Scene at a reception in Toronto.
OTHER PERSON: So what do you do?
I race through my thoughts and I’m trying to pin my wide spread practice and what, in the moment, feels like maybe too-many-branches career, into a title for this person to understand and I choose…
ME: I’m a Mitzvah Teacher!
OTHER PERSON: Sorry, what?
ME: I’m a Mitzvah Teacher.
OTHER PERSON: uhhhhh, oh ok, ya…
Other person starts to scan the room, looking for something less complicated. It’s a reception for goodness sake. Nobody wants deep, difficult conversations.
ME: I help people to feel better. What do you do?
The question is sufficiently answered for the moment and we both happily move on. I can be a good listener and we have a fantastic conversation.
Maybe the person will come to my next workshop.
Maybe they will read this blog.
I really want people to know how the Mitzvah technique can help.
What is the Mitzvah Technique?
The name is confusing to a lot of people. Twenty-five years ago, it confused me, too. I hadn’t heard of it before and I didn’t think it sounded like something for me. Luckily, I had a friend who, knowing I was badly injured, really encouraged me to give it a try. THANK YOU!
Sometimes it is easier to explain what the Mitzvah Technique is NOT.
It is not massage, not physiotherapy, not Reiki, not Pilates, not Alexander Technique, not yoga, not dance. Yet, it is related to all of those modalities. I do believe experienced practitioners go beyond any modality and work with spirit and energy. The Mitzvah Technique has been my way in and I want to tell you how it works for me.
Mitzvah is one of the very few, uniquely Canadian healing modalities. It was founded by Nehemia Cohen. “Mitzvah” is the Hebrew word for gift. It is a gift that you give yourself every time you practice the technique. It is a gift for your body which is a gift for your spirit. The positive energy you start to feel can ripple outwards and become a gift for others. Cohen was the first Alexander teacher in Canada. He immigrated from Israel, via England and settled in Toronto. As his practice grew and he discovered more about how people heal, his technique became something else. He named it The Mitzvah Technique.
Why have I never heard of it before?
It’s relatively new. It is Canadian. And it is difficult to explain what it is. My teacher Ann Tutt likes to use this quote, ‘the Tao that can be named is not the Tao”. How can you talk about something that can’t be named? I’m going to try because I know how much this work has helped me and I think it can help you. But please know, that the words will never be able to fully describe it.
So, what is it?
There are two components to the Mitzvah Technique based on The Mitzvah Principle.
There is the component of hands-on work while you lie on a massage table. This is to focus on and release your individual tension patterns. Traditionally, we are working on the “muscular skeleton” system but with the new research on fascia, I believe we are also unwinding your fascia. The technique works in the same way you undo a tight knot. Pulling on it just makes it tighter. You know, how you sometimes have to push a knot together to loosen it up? It’s kind of like that. The Mitzvah technique gently spirals into the body to loosen the tension and ultimately let the body realign itself. Release and alignment always allow more movement, which brings in nutrients and health and vitality. It feels like you are not just releasing a calf muscle but potentially releasing a new paradigm for living. This can be small, tiny hardly noticable change. Sometimes, its so big there are emotional journeys and deep insights.
When I first started practicing, I thought it was all up to me to control. But I’ve come to realize that the body is the leader. I am just a listener and facilitator. A knot will only unravel when it is ready. Release will only come if the whole person is ready. My work as a Mitzvah Teacher is to listen, offer an opportunity and support the outcome.
In the hands-on component, you get to relax but unlike a massage you are asked to participate, either moving your leg now and then or gently lifting your head up and down a little. It’s a full body experience even if I am only touching your baby toe. Sometimes it feels amazing, occasionally it feels a little odd, and it is always about respecting your body and learning about yourself.
The second Component is the Mitzvah Exercise. This is a simple standing/sitting/walking exercise that helps your body to realign itself. Sometimes there is hands-on assistance sometimes there are verbal cues, sometimes you just do it and figure things out. It is gentle, non-invasive and encourages you to follow the natural flow inherent in your body. The Mitzvah exercise is amplified by the table work and the table work is amplified by the Mitzvah exercise-an Upward Spiral.
The Mitzvah Principle is the natural spiraling flow inherent in your body. There are many other names for it and many other modalities that tap into this flow. For me, the Mitzvah Technique is the most direct and accessible way I have found so far. Nehemia Cohen called it, “the rippling corrective mechanism of the neuromuscular skeletal system” . Most of us, at some point have shut down, or stopped listening to this mechanism. It’s not our fault. Our industrial, computerized, urban lifestyles don’t usually allow much opportunity to truly notice and respect our bodies. Nevertheless, the Mitzvah principle is still there and always available to you.
Here’s two suggestions that you can do to get started right now.
1. Look for the Mitzvah Principle. It is especially visible in small children and cats. Notice the suppleness and flexibility and flow in their bodies.
2. Listen for it in yourself. It’s there and it can help you.
Let me know if you want to do more.