Consent Preferences

Excerpt from 'First Things First' Q&A Session


On March 24-25, David Zemach-Bersin will teach an online ATM workshop "for Practitioners only" called The Roots of Uprightness: Your Inner Reptile. David looks forward to exploring the maturation of our anti-gravity function and the importance of the reciprocal relationship between the extensors of our back and our abdominal muscles for well-organized uprightness.

Below is an excerpt from the Q&A session after David's 2022 Advanced Training, First Things First, in which he talks about how these ideas apply to Functional Integration® lessons.

David: I am in Pennsylvania, USA, and Raz Ori joins me from Tel Aviv, Israel, and Anastasi Siotas from the Mediterranean island of Crete. I'm honored to have them join me so we can have an enriching dialogue between the three of us. Let's have the first question.

Raz: There is an interesting question regarding the workshop title, First Things First. You mentioned that it was inspired by virtual Functional Integration lessons that you were giving during the beginning of the pandemic and how those virtual lessons clarified for you or amplified your understanding of 'What is the first thing or most important thing you should direct yourself toward?' Can you speak a bit about your experience giving virtual FIs and the relationship to the theme and title of this workshop?

David: In terms of the virtual FIs, I could not take my normal stance of dealing with the fine details of a person's situation because I could not interact with or feel the person with my hands. In that vacuum, the lessons I was teaching became more strategic and yet general. Certain remarkable generalities came forward for me.

Most people with almost any kind of acute or chronic difficulty have certain things in common. There is a forwardness to their bearing and a lack of mobility in the pelvis and abdomen. With the limitations of working on the computer screen, a veil was pulled away, and I found myself consistently dealing with these issues of universal and essential importance.

It brought back to me this phrase that Moshe said when I was with him in Tel Aviv one afternoon about somebody he had asked me to give an FI lesson to, and he said, "Just improve the person, not the problem." We don't have to dig very far to understand what Moshe meant by "improve the person and not the problem;" when a person's self-organization improves, their difficulty will spontaneously improve.

You see, Moshe was not talking metaphorically. He was not being the Zen master I thought he was when I was 24 years old. He's meaning literally improve the person, and that is not an abstract idea. In both the Elusive Obvious and Body and Mature Behavior, Moshe offers us a roadmap for what he believes is the best or ideal organization for enabling effective, healthy movement and action. And, as long as a person's center of mass is forward, and their abdominal muscles are over-contracted and held, that best organization cannot be achieved. It is impossible.

When I presented the idea of this workshop to Anastasi and Raz, I said that I wanted to make an argument and put down a flag to say: If we want to help the person improve their organization, we must first address their ability to mobilize their pelvis and lower back. Because without this, it is impossible for their head, neck, and teleceptors to be free. In other words, this is the essential nugget for being an effective Practitioner.

Anastasi: David, I'd like to connect the idea of improving the person with your observations in working remotely. First, you're seeing them in a two-dimensional way, yet somehow your years of experience of touching informs a three-dimensional way of viewing through a two-dimensional medium. You are seeing the person in 3D, even though you're apprehending this 2D image as the person appeared to you, and you could see certain common elements, like the forwardness. Even though you were looking at a screen, the people were revealing something essential about their organization, and I think that's where you made the connection, and it became evident and obvious to you.

David: Exactly!

Raz: On one hand, you are presenting a fundamental concept, but on the other hand, the repertoire of the Functional Integration lessons that you demonstrated are not so trivial for many Practitioners. In trying to bridge how to apply these Functional Integration schemas, how do you adapt these lessons to the general public? And how do we adapt these ideas even when working with an older population or people with more restrictions?

David: Well, that is where the important idea of successive approximations comes to the fore. If we set aside the complexity of the lessons that were filmed and shown, there was a repeating idea throughout, which had to do with the mobilization of the lower back, the inhibition of the abdominals, and the extension through the spine growing and the head and neck being able to come up and back relative to how the person is usually, habitually. That was a repeating idea in every one of the FIs I demonstrated.

So, can I use that strategy if I am working with someone and they are only comfortable lying on their side? Well, can I bring the pelvis back? Can I bring the head back a little? Can I work with that idea that Moshe explicates in many, many beautiful ATM lessons? For example, sticking the tush out and taking the head back, like in Alexander Yanai 524.

For example, lying on the side, can an older person bring their arm back slightly? Oh, that's painful? Well, maybe I can put a pillow under their arm. Bringing their arm back even a little engages the extensors of the upper back and the mid back, and now if the arm is back like that and I bring the pelvis back, we have the opportunity for a more coherent and unified extension of the entire back in a less extreme way than what I was doing in the films that we saw during the workshop. 

Or, lying on the stomach, can we begin to work with the idea of simply lifting the head? That's a complex thing, lifting the head. It might even be the paragon example of the beginning of organizing the muscles of the back to act in a uniform, elegant, co-operative way to create the anti-gravity function. Think of how many lessons you know where lifting the head is involved. How about bringing up one knee on the stomach and lifting the head? For that to be done easily, for the head to be light, it must engage the entire back.

By eliciting the whole, you are dealing with things that, from an evolutionary point of view, have stood the test of time, i.e., just taking the head back is provoking the muscles of the lower back to engage. That sounds like a beautiful starting place to me. 

Anastasi: That brings up the whole secondary concept you mentioned earlier about inhibiting the abdominals. How do you take your head back if you cannot let go of those abdominals? 

David: Exactly, it is impossible. There must be reciprocal coordination, and as long or to the extent that there is parasitic effort in the abdominals, the extensors of the lower back will be weakened.

Raz: Many people are eager to understand how to approximate these specific situations, which you demonstrated. For example, a lot of what you did was in the position having the feet standing, having the knees bent, pulling the knee, lengthening from the knee to clarify the elongation along the spine and those relationships between tilting the pelvis forward, the engagement of the extensors and so on. What happens if a person cannot bend their knee? The person can stand the foot on the table, but the heel is very far away from the pelvis. Could you still use some of these situations?

David: Yes, you can use these ideas in all your Functional Integration lessons, no matter how many degrees the knees can bend. I am trying to advocate for something that I think is essential to work with and toward, and that is the engagement of the back and the inhibition of the abdominal muscles so that those big powerful extensor muscles can work in the way that they were intended to or are capable of, or evolved to. 

I agree that when I lengthened through the knee, the pelvis was tilting, the abdominals were lengthening, and the lower back muscles were contracting. But when the leg is long -or legs are long- and I very carefully pull through, am I pulling the leg? No. I am measuring, sensing, and feeling the extent to which that lengthening of the leg is connecting in the acetabulum and tilting the pelvis, and traveling through the spine. 

The pelvis can only tilt if the lower back muscles are able to shorten to contract. The pelvis can only tilt anteriorly if my abdominal muscles are not inhibiting this movement. Now I don't need to bend the knees. That's not what made the lessons effective. It was the mobilization. I could do it from 20 places, from 30 places. Let's not worry about the details. Let's concern ourselves with the larger ways in which the person's organization is improving. This is the path toward improving the entire person and everything they do. Then their problem or difficulty will also improve.

Find out out more about Roots of Uprightness: Your Inner Reptile at Join us live or via recording. All registrants receive lifetime access to the recordings. Scholarships available.


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