Alternative Health Inquiries
Karen M. Diefenbach, Holistic Health Practitioner
N.Y.S. L.M.T., C.Hom., C.C.H., R.S.Hom.(NA), & R.Y.T.
An ongoing series of informational & philosophical entries by Karen
A Commentary on the Works of Meir Schneider: Experiential Involvement of Movement, Breathing & Creative Visualization and the Impact Over a Lifespan
March 14, 2017
Taken together, movement, breathing and creative visualization are likened to the life essence of a person (Schneider, 1989). We can’t move without breath and we can’t breathe without moving and within us, is the consciousness or the ability to visualize, to observe, to conjure, to will. We do this all throughout our life, as we grow and develop our bodies and minds. Creative visualization can have links to the spirit; a way to assist in developing our soul, which in turn increases the developmental possibilities of the whole being in its lifespan. Since, I am now in my 50’s, this paper will be devoted to issues, as I age physically, emotionally & spiritually, using these three modalities to address things like stiffness, arthritis, dimming vision, including, maturing and developing. However, whatever helps us in old age, regarding diminished functioning, can help prevent similar things from happening too early in youth. Spiritual development can germinate at any age. Generally, psychological maturity, is happening all throughout our lives.
From my experience, visualization is conscious, unlike daydreaming, but like daydreaming, it uses imagination. It’s a positive form of imagination. Though it could turn into daydreaming, creative visualization’s ideal mechanism is more awake, as it’s purposeful with a specific aim in mind, all being more conscious. This ability can become greater and greater as we age, especially if linked to purposefulness and the greater good. Most of us aren’t born with higher consciousness, we wake up into this desire, as we mature inwardly. Meir’s work has enriched my ability to practice creative visualization on myself and my clients. When I want to form a new healthy habit, I need to visualize it, which can give me an affection for it, which helps me change. This works similarly when exercising…
Movement reflects life itself. When a single cell stops moving, it isn’t alive anymore. So, moving is more in line with things going, flowing and living. Exercise heals and develops us all throughout our life, whether we are learning to walk or trying to keep the stiffness in old age from taking over. Meir’s whole vivacity and practice, as described in his book, Movement for Self-Healing: An Essential Resource for Anyone Seeking Wellness, reflects this attitude that at any age, we can improve, so it’s not just about trying to stay alive, it’s a way to improve our life all throughout, including mind and spirit (Schneider, 1989). Meir is such a good example of how the formula of movement, breath and visualization all work together for this improvement of holistic health he talks about. One of his especially remarkable abilities is in his use of visualization. Creative visualization was integral in completing his healing capacity in actually seeing. Meir was legally blind, when he started his health quest journey, visualization was his launching pad, so to speak, to greater vision. In one instance, he had to imagine seeing the windows on a house and then he could really see them. In essence, creative visualization opened his eyes, along with his use of eye exercises (Schneider, 1989, p. 20).
Improving vision is welcomed at any age, but especially over 40, when even the healthiest eyes start to fade. The eye exercises I started to implement into my life were predominantly, “Palming,” in order to rest the eye muscles and nerves and “Sunning,” also to help rest the eyes, but also to stimulate the retina plus exercise the muscles of the iris” (Schneider, 1989, pp. 15 & 102). Palming helped me sleep, so I often did this in bed before drifting off. It was also interesting to learn about some new habits I could adopt to help preserve my eyes. One, to keep from spoiling my eyes, was to dispel from the unnecessary use of sunglasses, as being in the sun without them can help strengthen the iris, when not too glaring, which opens and closes the pupil letting light in and out when necessary, keeping vision stronger and less vulnerable to light sensitivity or night blindness (Schneider, 1989, p. 105). Secondly, to look into the distance often, while working on the computer or after reading or doing close work, will help to exercise the eye muscles, keeping them fit, while giving certain eye muscles a break, also aiding to preserve eyesight (Schneider, 1989, p. 103).
For general exercises for the body and stiff joints, I tried and taught my clients ones that do the opposite of our habitual movement patterns and those that help work on the whole joint articulation. For example, rotational or circular movements for joint mobility and walking backwards and sideways; rolling the whole body; bending sideways etc., all are very helpful in addressing muscles that are not being used well or enough. In other words, I affirmed Meir’s philosophy, which is also mine, if you bend forwards a lot; bend backwards, for example (Schneider, 1989, pp. 121-122). I came up with a variation for walking sideways (Schneider, 1989, p. 122). It goes like this: step, step, and step to the right side, then kick sideways to the left, keeping foot parallel. Then, step, step, step to the left, kick sideways to the right; continuing this back and forth 5-10 times on each side. It can increase heart rate, act as a warm-up and stimulate the hip crease, on the sides of the hip that don’t get enough attention.
It’s more demanding to do these postures or movements which I somehow skip over in my natural mobility, or the ones I am averse to do when exercising, but I experience a sense of liberation, when I work at these underused muscles. My body has changed by using this approach, since my thirties. And, this is a perfect place to practice creative visualization, as mentioned before, and even massage, to help loosen the jams, so to speak, in the body, but also in the mind and spirit, which really completes the process for me. Additionally, “expanding on inhale and shrinking on exhale” is beneficial to throw into the mix, when needing to create more movement and space within an exercise, such as these, as well (Schneider, 1989, pp. 131-156).
Attention to shallow breathing, as we age is a real consideration. Shallow breathing can create circulatory difficulties at any age, but can really have a discernable bad effect on the aging body. Our bodies do regulate our breathing naturally, but with chronic shallow breathing, the body can start to adapt to a less-than-optimal habit, sacrificing some of its full capacity of the operation. Continued unrelenting stress or the inability to release stress, is the greatest contributor to a shallow breath pattern. Sometimes, we go from stressful situation to stressful situation, following a downtime, which is not sufficient enough to expel the residual physical accumulation of stress chemicals (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994). As for me, my unconscious holding of my breath and shallow breathing has remained for years, even after my stressful lifestyle had been changed for the most part. My breathe pattern didn’t automatically go back to optimal on its own, with the reduction of stress.
Taking time to breathe daily, and space to recover, which may well include breathing exercises, will not only bring about this replenishment and nourishment that is needed, it will help bring about balance in our nervous system. It can put us back in touch with what full relaxation feels like and when we especially need to help ourselves recover after a bout of stress. The necessity to learn to synthesize stress is part of everyone’s life at all ages. The earlier we learn, the better in avoiding chronic diseases later on in life like, heart disease and arthritis (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994). I have personally felt more energy, since connecting more with my breathing patterns in this course and doing the breathing exercises. I have also sensed my emotions riding with my body and soul, a sort of wholeness-connection with a sense of freedom.
Some other symptoms of poor breathing even include, cold extremities, fatigue, and foggy brain or cognition difficulties (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994, p. 4). I can see how better breathing could help someone with memory loss, often occurring at retirement age, for example. But, again, at any age, this can improve, possibly by breathing better. Also, the aged need to maintain strength and balance. The only way to build tissue is through nutritive blood, which is circulated more abundantly, by proper breathing. This fact threads throughout most all common chronic disease conditions (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994, p. 4).
Implementing a breathing program has turned out to be one of the most important things I have learned I need to do in my life, and for the rest of my life. My program of exercises to achieve better breathing is taken from The Handbook of Self-Healing: Your Personal Program for Better Health and Increased Vitality. The first part of my program will include exercising the parts of the body that are housing and near the mechanism of breathing, helping increase my air capacity, by loosening and opening them up (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994, pp. 9-10). Then, I will add actual deep breathing exercises to create a “demand for oxygen” because I need to begin to reteach myself to breath more fully and in this way, I can break old patterns of holding my breath, which I have already felt the benefit of recently (Schneider, Larkin & Schneider, 1994, pp. 13-15). I am also realizing perhaps the pain and stiffness in my nearly 52 year-old body may be related to poor breathing.
Engaging in Meir’s program, has increased my understanding of the necessity to move, to breath deeper and to use the power of imagination, in creative visualization, for helping anyone to achieve a greater capacity for the whole-being approach to the healing process. This work has been very supportive, regarding my own body and what it may need to stay healthy throughout the rest of my life. I look forward to continuing to practice in this way and in sharing this refreshing perspective with others and my clients.
Schneider, M. (1989). Movement for self-healing: An essential resource for anyone seeking wellness. Novato, CA: H.J. Kramer Book & New World Library.
Schneider, M, Larkin, M. & Schneider, D. (1994). The Handbook of self-healing: Your personal program for better health and increased vitality. New York, NY: Penguin Books
Copyright © 2017, 2018 Karen M. Diefenbach. All rights reserved.