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Pins and Needles

By Elise Cheval

What do heads and bowling balls have in common? They’re both round and heavy and can offer a wonderful opportunity to learn how to organize body, mind and spirit. When friends visiting recently from Germany asked us to take them bowling, I never imagined that I would take up bowling. In fact, I thought I wouldn’t be able to participate. Five years ago, I fell on my head while I was skiing and gradually lost significant function in my right arm. I suffered from chronic pain and took three and a half years to relearn how to write. In spite of my disability, I knew I would have a full recovery someday.

That day came, - I arrived at the bowling alley, and was entertaining the possibility of bowling like a child - with two hands! I had so much fun that I returned and bowled again. As the week had passed, so did my fear of re-injury. I attempted to bowl right-handed. When my arm hurt, I switched and bowled with my non-habitual left hand and gave hi-fives with my right hand. I doubled my score! The next time I bowled, I discovered I could no longer bowl left-handed. I knew I was doing something that wasn’t serving me, but I had no clue what. Things shifted when I turned bowling into an Awareness Through Movement® lesson.

I scanned myself and noticed and accepted the elusive obvious that the bowling pins looked blurry even though I was wearing my glasses. As I wondered what Moshe would do, I heard my trainer’s words, “Take off your glasses.” Next, I noticed that I held my breath when I threw the ball. I discovered that coordination of breath and movement was critical to my timing when I released the ball and ultimately my success of knocking down the bowling pins. I felt how much I contracted as a reaction to the weight of the ball.

I practiced sensing how the ball was a part of me, rather than just a heavy object that I had to contend with in order to be successful. The more I imagined that I was one with the ball, the more deeply I felt how I was misusing my self. I noticed how I was contracting in my belly and upper ribs and stiffening my head, neck and jaw. I noticed when I released the ball that I was looking at the floor below me rather than at the pins. When I adjusted my head and kept my eyes on the ball, I slowed down, focused, and threw spares and strikes instead of gutter balls. In a few short months, bowling has evolved from a recreation to a practice. It has improved my awareness of my habit of holding in my belly and tucking in my pelvis when I lift and carry weight in other daily activities such as gardening and my Feldenkrais® practice. Now, I imagine that I am one with the “obstacle,” let my belly go and enjoy what I am doing.

Elise was an immunochemist until she had a skiing accident and gradually lost function of her arm. After she was examined by a physician who practiced Feldenkrais Method®, she knew she had found her life work. She became a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm in May of 1999. She practices in Marin County, California.

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