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Thoughts on the Book “Body Cognition”

Thoughts on the Book “Body Cognition - the Method
by Prof. Judd Ne’emanHa'aretz Health 10.7.2011
Even those who have come to terms with the fact that one day gravity will defeat our wonderful body at last, strive in the meantime to reside in a well preserved body and not to experience “the death of Ivan Ilyich”. We seek a life free of suffering, without pain, with a sense of wellbeing, and if possible, longevity. However, our body is predisposed to deteriorate and fall apart in strange and various ways, the body’s deterioration is often accompanied by suffering and many strange pains. “Body Cognition” is a method that undermines the accepted ideas and methods of successfully managing the skeleton and muscle system and thereby prolonging the inevitable. Yosefa Michaeli developed an original method with precise instructions on how to improve and refine muscle and joint function and promote proper operation that will grant us a few more good years. However, within the body’s cloak live the internal organs and hence keeping good posture and good body movements are not always miracle cures, a mythological Panacea, guaranteeing eternal happiness on earth. Body Cognition method is mainly a sophisticated study system for the operation of our body’s skeleton and muscle systems aiming to improve the ability of our body to cope in face of the gravitational power pulling us toward the earth and annihilation.
As I persist in the study of Body Cognition, it becomes clear to me that all I once thought to be “right” in physical activity needs a serious rectification. School education, army service and the gym trend have taught us to believe that muscle strength, the ability to move fast, maximal flexibility and stamina are components of an ideal body. Yosefa Michaeli does not dismiss these values, but puts them at the end of the list. First and foremost, she says, that a person must find ways to be free of certain limitations of the body so that he may live a life more free. This sounds vague, but certain limitations of the body are a result of evolution, of man’s transition from walking on all fours to an erect posture which created an overload on the spinal cord. This very development, standing erect face-forward, grants us various new possibilities of motion and action, very beneficial in evolution, but at the same time causes distortions in weak spots. For example, overly concave vertebra cervicales, or overly concave vertebra lumbales. In order to cope with the physical limitations of human nature, Michaeli suggests a few basic principles: consideration of the weakness of skeleton and spine, diversity and balance of movement, continuous movement, moderate and deliberate motion. In other words, we must develop a rich repertoire of movements as bipeds in response to the new and damaged nature of the human body. Michaeli believes that a correct movement is evident in its “beauty, flow, the balance between moderation, power, preciseness of details and attentiveness to the ensemble”. Her method is built on constant learning and practice, but also on listening to our body and being aware while performing daily
Teaching the Body cognition method is a process of investigating and defining the anatomical and dynamic elements of the human body’s movements. Moving forward, as is well known, is first and foremost a direct result of the latent capabilities of the skeletal structure, the joints and the muscles. Each movement is a sort of vector with power and direction that may be deciphered and studied. It is possible to isolate a movement, reduce its components and study it specifically as one of a whole. In the classes, Michaeli repeats an important rule to her pupils and that is “slow is the fastest way”. Movements should only be executed slowly since a slow movement allows listening, linger on sensations and internalize the correct mode of executing the movements. Michaeli believes that it is possible to develop a listening skill much like the skill of listening to music. Throughout her method various imagery reiterates: the body as a swing tower, the body as an oblong between the shoulders and the bottom of the thighs, or a body made up of three cubes riding each on top of the other – head, chest and pelvis. However, I feel that the most challenging image is the internalization of movement as the listening to music. Is it really possible to follow the movements of our bodies like developing the ability to listen to music? Does the body, under the right choreography, play like music? This conjures up the myth of the singing of the angels. What is lighter and more feathery than the movement of angels? It is the “unbearable lightness” of the measured, balanced, moderate movement that is in tuned, repeating with great restraint, with a released breath. It is the movement to long for, the one and only movement in which Yosefa Michaeli
believes in.
Michaeli claims that the erect human structure is not perfectly suitable for all its functions. On the map of the skeleton and muscles hanging in he studio, Michaeli describes for her students the anatomical and functional foundation for all of those things she refers to as “the in-depth look into the human body”. In order to get on the fascinating but challenging road the students must be equipped with a basic knowledge of the skeletal and muscle systems and their pathologies. The awareness of the body is supposed to increase our control of the less than perfect function of the body, to improve and enhance it through diligence and great restraint – all this cognitively. Michaeli believes that it is better and most effective to give direction in words and not by demonstration. The spoken guidance assumes the existence of an autonomous person who is supposed to make his way through the entanglement of movements by means of transitioning from the spoken word to movement, for only thus he may achieve the correct conduct. Shortcuts of demonstration and mimicry disrupt the search, the getting in touch with the inner sensations and the developing the ability to imagine the movement in one’s mind before executing it. The verbal direction also enriches the vocabulary of movement description using the array of imagery mentioned, such as the swings and three cubes, which in turn forces the pupil to reconsider the planning of the movement given the suggested imagery.
Yosefa Michaeli touches an open nerve in our lives – the stagnation of movement and the repetitiveness characteristic of our times, while each action is anchored in efficient division of labor and the enslavement to production lines, even in high tech, the human body loses. The method she has developed and taught to generations of students and teachers constitutes a radical antithesis to the common solutions. Her book Body Cognition which recently came out is a wonderful key to the method as well as a call to go ahead and “rethink the body”. Since I have spent many a day and night in the body laboratories of medical school and later in the surgical ward I take the liberty, in the spirit of Marshall McLuhan’s famous words, to call for a new direction: “the body is the message”. These days when many flock after “spirituality” of this or that kind, it is worth reminding ourselves that the human body is unique in the animal kingdom, our body is the most sophisticated machine to ever develop on earth, and thus we
must listen very closely to what the body has to say.
The writer is a director and producer of films, an Israel Prize laureate of Cinema 2009, has a medical training, and have worked as a surgeon in the emergency room

You Can Straighten Up

 You Can Straighten Up 
by Debora Rafeld-Zilberstein, Ma'ariv 5.6.1998
"On Symmetry and Asymmetry - Juvenile Scoliosis"
by Yosepha Michaeli, independent publishing, 382 pg
"Body Cognition" is a method developed by Yosepha Michaeli (a physiotherapist) for treating the body and its posture. Even though hundreds of people all over the country are practicing her method twice a week and despite the fact that she has been active for decades (40!), the method still lacks publicity.
A possible explanation for this may be that a lesson in the Body Cognition method is a person's in-depth encounter with his/her body on the mat. Or, maybe, it is because the encounter takes place in the clandestine fabric of creation, where the body communicates with the brain and with the senses and emotions in a unique language which repeats itself and at the same time renews itself in every meeting. The last thing you feel like doing after a meeting is to go and tell your friends about it.
If Yosepha Michaeli had not published a book summing up her doctrine of the Body Cognition regarding the treatment of Scoliosis, and if she had not presented here her reservations regarding the conventional method of treating the problem, I would not venture to expose the method publicly today.
The Orthopedic institution, though it had witnessed many cases which benefited from the blessed results of the Body Cognition therapy in the very boys and girls for which it claimed: "Only surgery!" or: "the girl must wear a back brace night and day for two years!", did not bother to inquire about the Body Cognition method even though the method is not some esoteric alternative and is based on conventional anatomical and orthopedic principles. Michaeli describes in detail the irreversible damage in the body of those suffering from Scoliosis and of their self image, which are caused by the wearing of the back brace, within the accepted terms and premise in the orthopedic discussion. It is hard to comprehend why the orthopedic community does not inform their patients of an alternative treatment method, which has certified photographs of success stories
following the posture of persons with Scoliosis throughout the entire process, including X-rays.
The orthopedic institute looks only at skeletal aspect of Scoliosis, therefore, literally "attacking" the skeleton while aiming to treat the disease. In her book, Michaeli claims that the problem is complicated and more complex than that: the skeletal asymmetry is maintained and always exacerbated by a cognitive aspect as well: the brain, responsible for the symmetric organization of the body, "errs" in reading the center of the back. She claims it is possible and recommended to include the element causing the problem in order to resolve it.
The Body Cognition method is designed to treat persons suffering with Scoliosis through movement creating stimuli in the central nervous system which enables the brain to correct the mistake in which it was firmly fixed. Most cases involve young boys and girls, with a skeleton that is still flexible. After understanding and practicing listening to the body, the muscles then can, through a "directed and correct" order from the brain, straighten the skeleton with as much success as when a brace or a rod fixate the spine.
The person afflicted with Scoliosis who is ready to undertake the responsibility of the correctional process to fix his/her Scoliosis and learn to reach his/her correct center (in the meetings open to the public) – find optimal symmetry in the varied positions – will gain, besides a healthy, flexible and aesthetic posture, also the reported joy Body Cognition students derive from the meetings.
The book is first and foremost intended for boys and girls suffering from Scoliosis and their parents. Also, the book is recommended to physical education teachers, physiotherapists, doctors and orthopedics, who are open to a professional, serious and specified approach and are willing to learn from its successes.

 The book: "On Symmetry and Asymmetry"


Price: 106 NIS

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Understanding the Body

Understanding the Body
 by Dalia Karpel Ha'aretz 20.11.2009
The humming of the air conditioner is the only sound to break the silence. 12 people are lying down on mattresses with their hands to their sides and their palms turned upwards as if in prayer. Not a movement. The air is inhaled through the nostrils and exhaled gently through the mouth. In a metaphoric sense, it is a sort of "exiting the body" for examination and to this purpose the first minutes of "the Body Cognition" lessons are
dedicated. Whether while lying down or standing up, the examination is meant to focus our inner lens on the painful or contracted area.
For 30 years now not one lesson has been repeated. According to the body cognition method, there should never be an auto-pilot situation, explains Michaeli. Her priority is the attention and concentration of her pupils that they come out of the lesson with a revelation, that they notice the quality of movement and its correct timing. After the beginning of the lesson you devote yourself to the first movement which will gradually be followed by another and another. The transition from one movement to the next finally amounts to a continuous succession, reminiscent of a choreographic sequence. Michaeli defines Body Cognition movement class as meditation in motion.
She is 73 and is has the best posture in Tel Aviv. Her non-dyed hair is pulled up on her nape in a 1950's style. Her clothes are loose and comfortable and so are her shoes. She carries an air of the simple old Kibbutz style though she was born in Tel-Aviv and lived in Ein-Harod only for five years, until she turned 22. Her voice is soft but authoritative. Erect (but never stiff) she sits on a chair and with that "yosefi" voice controls her pupils, armed with a probing eye and nothing escapes her. Many times her diagnosis precedes those of the doctors. Some of her pupils are a tad fearful of her, but they all know that she knows what she is talking about.
photographed by Uri Gershuny
“The Body Cognition is a method that at its base offers a way for us to train our body and maintain it by listening to ourselves and to all systems in our body, not just the orthopedic ones," says Michaeli, "knowing to identify when a certain body part starts to get ‘out of tune’ and to see if it derives from our life style".
Experience from the kitchen
When I first met Yosefa Michaeli twenty something years ago, I was in the midst of a bad back pain episode. We spoke about the method and she of course spoke of lumbar lordosis, and mentioned that her abdominal muscles are almost always contracted and sucked inwards, so that it has become a second nature to her. I thought then that something is not altogether right with her and that I should nod my head politely. Today, I too, contract my abdominal muscles and pull my lumbar vertebrae inwards.
Michaeli's third book "Body Cognition: the Method," has been recently published (Hargol/Am Oved) and its goal is to present the method, that has been difficult to define from the get go. There were those who wondered if it's an exercise, or perhaps a treatment for all sorts of back problems. Michaeli diligently wrote this book over the course of a few years. The book, which explains in a flowing and friendly manner about the method and its premise, also comes with a DVD containing three sample lessons, filmed by Nili Aslan, a cinematographer who is now also a therapist using the method. The author, Yehoshua Kenaz has been practicing the Body Cognition method since 1984. This week he praised Michaeli's book. "After reading it, I understood the meaning of the things we've been doing in the lessons for all those years." He first came to the studio although nothing was troubling him. The author Benjamin Tamuz recommended the method and Kenaz was curious, liked it, and for 25 years now he has been attending twice a week. "This method inspires a pleasant sense of confidence in the body", he says. "I compare what we do in Yosefa's lessons to a sentence that is formed by a word and another word, and another word, and in the end an entire narrative meaning is derived".
"Slow is the fastest way" is Michaeli's motto, and the word "slow" resonates over and over in the studio. "The quick work covers problems, and people have a tendency to hurry," says Michaeli. "When a person gets used to working slowly he will overcome the tendency to hurry, and will gain something that is beyond the body. Contrary to other methods, we preach not to reach the end of a movement range but rather to leave a reserve. This way we did not harm the body and reached further. Instead of fighting the body we are being friendly to it. You can apply this to other areas in life".
"I spent quite some time in the kitchen and I know. If something is irritating the body, the being is hurt. When you come out of a lesson feeling light and floating, your mood is improved. If you participate in a lesson and improved quality, you will not come out angry and annoyed even if you walked in that way. At least for some time, the transmitters in your brain will awaken. If a person usually tends to move in a linear fashion, and during 45 minutes of the lesson he draws arched movements using his limbs, it eliminates any angle for a while, and also trims the thorns in his brain".
She doesn't go to doctors because according to her, she is in good health. She developed the Body Cognition method through her own experiences. The way our bodies are built is problematic, she explains, and it doesn't help that it has remained pretty much the same since our simian ancestors went from walking on four to walking on two. "We are structurally disadvantaged and as a result we have many weak points. In the past our life span average was about 40 years. We have doubled and tripled it, but we did not get a user's handbook about our body, and so we had to invent it ourselves. The advancement in technology and the prolonged working hours spent sitting have taken their toll. You see a truck driver getting out of the truck after driving for a few hours and it seems the seat is stuck to his rear. A job requiring repetitive movements is harmful to the body as well. All this leads to the assumption that we possess a large brain that knows how to learn and that we should use it".
Learn what?
"A cow gives birth to a calf and within a few minutes it can stand on its legs and suckle. Human beings have little instinctual movements. The Body Cognition does not invent movements but rather teaches a correct physical behavior. We must teach the body from an early age how to move about".
There comes a time in life when a person no longer enjoys his/her body.
"Once a person understands where the discomfort stems from and he invests in the conceptual and practical aspects, he will enjoy the fruit of his labor. Over the years we have accumulated people who came with a date for a spine or knee operation, and we suggested they wait a while and try the treatment, and today they are walking around happy and content".
Professor Ben Ami Scharfstein, winner of the Israel Prize, just turned 90. Scharfstein deals with the varied aspects of the connection between art and philosophy and he paints as well. This week he said that thanks to his relationship with Michaeli he is able to walk. About a decade ago he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis (the narrowing of the spinal canal). "When I came to Yosefa I was no longer able to walk but she insisted, and that's the story. She claimed I could walk and I said I couldn't, and this went on as I failed again and again. One day it worked and I have been walking ever since".
Please explain.
She treated me manually but the main thing was the constant insistence on the act of walking. Today, though I suffer from certain issues that come with old age, I am walking. The Body cognition is a method of naturalness and temperance and that is why Michaeli never wanted to treat professional athletes or dancers. According to her, the very exaggeration is the source of the problems. The second element of her system is flexibility, a flexible improvisation in accordance with the body's capabilities. She can offer 50 kinds of a certain movement and each will be a variation of the former. You go from one move to the next in an unpredictable manner which gives the movement an air of dance. Her involvement with the philosophy of the body and the changing aspects of the link between body and brain is interesting".
In the Scharfstein house resides another Michaeli fan. Gila, the philosopher's wife is a photographer, 81 years old, who underwent back surgery about three years ago and realized she would have difficulty walking on her own, "I call her my true friend because she came to see me twice a week and got me out of my depression. The surgeon said that within a year of the surgery I will be able to walk but only a little. Today I am taking walks around my neighborhood".
What did you do?
"After the surgery I was in bed and couldn't get out. Yosefa showed me how to move my leg. Gradually she designed exercises for me to strengthen the muscles. She taught me how to control my body. Her vast knowledge of anatomy and the nervous system allows her to explain why something is so painful. She set short term goals for me and gave me hope. 'Move your body half a centimeter,' she said, and that's how we worked very slowly".
Michaeli claims in her book that correct movement affects the thinking process as well, and she has a suggestion for a Body Cognition course for the Philosophy students at the Tel Aviv University.
Few landmarks:
…"I was a talented athlete", she says. "I was physical and had good coordination and I could catch a ball and throw well, I would jump and run wild". In high school she played basketball for Hapoel Tel Aviv and excelled in gymnastics. …she enlisted in the army and after her recruit service she was sent to the Paratroopers brigade. "I saw canopies in the sky and wanted in. I didn't have to be an athlete in order to skydive. The skydiving was purely for the sake of adventure. We were three women in the regular skydiving course and later in the advanced skydiving course. The purpose of the course was to prepare an expedition for Moscow". In the summer of ‘56 a delegation of 5 men and 3 women skydivers represented Israel in the skydiving world championship. Among other things, they skydived from 2,000 meters (they had to aim to a circle of a 150 radius while the approximation of the skydiver determined the win). In first place came the Czech skydivers and the Israeli skydiver women had to settle for 10th place.
After her military service, Michaeli began her Physical education in Seminar Hakibutzim. … In Seminar Hakibutzim a physical education teacher by the name of Lota Kristala stood out and had greatly influenced Yosefa. "She was different than the rest of the teachers. She understood the body. Her lessons were neither achievement-oriented nor focused on strength, nor were they of that militant nature of one two three". Yosefa has been teaching exercise and movement privately in small groups since 1961. "I had many questions and no answer as to why it was that when I give a lesson to ten people, one person comes out of the lesson feeling good and another comes out complaining of pain", says Michaeli. She began exercising with Moshe Feldenkrais who has become famous as the one who put Ben Guryon on his head as part of a back-pain therapy for the elderly leader. Feldenkrais used a method he invented and developed, and he gave lessons in a big basement on Alexander Yanai Street. "I participated in the lessons he gave for several years and realized that my salvation would not come from this either", says Michaeli. She longed to have a deep knowledge of the human body and went to study Physiotherapy in the Wingate Institute and got her degree in ‘68. "The main thing occurred in my head. I wasn't content with the link between the extensive theories I have gathered from the different medical fields and the implementation of the physiotherapy. I tried to cater to the problems I came across in the groups I was teaching. My antennas were open, and through consistent attentiveness and a prolonged tracking of the pupils the Body Cognition method was developed. My claims today are based on medical, physiological and pathological knowledge. I am specific and I encourage students to ask questions because through inquisitiveness and research I have found answers. I have studied the body profoundly and learned to identify minute details".  
There are those who claim that Body Cognition and Feldenkrais are basically the same.
"The conclusions we reached through the Body Cognition method are unique – the pillow supporting the vertebra in the neck, the palms of the hands turned toward the ceiling, and much more. Feldenkrais claimed unequivocally that the body is smart and knows how to repair itself. I claim that the body is not smart, and that it came to me so that I could teach it. Feldenkrais objected to the word 'correct', and I say that I know what is correct and what a correct movement is and what an incorrect movement is. You do your exercises and I make my remarks throughout the lesson. That is why our groups are small. We know each and every student. Feldenkrais agreed to teach a hundred students in a class because he never made any commentary. If you do not correct a student, then it really doesn't matter how many people are lying in a studio making movements". 
Michaeli believes that we must not simply get to know our bodies, but that we must move correctly and moderately. Jumping, running and weight lifting do not impress her.
How would you define good fitness?
"Fitness is a social and cultural concept. I believe that being fit is the ability to finish a day's work while feeling invigorated and not tired. Being fit means not accumulating physical problems over the years and being able to walk from place to place at a reasonable distance. It is also the ability to reach a place that has no support, like a show in an amphitheater and be able to sit for several hours without suffering. Being fit is functioning well in life."
Doctors today recommend exercise and walking to reduce cholesterol levels and for the heart – and you are against it.
"Doctors do not understand and do not specialize in the field of physical activity. You can graduate medical school without having worn gym clothes. This field needs to be learned by doing. Everybody engages in physical fitness – weight lifting, sweating, raising the pulse and harming the body. It is wrong to help one system, for instance the cardio-vascular system, and harm the orthopedic system, humans barely stand on two legs, and the joints in the body are not built for running which causes ankle, knee and spinal cord injuries.
"We are a mechanical machine. Obviously the spirit can overcome the physical and we can keep running despite the difficulty because 'I was told it was good for me'. The damage is irreversible.  Doctors, including Orthopedists, do not study profoundly the aspect of physical-movement and do not go into details. I walk along the park and see a man with a bad posture and knees turned inward and he is running or speed walking and it only exacerbates his problem. Those who swing their hands and are unaware of what they are doing to their body. I hear of people with back problems who take up swimming at the advice of an orthopedist. Swimming is an action that contracts the muscles and it does not help the back that is in a spasmodic state. It is best to soften the muscles in such a state. Medicine is not a matter of fashion and I am willing to confront any doctor and any medical system and prove that gyms are harmful".
Perhaps you are wrong?
"People are walking on treadmills while reading or watching television. One must exercise the way one prays, with intention and not mechanically. Generally the problems are in a grey area. You don't need to be an expert to be able to identify deviations such as bad posture. During our lessons it takes a person a long time to identify his weaker body areas, or certain flexibility. But all this is not important. Strength and flexibility are not the goal; they are a means to an end. It is important to walk at ease without weights or a backpack filled with stones. A person should be able to walk a long distance. If you are born with little flexibility, you will not be flexible. A person should act according to his ability and have physical awareness".
Peled Michaeli, Yosefa's eldest son, is 49, has a Masters in Physiology which he completed in New York, and he teaches the method. His sister, Shani Michaeli, 47, is a certified nurse and an obstetrician who has adjusted the method to be suitable for pregnant women.
Peled says: "at the core of the Body Cognition method is the premise that if a person has a problem, we will treat its micro nuances. Sometimes a doctor says: wait a little and we'll see what happens. We believe that postponing sometimes creates a situation where it's too late, therefore we treat immediately".
Yosefa Michaeli suggests teaching the method as early as kindergartens or at least in elementary schools. She has a program ready that she would be happy to show the minister of education. "Kids graduate high school and they have no body awareness. They are taught nothing. They have no idea how to use and live with their own bodies.
Michaeli wishes to teach children about their bodies. "They will learn among other things that they shouldn't stand with their knees locked. I will impart them with these terms. I will explain, using an anatomical map, why it is unhealthy. We will understand the concept of symmetry and will work on what they should do to keep their bodies healthy. The Body Cognition lessons are also spiritual. You learn concentration. You practice taking a subject and focusing on it without escaping to the side. You must be creative and connect between four movements. It is wonderful to see children do this. In the Body Cognition we teach and not activate. They will learn how to loosen up, which is something that no child is exposed to. People finish a day's work without energy because they don't know how to loosen up".
Reading the full version in Hebrew


Slowdown and Marvel

Slowdown and Marvel
by Debora Rafeld – Zilberstein Ha'aretz books 19.8.1998
"Body Cognition  - Nine Interpreted Lessons" 
by Yosepha Michaeli. Independent Publishing, pg 266
In one encounter between my body and myself, which was sponsored by the "Body Cognition Method," years of firmly fixed animosity towards anything that may resemble a physical education class has come to an end. Since the publication of this book I have been presenting it as someone who has literally experienced on her own body the blessed results of the lessons.
Yosepha Michaeli, the author of the book, is a physiotherapist who has been developing lessons in movement for about 40 years. The Book provides 9 sample movement lessons, orthopedically analyzed and explained, allowing anyone seeking to improve his/her posture, health and esthetics to peek into the unique workshop led by Michaeli and teacher-students she has trained during years of research, development and imparting the Body Cognition Method.
In this book, Michaeli does not preach her doctrine in an orderly fashion, but in the in-depth analysis of the lessons and the explanations accompanying each exercise provided, some of the method's principles are revealed, along with the vast knowledge and fresh biomechanical concept the Body Cognition Method has established.
Unlike Yoga or Tai Chi, the Body Cognition Method is not based on certain regular acquired exercises, but on non-repetitive movement exercises and diverse positions and different organization of the physical postures, which joined together, form an almost choreographic continuity with a characteristic structure distinguishing each lesson.
This allows endless variety, and the physical attention the lesson requires enables the experience of the physical subtleties stemming from refined movements which develop with time. Even if a movement is repeated in the different lessons, the new context in which the movement is set gives it new qualities and characteristics.
The name of the method implies the key role which the pupil's consciousness plays in the optimal organization of the physical posture these movement lessons are "educating" towards. The lessons in the Body Cognition encourage the pupils to investigate the depth of the body movement and improve it. The entire lesson is composed in such a way that it "stimulates" the pupils to understand through their senses the process of producing a movement/posture in all of its phases. Our automatic movement patterns are "invited" during the lesson to undergo a controlled inspection and correction, with constant emphasis on the quality of execution, on the in-tuned "connection" of the pupil to his/her unique
body with its limitations and tendencies, and to the reactions the movement provokes.
The lesson usually begins and ends in a standing position, also used as a gentle "transition ritual" from the common movement reality to the intrinsic movement of the lesson, and in the end it helps the body to organize what was absorbed in the lesson for use in everyday life. The first lesson, is just a common posture position, but in the context of the lesson and in the brief comments made by the instructor it is not inferior to the lessons that follow. It demands an astonishing, contemplative attention, on its physical presence in this position which is taken for granted outside of the studio.
Using very few words the instructor reminds the pupils to examine their limbs while standing: how far apart are the feet, are they parallel to one another, are the knees straight and to what extent, is the weight placed on the legs equally? And the sole of the foot itself, the one carrying the entire weight of the body - is the burden of the weight on it divided in a "fair" manner, or is it carrying most of the weight, or maybe it's the other way around, with most of the weight placed on the heel? What is the consequence of each of these options for the quality of the "erection" of the entire body? Is the arch of the feet maintained? Or is pressure being placed on the inner part of the soles? And the toes - are they pushed against each other, or spread apart?
And the knees above the feet - do they tend to point towards each other, or do they point entirely to the sides? Do they tend to lock when straight, or can they be straightened while remaining springy? And how do the hip joints react when standing, what is required of them, how do they come into play? How will we know without a mirror if we are correctly aligned on the symmetrical axis? How do we organize lower back and hip vertebrae? Whether and how they try to join the vertical structure we are building above the pelvis? How should we refer to the lower curve of the spine? Are we exaggerating it and creating unnecessary pressure on some of the vertebrae? Is each vertebra receiving the space and air it deserves? Can we feel from within us, in the vertebrae’s structure of the spine, or are the vertebrae unwilling to move but in "clusters" and as one unit?
The abdomen muscles should work in a standing position so that we may reach an optimal erectness and symmetry. But to what extent? Is the strain placed on them too much? When we attempt to reduce the strain do we relax too much, thus straining the back? How do we correctly divide the strain between the abdominal muscles and the back and buttocks muscles? And what do we do with our hands when they are not in use? Is the elbow joint completely straight? Do the hands know how to rest when no effort is required of them? And the palm of the hand – is it clenched? Is it unfurled? Are the fingers touching each other? Are they resting on the thighs or hanging to their sides?
And what is the position of the chin – the bottom part of the heavy head ball towering on top the body tower – is the link between the chin's position
to the neck's vertebrae clear to us today? Are we aware that when we thrust it upwards we "shorten" the nape, and press the neck's vertebrae against each other? And what about the shoulders? Are they spread to the sides or slightly slouched forwards? Are they aligned? And what is going on with the shoulder blades in the back? How do they respond to changes in the shoulders? How far out do they protrude, to what extend do they correspond with each other? It seems they can be lowered and raised, arched or concaved. It is not simple, you must examine, contemplate, especially since both the spine and the thorax tend to interact.
 At the beginning and the end of a lesson, the simple standing position is reevaluated. In the Body Cognition studio there are no mirrors. The pupils must learn to experience their posture by paying attention to the relationship they set between their body parts, relying on their sense of proprioception (the sense informing a person of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body), demanding more and more information, developing precision. In his senses, the pupil discovers the link between the body parts; on the one hand a body part has an autonomic moving space, and on the other hand it is affected by and influences the position of the other body parts. It is important to know how to isolate as well as how to connect.
People do not like to stand. Most find it more comfortable to walk, and of course sit. But only few can explain where and how the difficulties are expressed in the body. Is it hard on the legs, the waist, the upper back, the nape? Which body part is being strained? Is there one answer for all? What is unique to the personal body and what is universal and general? Nothing is taken for granted. In each lesson one learns to stand again, to distinguish between the different qualities of the experience, and to enter the kind of attentiveness the different exercises call for.
With no machines, on a mat or mattress (for those who find it hard), and no mirror, each of the pupils employs a personal body treatment. They listen to the instructions and try to implement them. In most cases, the instructor does not demonstrate the movement in order to prevent an automatic implementation, thus compelling the cognitive system to take an active part in producing the movement. The pace of the exercise is also not dictated by the instructor or by music. A general instruction is given to work slowly. That is it. Each of the pupils must gradually discover his own personal qualitative pace, self direct throughout  the special experience of the slowing down marvel.
When we find a certain exercise "difficult," what is the reason for it? Is it because we fail to understand what is required, and therefore do not know what to demand of our body, or is the body resisting? And what then? Should we oppose the resistance or "accept" it? Should we give in to our body? Should we respect it enough to demand of it, but "gradually" and not forcefully? Are we able to negotiate intelligibly with a joint refusing to reach the desired range? When is giving in the correct thing to do, and to what extent? Only you can know the answer, if you are in-tuned.
Even though each lesson focuses on a specific body part, the entire body is treated throughout the lesson. The link between the specific body part to the rest of the body will be studied and examined in different variations during the lesson. Holism is not only a motto here. The relation between the different body parts is inherent to the movement experience; it is the syntax of the learned movement language. The suggestion to "think the movement" is also, in fact a consistent attempt to cancel the Cartesian separation between the "self" and "the body", to experience the movement, the sensation, the intent and the control as additional dimensions of the very same thing.
I hope this book will be adopted by the physical education teachers in schools, and that with its guidance they will succeed in turning the physical education classes into a "self" broadening experience for the students, which teaches through the body and the senses that the "how" is just as important as the "what," that the road to the "self" does not bypass the body, but includes it. That awareness and understanding of the movemen of the body is a central stage in the development of our ability to know ourselves. And that is the starting point of wisdom.   
The book: "Body Cognition - Nine Interpeted Lessons" 

Price: 112 NIS

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"I am close to my body, yet my body is distant beyond compare"

"I am close to my body, yet my body is distant beyond compare"
by Nava Semel
Body Cognition – The Method, Movement, Health, Treatment”, by Yosefa Michaeli
published by Hargol, Am Oved 2009
“Do you go to the gym?” I am asked twice a week, instantly I retort: “No! I am a pupil of Body Cognition”.
“Body Cognition - The Method, Movement, Health, Treatment”, Yosefa Michaeli’s new book is a comprehensive study of a unique movement method developed by Michaeli in the sixties. This method has gained many loyal followers throughout the years.
Indeed, Body Cognition is not exercise in the conventional sense, but rather an education in correct body awareness, born out of the premise that it is the proper way, both for physical and mental health. This, while fully grasping the intertwined systems operating the body, including its “Achilles heel” as well as its functions in our vibrant and challenging modern life – as well as the daily pressures.
The goal is “to reach a point where a person’s body functions as a tuned and efficient tool”, writes Michaeli, “just as a machine, if not operated, rusts and ceases to function, so is the case with a complex living organism such as the human body that requires movement in order to be properly maintained and regulate the processes of life”.
The Body Cognition Method’s basic concepts are: posture awareness, quality of movement, the importance of rest and gentle rounded transitions between movements, the central role of breathing, relaxation during exercises and of course the delicate balance between our physical envelope and our inner spiritual beat – how do our senses and consciousness form and nourish the physical execution.
These diverse and vast subjects are laid out throughout the four chapters of the book, focusing on physical conduct and studying of its principles, development of movement and posture through group or individual lessons and an in-depth examination of the human carriage. The book is an ID card of the method and alongside the detailed theoretic discussion, lies a precise account of its practical implementation. “The lessons demonstrate how to choose the proper conduct of one’s body and its long-term implementation, so that the body may become a source of pleasure, joy and pleasantness”, writes Yosefa Michaeli.
Though the chapters are read as a book, each chapter stands on its own, inviting the curious, those seeking to expand the mind regarding the connection between body and health, as well as all professional therapists to a reading experience. If Maimonides were still alive, he would probably join the method. According to him, “Perfection of the body precedes the perfection of the soul, and it is as a key to opening a lounge”.
Yosefa Michaeli established a generation of teachers operating all over the State, among which is her son, Peled Michaeli (who teaches three sample lessons in the CD that comes with the book). The Body Cognition Method is a long-term investment and requires constant maintenance. By teaching correct movement it is possible to solve prevalent problems such as back pains or shoulder blade issues. I too, arrived with a shoulder injury at Yosefa’s doorstep seeking relief.
 The reward, as I personally learned, is tested in time, with the belief that the benefits are received following the investment of persistent effort and commitment which are also enjoyable.
 “The Body Cognition Method” is designed to ease the heavy burden we carry in our demanding day to day lives: ease the pressure on the spine, protect the breaking mechanisms, prevent injuries before they occur and reduce accumulative orthopedic wear and tear.
 With each lesson, the body learns to reach a balance in accordance with our eve changing needs. The body discovers itself by being reconciled, and each exercise is executed through precise instructions and intelligent conduct. The exercises enrich the array of movements and broaden the scope of action of the muscles and joints, particularly the deprived ones that are seldom utilized. No exercise is random or mechanical and it is not a sport’s training intended to turn us into elite athletes or to set a competitive bar. The Body Cognition Method is an education towards a correct movement instinct even in our continuous conduct beyond the lessons – in the real, busy, stress filled world.
It is often that I find myself implementing the method’s principles while driving, or standing in line at the store. As it turns out, my body has already assimilated the doctrine and the faithful pupil knows which movements to choose while conducting a hidden dialogue with the brain, which is wiser and much more inspired than I. I learned one can simultaneously teach the body and study it.
 At the end of each lesson I am reminded of the poet’s Abraham Halfi’s words:
“I am close to my body, yet my body is distant beyond compare”.