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NYPD Blue – Through with Stress

By Michael Krugman

As a community service, I have been teaching Awareness Through Movement® lessons at several New York City precinct houses. My theme is “stress reduction and sounder sleep.” The idea is to provide a helpful service to these dedicated people who serve and protect us night and day. This is the story of my first visit with the officers of the NYPD.

The officers assemble in the muster room, about 25 in all, and the sergeant calls them to order. They stand in formation: quite a contrast to my civilian ATM groups, in which students lounge about on soft mats or blankets on the floor! This group is in full battle dress –—hats and coats, duty belts, pistols, and night sticks— ready to hit the streets.

The sergeant introduces me, and I plunge right in. “How many of you ever feel like stress and tension are accumulating in your neck and shoulders?” A few raise their hands vigorously. Others nod in silent resignation. “Alright, this is a simple exercise you can do anytime to relieve it.” We do a test movemen—slowly turning the head right and left. Then we spend the next couple of minutes slowly lifting and lowering the right shoulder in several different ways.

I say to make the movements smooth, easy, and light. “It’s kind of hard,” says one cop, wincing, “with… the gear.” He touches something under his sweater. Suddenly I realize that most of them are wearing bulletproof vests! “Do the best you can,” I advise. They do.

We try the test movement again. General agreement, and delight, to find that turning the head to the right is now easier. “I can see behind my back,” says one officer. “That could be a big advantage in your line of work, ” I remark. “True,” he admits. Everyone laughs.

We do a few moves with the other shoulder, then the test movement again. Now it’s easier to look to the left, too. Some of the officers express surprise. They did not expect this to be so easy!

I find it very gratifying to see a group of battle-weary street cops slip into a state of profound repose, right there in the muster room. I let them savor it for several minutes, then do a wake up call. We do a little breathing exercise to enhance their alertness, and review the techniques they learned. I take extra care with the sleep technique so they’ll be able to practice at home, in their own beds.

As the group disperses, a couple of officers come over to thank me. One tells me he had a stiff neck when he came in for work. “I feel better already,” he says, fingering his shirt collar. Zing go the strings of my Feldenkrais® teacher’s heart! Another officer assures me that my services are much appreciated and sorely needed.

I say “You’re welcome,” but it is I who am grateful. Very grateful to be doing this work.

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