Consider this:

Notice how you stand, walk, and move around. Are you looking down at the floor more often when you walk, to be sure there is nothing to trip over? Do you avoid getting on the ground to play with your grandkids or to garden? Are your knees bent, and your back rounded?

You may be moving this way in order to feel more safe, but this posture will not protect you if you start to fall. Furthermore, years of this forward posture causes more stiffness, leading to arthritis and muscle aches. All the strengthening in the world is not going to change the way you stand, walk, reach, and sit. It may sound counter-intuitive, but movement is what makes one stable. Stability comes from mobility, not rigidity. Think of a tree in the wind. A young tree bends and moves as the wind blows; if it were rigid, it would break. The same is true for humans. We are moving beings, not statues. We are more stable and healthier when we move.

The fear of falling, unfortunately, impels many people to avoid going out at all. Before you know it, you feel “old” even if you are not. When you stop moving, you lose vitality and the love of life. A Feldenkrais teacher can help you to learn to move comfortably again so you can be independent. As we age, we need to move more, not less. We need to know where our bodies are in space at all times. When you start to fall, it is too late to tighten your muscles to prevent falling over.

When I work with people who fear falling, we start by moving comfortably in chairs. We find ways to move that you may have never imagined! You can move at your own pace, and all while keeping yourself comfortable. From there, we learn to move out of the chair to the floor. With practice, this will feel easy to you. Later, you stay on the floor and “play.” Yes, like when you were a baby. Sound strange? Strange perhaps, but fun, and effective! You explore, roll, come onto all fours, and eventually wind up back in your chair. Voila! This movement also becomes graceful and comfortable. Going to the floor and back up with ease becomes just another option in your growing movement repertoire. The old feeling of fear is gone, replaced by confidence.

In my classes, we also move and play when standing, holding onto the back of a chair. This increased movement while standing leads to walking and reaching more safely. It is movement, along with decreased fear and stress, that prevents falling. And, if you do happen to fall, your fall will be softer, and you will get up off the floor without calling those handsome firemen.

I developed a program around these themes for my students called “Fear the Floor No More.” After a 10-week class series at the Senior Center, John H., who has dementia and severe balance issues, noticed improvement. His wife said,

“He still tends to fall, but folds to the floor. He doesn’t get hurt and he pops back up to standing the way we did in class. He’s able to be outside more and work in the garden like he did 15 years ago.”

When you explore how to move again with the Feldenkrais Method, your daily activities will become easier, more efficient, and you will have more energy for fun. Your whole nervous system and brain become engaged, giving you more freedom in life: more movement, more energy, and less fear. You will become safer, more independent, and you will be in charge of yourself. You will become an expert on you.

Beth Rubenstein will present a workshop, “Fear the Floor No More” at the 2019 Feldenkrais Conference in Boulder, CO, June 26-30. The workshop is open to the public. Register here.

Beth talks with Elinor Silverstein about her 2019 Conference presentation (VIDEO)

5 tips to “Fall-Proof” Your Life

The Art of Falling: Lavinia Plonka at TEDxUNCAsheville (VIDEO)

Maybe the best “TV fall” ever: Dick Van Dyke Show opening (VIDEO)