Upcoming events

Workshops and classes where Suzane is teaching:

 April 21, 2012:  “Easier Turning” workshop, Saturday, 1-3 pm, SE Portland OR, co-taught with Michael Wesson*

May 15-June 19, 2012: “A Better Back” six-week series, Tuesdays, noon-1pm, SE Portland, co-taught with Michael Wesson*

May 19, 2012: “The Balance Lab” workshop, Saturday 1:30pm – 5:30pm, Aurora Oregon

“Easier Turning” workshop, Saturday April 21, 1-3pm, fee $30. Sunnyside Holistic Center, 2450 SE Belmont St, Portland OR. 

Sometimes discomfort develops in your neck, shoulders, or back that limits your range in turning.  Whether you are turning to check your blind spot while driving, or turning to look at a co-worker while typing at the computer, you might wish that the motion of turning could be more comfortable.  If so, this two hour Feldenkrais® workshop will help you learn how to use your WHOLE body in an efficient way to make turning easier and more comfortable.  Beginners welcome.

The workshop will be comprised of two verbal movement lessons with some demonstration and Q&A.  Wear comfortable clothing and dress in layers depending on room temperature.  Bring comfy socks and a blanket or towel (not a yoga mat). You will be on the floor and sitting in a chair. Co-taught by Michael Wesson and Suzane Van Amburgh.

Workshop limited to 8 participants. Pre-registration advised: Contact Michael Wesson: 559-355-5080, http://www.movementsolutions.com/contact.html

 “A Better Back” six-week series, Tuesdays, noon-1pm, May 15-June 19, fee $90, Sunnyside Holistic Center, 2450 SE Belmont St, Portland OR

Ah, the Back.  That part of our “core” that tends to bear the brunt of the pain for other muscles that we underuse or use in very inefficient ways.  Whether sitting, standing, reaching, or carrying something, most Americans, at some point in life, have some sort of back issue.  These six Awareness Through Movement® lessons will allow you to reset the way you use yourself so that your back doesn’t do so much of the work.  Each lesson will explore a different movement pattern where you will bring awareness to how you can gently move in the most coordinated way possible for you.

Each lesson lasts one hour.  Plan to  wear comfortable clothing in which you can lie and roll on the floor. Bring comfy socks and a blanket or towel (not a yoga mat). Co-taught by Michael Wesson and Suzane Van Amburgh.

Class limited to 8 participants. Pre-registration required: Contact Michael Wesson: 559-355-5080, http://www.movementsolutions.com/contact.html

* I am delighted to be co-teaching this class with my colleague Michael Wesson, GCFP. Michael was a computer programmer for 15 years before becoming a Feldenkrais Practitioner.  He developed serious chronic pain issues from computer overuse syndromes. Michael was temporarily disabled and used the Feldenkrais Method® to recover from his injuries. This has resulted in a passion for helping others learn how to use themselves effectively and comfortably to prevent or recover from injury.  Michael completed a four year professional Feldenkrais teacher training program in Santa Cruz, CA. He has been teaching Feldenkrais classes since 2003 and has had Feldenkrais as a part of his personal practice for over twelve years.  Learn more about Michael on his website: http://www.movementsolutions.com 

The Balance Lab,  Saturday May 19, 2012 1:30-5:30pm, $60 fee. Aurora Movement and Healing Arts Center, 14936 3rd Street NE, Aurora, OR 97002

Experience The Balance Lab as a half-day workshop at Aurora Movement and Healing Arts Center, 14936 3rd Street NE, Aurora, OR 97002. That’s about 20 minutes drive south of Portland. For full class description, click to download the printable flyer. Wear loose fitting clothes and be prepared to study barefoot. The studio has a hardwood floor. Presented by Suzane Van Amburgh. To register, contact the center at 503-307-7043, MovementAndHealingArts@gmail.com

Ongoing in Portland OR:

Vital Human Feldenkrais Community Clinic
Functional Integration® lessons with Suzane in a clinic atmosphere. Learn more at VitalHuman.org

Aikido Multnomah Aikikai
Suzane is the Chief Instructor at Multnomah Aikikai. Drop by to observe a group class or schedule private lessons with Suzane.


Some call it our sixth sense –  the kinesthetic or position sense –  our somatosensory system…  It’s proprioception!

Proprioception is fundamental to balance and coordination. Here’s how Radio Lab describes it:

“There’s a sense so essential to our everyday functioning, it is almost impossible to describe beyond… simply being. Or existing, physically. Called proprioception, and sometimes referred to as the sixth sense, it is the sense that the body uses to detect itself.”

Radio Lab talked to one man and his doctor who have an interesting vantage point for explaining this proprioceptive sense. Ian Waterman can describe this sense so accurately because he is one of the few people in the world to have lost it. Ian and his doctor, Jonathan Cole, pressed themselved into the world’s smallest BBC recording booth to talk to us about what Ian doesn’t feel.

This Radio Lab segment is called “The Butcher’s Assistant”: http://www.radiolab.org/2006/may/05/the-butchers-assistant/

I recommend the entire Radio Lab episode entitled “Where Am I?”  Here is a brief overview of the one hour show:

“How does your brain keep track of your body? We examine the bond between brain and body, and look at what happens when it breaks. First, author and neurologist Oliver Sacks tries to find himself using magnets. Then, a century-old mystery: why do many amputees still feel their missing limbs? We speak with a neuroscientist who solved the problem with an optical illusion. Up next, the story of a butcher who suddenly lost his entire sense of touch. And we hear from pilots who lose consciousness and suffer out-of-body experiences while flying fighter jets.”

Radio Lab can be accessed on the web at radiolab.org or you can subscribe to their podcast. It is also broadcast on public radio.  

The term proprioception is sometimes used interchangeably with “kinesthetic sense.” This article on wikipedia explores the distinction.

Proprioception is one of the three major sensory inputs the brain integrates in order to maintain our balance. The other two are vision and the structures of the inner ear (referred to as our vestibular system).  If one sensory input is compromised or weakened, then we rely on the other two more heavily to determine where we are in space and how we need to adjust to maintain balance. Typically we rely on vision heavily. To prove this to yourself all you have to do is stand on one leg with your eyes closed. For most people it is much more difficult to maintain balance than with eyes open. However, some people have developed their proprioceptive sense to such a degree that vision is not critical to their ability to stay balanced.

For most people our proprioceptive ability reaches its zenith somewhere between the ages of 15 and 25 years old. After that point it begins to decline very gradually. Little by little we limit our physical activities to what feels safe to do. However, some people actively train this sense. High wire walkers like Karl Wallenda maintain excellent balance skills into old age. You don’t have to be a circus legend to have good balance as you grow older. Anyone can cultivate their proprioceptive skills and improve their dynamic stability!

Explore the other pages on this website and begin the journey!

Otago Exercise Programme to improve balance

The Otago Exercise Programme (OEP) was developed at the University of Otago in New Zealand.  

“The OEP was designed by the Falls Prevention Research Group at the University of Otago Medical School. It consists of a series of leg-strengthening and balance-retraining exercises that get progressively more difficult as you get stronger. It also involves a walking plan. …  The OEP helps to stop you falling if you have weak legs or impaired balance.  It has been shown to reduce your chances of having a fall by 35%. It also reduces the severity of injuries from falls.

> The entire Otago programme can be found and downloaded as pdf at this link: http://www.acc.co.nz/PRD_EXT_CSMP/groups/external_providers/documents/publications_promotion/prd_ctrb118334.pdf

The Otago Programme PDF is also available in Dutch: www.nvfgnet.nl/

> The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) in New Zealand offers information and tips for preventing falls:


>Southwark and Lambeth in London UK uses the Otago Exercise Programme as part of their approach to addressing falls in older people.

“SLIPS (Southwark & Lambeth Integrated Care Pathway for Older People with Falls) is an integrated falls service across health, social, voluntary and leisure sectors in Southwark and Lambeth. …  Under a standardised care pathway, SLIPS aims to deliver a consistent service across the two boroughs. All patients passing through the service receive the same access to falls assessment and treatment, and are provided with individually tailored falls management programmes to suit their specific needs.”

Learn more at: http://www.slips-online.co.uk/healthcareprofessional/otago.aspx

> The Otago Exercise Programme is recommended on the Evidence-Based Nursing website: 

“Evid Based Nurs 2011;14:76-78 doi:10.1136/ebn1157

The Otago strength and balance exercise programme lowers the risk of death and falls in the older people at 12 months

Implications for practice and research:

  • ▪ The Otago exercise programme (OEP) can be recommended by nurses for independently ambulant community-dwelling older people, particularly those 80 years and above.
  • ▪ Community health nurses could consider undertaking training, where available, to deliver the OEP.

Falls are a significant threat to the safety, health and independence of our older citizens. 1 Falls are relatively common, with about one-third of people aged 65 years and above experiencing at least one fall annually. 1 2 A constellation of adverse health outcomes can follow, including serious injury; increased mortality risk; erosion of overall health status, confidence, mobility and independence; and decreased quality of life. 1 2  There is robust evidence that exercise can reduce falls particularly among community-dwelling older people, …

Read more at: http://ebn.bmj.com/content/14/3/76.extract

> Research study on the Otago Exercise Programme:  

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008 Oct;56(10):1821-30. Epub 2008 Sep 15.

Otago home-based strength and balance retraining improves executive functioning in older fallers: a randomized controlled trial.

Liu-Ambrose T, Donaldson MG, Ahamed Y, Graf P, Cook WL, Close J, Lord SR, Khan KM.


Centre for Hip Health, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. teresa.ambrose@ubc.ca



To primarily ascertain the effect of the Otago Exercise Program (OEP) on physiological falls risk, functional mobility, and executive functioning after 6 months in older adults with a recent history of falls and to ascertain the effect of the OEP on falls during a 1-year follow-up period.

The above excerpt can be found on PubMed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18795987

The research study can be read in detail here.

Coordination – Paris street artist video

What is “coordination?”

The Dictionary states:

The organization of the different elements of a complex body or activity so as to enable them to work together effectively. The ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.

Wikipedia reveals:

Motor coordination is the combination of body movements created with the kinematic (such as spatial direction) and kinetic (force) parameters that result in intended actions. Such movements usually smoothly and efficiently work together. Motor coordination can occur between subsequent parts of the same movement and movements of  several limbs. Motor coordination involves the integration of processes ranging from how muscles interact with the skeletal system to neural processes controlling them both in the spine and the brain.

Let’s look at a delightful example of motor coordination in this short video:

A street artist in Paris performs an example of refined coordination and muscular control !

Reversible shoulder roll slow motion

This video demonstrates the slow motion shoulder roll recognizable as the forward roll practiced in the martial art of Aikido. The video cites the Russian Systema training as one of the origins of this conditioing exercise. This practice is also found in the Feldenkrais Method‘s Awareness Through Movement® lessons. Sometimes called “the judo roll lesson,” this practice emphasizes the reversibility of motion and the attention required to move slowly and smoothly.

The balance beam

If your practice in tandem stance is not offerring enough challenge for you, here are some advanced ideas from athlete Vanessa Alter 😉
The “tandem stance” balance exercises evolve to Olympic level precision and performance in the video below. I recommend turning down the audio voiceover.

Tandem stance redefined!

Sustained attention skill

I’m not sure who this is or where it was recorded. This is a feat of balance with objects. Clearly he has cultivated his attention skills!

Do you know more about this performer? please leave a reply below.