September 9, 2011

‘You are the result of your practice’ – What I’ve learned from the Franklin Method


Images (imagination) create the scenes and storylines that we live by – sometimes they hold us back from our fullest potential.

Before I do another yoga certification, I will first become certified in the 3 levels of the Franklin Method. Promise. This practice re-imagines what ever image you feel is the operating stressor in your body-space to shift your perception (and pains, stress, overall feelings of bliss, etc.) and regains your full range of motion with an image that functions better and allows for a more expansive experience of – dare I say – happiness and buoyancy of spirit. Eric Franklin, the founder, is a genius par excellance, and the methods of this technique can be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime. The introductions I’ve experienced with this work tap into the beauty of neuroplasticity and have radically changed my life practice.

Gratefully, I’ve been introduced to Franklin Method techniques by Pat Guyton of Pat Guyton’s Pilates Studio in Boulder, CO. Last summer I enjoyed an afternoon workshop with Eric Franklin on “Imagery for A Healthy Spine,”,and this past June I savored a delightful workshop on band and ball exercises by Laura Hames Franklin. These techniques have not only improved my 9-5 M-F life that is spent primarily chair-bound staring at a glowing rectangle, but has enhanced by feelings of well-being in all aspects of my life.

In just my first class with Pat Guyton, I was blown away by the immediate shift in my way of being in the world with new, positive body imagery and by learning how the feet, ankle and hips worked biomechanically. After the Psoas class, my mind had been sufficiently blown in every amazing way possible, and I started each day with Franklin Method exercises for the ultimate grounding (pre-, post- or in lieu of morning yoga). I couldn’t stop sharing how amazing it was with people I met.

Full range of motion: open mind, open body, open heart

Last year at TEDxBoulder, an improv performance artist spoke to the late night crowd with this message: “If you want to change your thoughts, change your body.” He related how your body language makes you think and feel, and how you can affect positive changes by becoming aware of these postures and adapting a stance that suits the outcome that you desire.

I feel this works on the flip side, too. In other words, if you change your thoughts, you can change your body. Enter the beauty of Neuroplasticity – the ability of the human brain to change as a result of one’s experience.

With what I’ve learned in introductions to the Franklin Method’s use of imagery to affect movement, changing how you envision the functionality of your body will directly affect how you feel and will change how you are thinking about your physical beingness in that moment. The phrase “You are the result of your practice,” as Eric said to us at a one-day workshop in June of last year, rings so true to me as I show up in my daily practice and notice where I’m at.

Ask yourself how you feel today. What words do you use to describe the experience of your body in this moment? Are they fluid and buoyant and happy? Or are they riddled with exhaustion and stress and tightness? If it’s the latter, you’re bound to experience just that: tired, stressed, and tight. At the workshop, we were all challenged to tell ourselves that the experience of our body was blissful (or exuberant or light – whatever feels good for you) for one day (or 3!) and see what a difference we feel in our daily space.

As percipient perceptibles with proprioceptors connecting us to the otherness beyond our physical boundary, the body is how we know the world. It also lets you know what turns it on with electric excitement for life. When we become stuck physically, we can become stuck mentally, or visa versa. An open, fully functioning body will experience a full range of movement in the body-mind-spirit. And, perhaps the most beautiful of all is that an open body is like a clear channel not holding on to the past, nor anxious about the future. It’s relaxed.

The ability and agility we have to change our thoughts directly affects the way we move and feel in our bodies. In every aspect you are what you think. If our embodied experience is not one of ease and fluidity, question if you really believe everything you think. Changing your thought patterns is not just a mental change since biological changes occur when thoughts change. As the result of your practice you have the power to change your mind about how you feel.

If this sounds like brainwashing, it clearly is – but in the best way possible. Positive brainwashing undoes all of the negative brainwashing that we may have let pervade our body-minds for as long as we’ve learned to be human. Positive brainwashing is expansive and pushes us to be the best experience of ourselves. Why would we want anything less? Why remain insistent on being in pain? For the sake of Human Excellence, let’s imagine the immanent potential to feel amazing.

The techniques of the Franklin Method don’t invalidate one’s experience of pain, but simply acknowledges it and doesn’t let those thoughts limit another experience – the experience of ease and freedom of movement. This requires a shift in perspective from someone experiencing pain in that they have to be open to and acknowledge that there is another way of being.

This is powerful stuff to mind. For example, if a team of medical and bodywork professionals treat all the ailments and conditions of a person in pain, but that person still insists on being in pain and lives in that mindset, they will continue to experience what ails them. Your choice and willingness to feel better is the first step to open to those new possibilities to experience how you want to feel and create a positive shift. The power is yours.

I just ran across a Chinese proverb that read: “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” This reminded me of something I heard Eric say in the workshop last summer about how when we are in this state of being calm, centered and fully embodied, it is as if we are immune to negative or problematic thoughts. I work with this daily, as my practice works with how I’m perceiving the world. The sheer beauty of having positive images that are grounded in how the body moves and functions creates the fullness of movement that is necessary for a healthy body as it bodies forth into its fullest potential.

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