There Are More Ways Than One To Drink A Cup Of Tea

Hi folks,

running, coaching, technique, Feldenkrais

'Running With The Whole Body.' Follow the exercises in this book with care and you will learn a great deal about effective running.

One thing that I have learned from my studies of Feldenkrais over the last five years is that there are many ways to carry out any physical activity with your body, and most of these ways you’ll never even know exist. We come into this world programmed to learn how to crawl, sit, stand, walk, run and complete all the many other activities needed for our prolonged survival. I suspect that we learn these things by watching others, most of the time anyway. Once we settle upon an approach to a particular activity, that will probably be the way we do it for the rest of our lives, whether or not our particular method is biomechanically effective. Take the act of drinking a cup of tea, for instance. We may receive some instruction about how to ‘hold our pinky’ and keep our elbows off of the table, but otherwise it is up to us. If you watch people drinking a beverage from a cup you will notice that many different strategies are adopted, in which the shoulders are more or less mobile, the wrist is used or remains inactive, the torso twists or not, and some people even incorporate a backward movement of the upper body to carry the support arm higher, or alternatively lower their head, to get that pesky cup to their lips. Just see how many ways you can achieve this end. Alternatively, watch people walking. In some cases it is surprising that they actually manage to go from A to B without serious injury. But then you may ask, “so what?” The answer is that there are effective and ineffective ways to move. Furthermore, it is sometimes the case, when you suffer surgery for instance, that the optimal approach is not the one to which you are accustomed. After injuries you have to make new movement choices, so I recommend that you make these choices consciously and wisely.

The existence of many roads to a particular movement can explain how you may develop aches and pains with certain activities, or fail to recover from injuries through excessive and persistent guarding. You have probably seen the warnings to bend your knees rather than your back when picking up heavy objects. There are many more subtle examples of the choices open to you. In his great book, ‘Running With The Whole Body,’ Jack Heggie provides an exhaustive explanation of ways to improve your running efficiency by recruiting the natural elasticity of your spine. By using the rotation of your shoulders as you walk or run you can spare the load on your hip flexors as you pull your legs forward on each cycle of the process. You can also use gravity to propel you forward by adding a slight forward lean. Another technique is to modify your cadence so as to recruit more or less fast twitch versus slow twitch muscle fibers. When cycling, changing your cadence from fast to slow from time to time is an effective way to rest certain muscle fibers. There are optimal ways to do things, and in my experience Feldenkrais has opened up a whole world of biomechanical options of which I was completely unaware. Remember this as you train and when you are recovering from surgery or other injury. Explore your body as you drink your next cup of tea. You might be surprised.

-k Your Medical Mind



  1. I’ve never understood the American thing of keeping your elbows off the table. How can you eat a hamburger without having your elbows on the table?

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.