The Mitzvah Technique
The Mitzvah Technique is a movement discipline that was developed by Nehemia Cohen. When he was young, Nehemia was a dancer with the traditional Inbal Dance Theatre in Israel.
While dancing there, he became interested in body misuse and injury. He developed skills in alleviating muscle tension, strain and injuries, and he went to London, England, where he trained to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique. When he returned to Toronto, he set up an Alexander Technique practice in this city.
In his practice, Nehemia spent many years studying the body in motion. He observed animals and children moving, as well as dancers and the Bedouin of the Deep Sinai. The nomadic Bedouin of the Deep Sinai, whose lifestyle was relatively untouched by industrial society, did not experience the same pains and stresses in their bodies as the people Nehemia worked with in Toronto. Their bodies did not show the wear & tear and built-up of stress and body misuse we see in our Western societies. His work and his observations led Nehemia to develop the Mitzvah Technique.
There are three aspects to the Mitzvah Technique: table work (see A Mitzvah Session), the Mitzvah chair exercise, and a series of gentle stretches. When a person uses all three, over time their body will release more and more stress/tension, and as a result one starts to feel younger and more energetic.
Nehemia Cohen identified what he called the “Mitzvah Principle“, which is an interplay of forces that happens between the pelvis, spine, neck and head as we move.
This interplay of forces brings an upward ripple of movement through the pelvis, spine and head, which, with every movement of the pelvis, activates a natural neuro-muscular defence mechanism. This neuro-muscular defence menchanism helps the body to release muscle tension as we move.
This mechanism is inherent in everyone’s body, but in most people it doesn’t function anymore as a result of improper postural and movement patterns, as well as tension built-up and stress.
“In mastering the Mitzvah Principle we can regain that beautiful upward ripple motion of the spine that corrects and exercises our entire body, releasing tension and stress naturally.”
The Mitzvah Exercise
To re-activate the Mitzvah Principle, Nehemia developed the “Mitzvah Chair Exercise“. The Mitzvah Chair Exercise (or Mitzvah Exercise for short) is a set of movements that involves sitting down on and standing up from a chair or stool in a way that stretches most of the muscles in our body. This exercise encourages the use of all the primary joints in our body, as well as the lengthening of the muscles along the spine.
Practising the Mitzvah Exercise overcomes muscle patterns of interference, it exercises the body from head to toe, it releases stress and tension naturally, and it allows the body to move in a more effortless manner.
The Mitzvah Technique is unique in its approach to physical discomfort and pain. Often, pain is caused by tight muscles that distort the proper alignment of the bones in our skeleton. This can happen when we stay in one position for too long (ie. working at a computer), or when doing a repetitive series of movements for an extended period of time. As well, any sudden impact on the body, such as a fall or other accident, leads to a tightening of the muscles around the area of impact, and sometimes throughout the whole body.
Re-balancing the muscles in one’s body by releasing muscle tension and incorrect muscle-use patterns gradually allows the proper alignment of the skeleton to re-occur, thus elimination the original cause of the pain.
Some benefits of the Mitzvah Technique table work in conjunction with the Mitzvah chair exercise are:
- deep relaxation
- relief from pain
- increase in range of motion and flexibility
- increase in ease of movement
- increase in body awareness
- improved posture