The Mitzvah Technique
A Unique Form of Fitness & Health to Improve Posture, Relieve Pain and Stress & Maintain a Healthy Body Structure
By Kathy Morgan
“We are not born to ache so much”
M. Cohen Nehemia
Something critical is missing in our eternal quest for good health. We pride ourselves in putting so much effort into keeping fit through diet, exercise, sports and a multitude of other activities. Yet we ignore, twenty-four-hours-a-day, a fundamental cause of our aches and pains and deteriorating health – the manner in which we interfere with and abuse our bodies throughout each day – things we all exhibit from early childhood such as defective and destructive postural patterns which build up tension, stress and poor coordination. Most of us remain unaware both of the interference with our body performance and of the damage these things cause to our health. These kinds of problems affect all of us from the very young to the old. Unfortunately most of us have grown up not knowing that there is a better health standard.
F.M. Alexander, who developed a form of bodywork called the Alexander Technique, was one of the first to acknowledge unhealthy postural patterns and their effect on body performance. In the 1960s a professional dancer named Nehemia Cohen was sent to study the Alexander Technique in England. Then returning to his homeland in Jerusalem, Israel, Nehemia studied with and became colleagues of Moshe Feldenkrais, creator of a bodywork method known as Feldenkrais. As Nehemia continued his researched of the human body in movement, he spent several years observing the Bedouin people of the Sinai Dessert. It was during this investigation that he became aware of what he subsequently called the Mitzvah Principle.
What Nehemia saw when the Bedouin people walked through the deep sand of the desert is an exaggeration of what should occur in every well-balanced, properly working human body. When taking a step downward, Nehemia could define an-interplay of forces that showed how the pelvis activated a rippling movement up the spine, allowing the head to balance freely on top of the spine. The mitzvah principle allows the muscles to release throughout the body, which lets the bones move into proper alignment. From early childhood onwards we all interfere with The mitzvah principle – we confine the body, particularly in the long hours of sitting at desks at school, at work, driving vehicles etc., and it thus loses its proper way of operating.
Amelia Itcush, one of Canada’s first modern dancers, grew up in Regina and moved to Toronto to become a founding member of the Toronto dance theatre. It was during her distinguished career that Amelia started having some physical pain problems. While developing her own movement method to address these problems she was introduced to Nehemia Cohen and became his first student. After years of training with him, Amelia was constantly developing a new understanding of the body’s potential to correct itself structurally in order to bring about a dynamic form of posture. She developed new approaches to hands-on table work, exercises, and the underlying principle of this work, and named these developments The Itcush Method.
The Mitzvah Technique corrects postural problems that are often the result of habitual misuse of the body’s posture. These postural faults can be the underlying causes of body and back pain affecting millions of people all over the world and are a major cause of postural and spinal deformities affecting adults and children. Slouching is one of the most frequent postural problems. Most of us have this tendency, to some degree, whether we are aware of it or not. Slouching, sitting at computers, sedentary lifestyles, repetitive activities, trauma, and poorly designed furniture, all interfere with healthy postural functioning. Slouching is a major cause of interference with the mitzvah principle working in the body. This pattern blocks and holds down the upward motion of the pelvis, spine and head. Interference deepens as the head and neck poke forward, the chest squeezes inward, the upper back hunches, the spine twists, downward and the pelvis pushes forward.
Many problems can develop form slouching patterns including tension and stress build up; headaches; migraines; neck, shoulder, back, hip, knee, leg and ankle pain; pinched nerves; joint pain; poor co-ordination; sleep disorders, and respiratory and circulatory problems.
Postural improvement, as a result of the Mitzvah Technique, promotes the release of tension and stress, alleviates pain and traumas, improves body mechanics, mobility, body performance, circulation, co-ordination, concentration, breathing and voice quality, and general health. This technique is suitable for all ages, benefiting everyone from the most sedentary to the most active. The Mitzvah approach to body re-education teaches you how to independently maintain healthy postural habits with gentle easy-to-learn exercises. This type of bodywork brings permanent, positive, structural changes to the body, and you will start to notice improved posture and freedom of movement with every step you take. Doing Mitzvah exercises and walking, the body can be maintained well into senior years.
The Mitzvah Technique is a gentle, non-invasive, hand-on method that involves table work, chair work, and exercises to restore freedom of movement to the body and allow students to have greater physical awareness. It is the one exercise for total fitness and could be the pre-requisite for all forms of fitness and conditioning.
Kathy Morgan is a certified teacher in the Mitzvah Technique as taught by Amelia Itcush. Kathy has a private practice in Saskatoon and offers private sessions, classes, workshops and lecture demonstrations.