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Book Review: Move Into Life: The Nine Essentials for Lifelong Vitality by Anat Baniel

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Anat Baniel is one of the greatest living movement educators in the world.  Currently based in San Rafael, California, Baniel is a dancer and clinical psychologist who spent 15 years studying with the brilliant movement educator Moishe Feldenkrais.  Over her 30-year career Baniel has managed to combine the best of neuroscience and somatic education via Feldenkrais into her own highly effective and easy to implement method of movement and nervous system re-education.

Baniel's work is based in the concept of neuro or brain plasticity,  which is the brain's amazing ability to constantly reorganize, grow, and change throughout our lives as we learn new skills, ideas, and functions.  Over the past century researchers have shown this ability in stroke victims, spinal injury patients, people with late onset blindness or deafness, and with special needs children and adults.

In my own pilates and reiki healing work I have seen the power of brain plasticity in my clients.  I have watched a woman with spinal cord injury dance at her wedding.  I have seen men with severe Parkinson's Disease be able to get out of bed in the morning without pain.  I know for a fact that the power of our brains to change our entire way of being in the world in positive ways is truly miraculous. 

Baniel's website is full of testimonials from medical doctors expounding on how much her work has helped them personally and has helped their patients.  This one from Christopher Ryan, M.D., a Denver specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is typical:

As much as I pore over medical science and research, and as much time as I spend acid testing Anat's statements in my naturally skeptical mind, I have yet to find logical fault or lack of scientific foundation.  I am not swayed by New Age psycho-babble, and neither are my long-suffering patients.  Above and beyond any conceptual fascination I may have with Anat Baniel's Method, the most important thing is that it is effective.  It is effective where other treatments have not been, and it is at times almost miraculously effective where medical science has either given up, or where, out of desperation, painful and often counterproductive measures have sadly become the standard of care.  It helps adults, and it has helped many children whose parents have been told that there is no hope.  The families with previously incurable children are stunning testimonial to the real world utility of this Method.

With all of this technical knowledge behind her, Baniel does a surprisingly great job in Move Into Life: The Nine Essentials for Lifelong Vitality in making all of this understandable for the average person.  The nine essentials all have to do with learning and awareness: moving with awareness, doing and experiencing new things, recognizing the power of subtle and gentle change, opening up to variation, slowing down, being enthusiastic, staying flexible, enjoying dreams and imagination, and being aware.  In each chapter Baniel offers her take on the topic, examples of how this comes up in life using her clients, and exercises to help the reader explore further.  

For example, in the chapter on enthusiasm she coins the term "Eeyoric" to denote negativity and lack of enthusiasm for living as the old gray donkey friend of Winnie the Pooh epitomizes what we're like when we lack enthusiasm.  "Like Eeyore, we slouch both physically and emotionally.  We hunch down, drag our feet; the tone and tenor of our voice drops and slows, and our moods become as slouchy and draggy as our posture."  And then she follows with ways to get out of this trap, to stand tall and shine inside and out.

If you are interested in neuroscience, in movement, and in improved quality of life you must read Move Into Life and try some of Baniel's techniques.  They have worked for thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds for decades and now they can help you wherever you are.

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