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 Conversations with Leaders in Self-Care: A Field Guide to Body Work 
 
Interview with Ken Dychtwald PhD
   as interviewed by Tom Ferguson MD

The third category on your list was developing flexibility.

This is where activities like yoga come in. Hatha yoga is a system of postures and exercises designed to gently stretch and tone all the muscles of the body. Yoga works to systematically lengthen, vitalize, and integrate the muscles of the body and to improve circulation and glandular nervous system function. It not only makes you more flexible, but it serves as a means of centering meditation as well.

Four beginning yoga books that many people have found helpful are Richard Hittelman's Guide to Yoga, The Light of Yoga Society's Beginner's Manual, Jess Steam's Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation, and Swami Vishnu Devananda's The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. A good introduction for older people is provided in Easy Does It Yoga for People Over 60. My favorite introduction to the philosophies behind doing yoga is Joel Kramer's The Passionate Mind. And the very best advanced book on yoga is the classic by B. K. S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga (revised edition).

You also list relaxation skills as an approach to body work.

Few people are really good at voluntarily relaxing their bodies. As the stress of modern life increases, it becomes essential that we learn relaxation skills and take the time to practice them regularly. One of the pioneers in relaxation training was Edmund Jacobson. His system is called progressive relaxation. It's described in his book You Must Relax!—I've always thought that was a pretty funny title. Another system of relaxation training is autogenics. It's well described in Norman Shealy's book 90 Days to Self-Health. There's also a good cassette tape, Autogenic Training, by Vera Fryling, and a good anthology of approaches to relaxation is John White and James Fadiman's Relax. My favorite book on preventing stress is Ken Pelletier's Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer.

Another approach you cite is developing breathing skills.

Paying attention to breathing is one of the most underrated approaches to body work. The air we breathe gives us life, yet most of us use only 20 to 30 percent of our lung capacity. We've used deep breathing exercises with older people at SAGE, and we've found that when people begin to breathe more deeply, their bodies and minds become revitalized. They become more alert and alive. Depression and anxiety often fall away.

Breathing exercises can also help you relax. Working on breathing can be a way to get more deeply in touch with feelings, too. People who are tense and depressed tend to breathe shallowly. A person in a relaxed, joyful state will automatically breathe more deeply.

The best practical book on breathing skills I know of is Breathe Away Your Tension, by Bruno Geba.

Describe what you mean by neuromuscular coordination as an approach to body work.

As we grow up, we learn to walk and to move in certain ways, and then, in early adulthood, our neuromuscular development diminishes and, unless we become dancers or acrobats, we fall into a few familiar patterns of moving our bodies. Many kinds of exercises, like running, involve the repetition of a limited range of movements and therefore leave much to be desired in the way of developing our full neuromuscular capacities. These approaches either encourage us to perform common, everyday movements in new ways or to move in some totally new ways. Improvisational dance and Feldenkrais exercises are two good examples of such approaches.

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 About The Author
Tom Ferguson, M.D. (1943-2006), was a pioneering physician, author, and researcher who virtually led the movement to advocate informed self-care as the starting point for good health. Dr. Ferguson studied and wrote......moreTom Ferguson MD
 
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