A leg of two to stand on - feature

The standing leg

A leg or two to stand on - cover

When it comes to the structure of the human body, symmetry is a myth. 

The lungs have three lobes on the right side and two on the left. The liver sits on the right side. Even for folks with situs inversus, asymmetry is still the rule. 

The same is true when it comes to function.

Most people have a dominant hand. Only 1% of the population is truly ambidextrous and the vast majority are right-handed (something like 90%). While we stand on two feet and walk alternating one leg and the other, it turns out that most of us tend to stand more readily on one of our legs. Research has shown that the left leg is more often one we rely on for stability, the leg we balance on more readily.

After an accident or operation, you unconsciously shift weight off the injured side, which changes how you stand and walk. Because of this inherited, built-in response, you don’t have to favor your leg consciously, which is profoundly practical. When this lateral preference becomes an overbearing compulsion, we get into trouble. What was an instantaneous self-protective response becomes automatic and habitual, devolving into an unrelenting limp that lasts long after the initial physical trauma has healed. Such overpowering one-sidedness skews how you move, altering your gait, balance, comfort, and, eventually, your anatomical frame. 

Addressing the chronic aspects of how we move, the Feldenkrais Method of NeuroPhysical Learning (NPL) offers a way to update the autopilot and escape the tyranny of this incessant impulse. It’s been a theme for many of my students over the years. Lately, thanks to structural changes in my right foot, it’s taken on personal relevance. Inspired by my most recent “learning opportunity,” I am working on the lesson plan for this year’s (almost) annual Awareness Through Movement summer camp that will address this challenge. It’s happening online in July. 

On the second full weekend of next month, I’ll be presenting UNDERSTANDING STANDING, the first module of the postgraduate WALKING WELL program, to my colleagues in Munich, Germany. This course is about the standing leg: identifying it in a constructive educational manner (to the student’s benefit as well as the teacher’s), recognizing the underlying constellation of muscular activation, knowing how to harness the mechanism to help someone stand better on one leg (when that’s the best option), and developing the tactile skills and teaching tactics that elicit the ability to shift from one side, one leg, to the other. Over five in-depth days, participants experience relevant ATM lessons, learn what and how to observe visually and through touch, study and practice the needed hands-on techniques, improve their body mechanics, and develop their understanding of standing and shifting work. 

In the second module, participants learn Feldenkrais’ classic ARTIFICIAL FLOOR lesson. During the third module, they put Gravetksy’s insights about the Spinal Engine to work as a practical framework for improving gait. Please contact Patricio at the Instituto Feldenkrais if you want more information about WALKING WELL Germany or if you’re ready to enroll.

The recordings of my presentation of the ARTIFICIAL FLOOR — in a live teacher training program and an advanced online course — are available to Feldenkrais teachers and trainees in MAKING THE CONNECTION. You can take advantage of the choose-your-price payment arrangement until May first, 2022.

If you are not familiar with Oliver Sacks’ A Leg to Stand On, may I suggest you give it a read?

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  1. “Sacks’ experiences deserve to be reappraised as a unique insight in to a genuinely experienced functional/ psychogenic leg paralysis following injury”
    –– REVIEW ‘A Leg to Stand On’ by Oliver Sacks: a unique autobiographical account of functional paralysis Jon Stone, 1 Jo Perthen, 2 Alan J Carson J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2012; 83 :864 e 867. doi:10.1136/jnnp-2012-302800 from https://www.academia.edu/10364327/A_Leg_to_Stand_On_by_Oliver_Sacks_a_unique_autobiographical_account_of_functional_paralysis

    Noting an excellent Reference section at the end of the review article.