Michelle Mark Neuroplasticity

“Nothing is permanent about our behavior patterns except our belief that they are so.”

MOSHE FELDERNKRAIS

MY PERSONAL STORY


I have been a mover and shaker since I was born.

Growing up in Toronto, Ontario I was involved in every sport available to me. I was enamored with training, health and rehabilitation. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in this field and enrolled at the University of British Columbia eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Human Kinetics in 2006. During this time, I spent as much time moving as studying. I was a varsity track and cross country athlete, but for the first time in my life I had to be still, studying more than moving, in order to achieve academically. I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, depressed and out of sorts. I was diagnosed with ADHD and bounced from one doctor to the next seeking an alternative approach to medication. They offered me none. I tried several medications but didn’t like the dependency, sensations and side effects.

I became a Kinesiologist at a boutique gym after graduating. I soon realized I am not a fan of gyms or weight lifting. I decided to further my education to expand my knowledge of the human body, disease and recovery. I completed my Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Calgary in 2009 and began working in Vancouver’s DTES with HIV and HepC infected IV drug users. I was still shifting from one career to the next, filling my brain with information and my filing cabinet with certificates, but still feeling unsatisfied.

Neuroplasticity Michelle Mark

I became a mother while living in Squamish, BC to one sweet boy, and then a girl, and then yet another girl… in just 4 busy years! My nursing career was put on hold as I cared for my own little people. My idea of “health” began to shift as I listened to the stories of moms around me struggling with incontinence, prolapses and the overwhelm that comes hand in hand. I learned hypopressives and downtraining techniques that were so foreign to my usual pace. I became very interested in women’s health and embracing the need to slow down and to improve movement patterns, before going fast again (if at all). I was amazed at how many women wanted to rush back into exercise when they had no idea how many muscles were compulsively firing even at rest. Or that their incontinence could be caused by pelvic floor muscles that were too strong and undifferentiated! Who knew! I invested heavily in studying from the best in the pre and postpartum fitness field.

We moved to Victoria, BC and I began offering my help as a Kinesiologist to pre and postpartum women who were looking for guidance in their movement journey. I struggled with most women wanting to get stronger and fitter when I could see their muscles were compulsively firing at rest. They needed to learn to do less but these habitual patterns were so ingrained that they were completely unaware of them. How could I help them stop doing something they didn’t even know they were doing?

As I helped women recover from birth, I realized my own family was in dire need of some help and healing. As new and young parents we were navigating uncharted territory. Night terrors, atypically long and violent meltdowns, extreme anxiety, sensory processing issues, insomnia, constipation…the list goes on. We visited medical practitioners, ran tests, bought seamless socks, special shoes, tagless pants, hired parenting coaches, went to family counsellors, modified diets and yet as we addressed each issue individually it seemed something else got worse.

Every day felt like one long meltdown. I felt completely isolated from other parents who were seemingly enjoying parenthood.

One day instead of habitually running hard and fast to escape my frustrations, I ventured into a movement class that was recommended at a postpartum fitness workshop. They said it was amazing but provided no explanation. It was the Anat Baniel Method® of Neuromovement®. In this class we rolled around like babies, gently turned our eyes from side to side and pursed our lips as we pushed on our feet. I had no idea what we were doing or why, which baffled me after all these years of studying. I was fascinated with how hard I found it to move slowly and gently. The sensation of connecting with myself was so foreign but so long overdue. When I stood up, walked home and returned to my busy life, I was blown away by the clarity and calm that enveloped my mind.

This was a calm I had only experienced with ADHD medications in my youth. How had moving slowly and gently calmed my mind to a pharmaceutical likeness, and how did this blissful sensation linger for days with no yucky side effects? I came for the movement but I returned for the impact this class had on my mind. I felt my brain was changing before I had ever heard the term neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity and recovery

My research into neuroplasticity took off from there. I continued the group classes and began to read every book I could find. I started with the pioneer of this work and Anat Baniel’s first teacher, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. “Awareness Through Movement” and “Body and Mature Behaviour”. And then I moved onto current neuroscientists’ books: Norman Doidge’s ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’, and ‘The Brain’s Way of Healing’. Eventually I found ‘Kids Beyond Limits’ by Anat Baniel. I immediately began applying the tips and tricks she shared in her book with my children. The shifts were immediate. Sleep improved, behavior settled, anxiety decreased, and socks and shoes eventually became a non issue.

For the first time since becoming a mother, I felt like things were getting easier.

Before I had even finished her book, I registered for the training to become an Anat Baniel Method® of Neuromovement® Practitioner. I traveled to Nevada, USA to help myself, my children and eventually my community. I completed the basic training to work with adults in 2017. I began to integrate the techniques I was learning into my work with postpartum women. Their habitual contractions ceased, and once they were truly resting they were able to begin the process of relearning easier, healthier ways of moving. In 2017-18 I traveled to California for further training to work with children with special needs. And in 2018 I completed the advanced training to work with the aging population in Vitality and Healthy Aging.

My non-linear journey is a perfect example of how we learn. I explored variations, pursued some and ditched others. I had flexible goals, wanting to learn more but unsure of exactly what. I embraced and am still mastering the art of slow. I do movement lessons every single day. And I have slowly reintroduced running into my life but I am no longer running away from something but instead mindfully with awareness and presence. My desire to learn continues because as Einstein said “once you stop learning, you start dying”.

I represent hope, possibility and change. I have spent years exploring the wonders of neuroplasticity and how to unlock your brain to it’s true potential. My love for movement and fascination with brain plasticity will drive my career for years to come. I continue to offer services for pre and postpartum women with Neuromovement® weaved into hypopressives and strength based rehabilitation. The majority of my practice is devoted to Anat Baniel Method® of Neuromovement® lessons. I welcome adults and children of all ages and abilities to contact me if you are looking for a supportive, positive environment that focuses on possibilities.

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My studio can be found in vibrant Cumberland, BC.

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