High Learning

Improve Yourself, Improve Your Life

For when you know you need a change, but you're not sure where to get started...

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen February 20, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Students learning the Feldenkrais Method at the Jung Center

Image: Troy Fields

Connect Mind and Body at the Jung Center

“No stretching, no pushing, no trying.” That’s the refrain of instructor MaryBeth Smith as she leads a half dozen students through the Feldenkrais Method in a drafty room inside the Jung Center. Smith speaks in the soft, even tone of a masseuse, offering just enough instruction to keep me focused and mindful.

As we lie supine on surprisingly comfortable mats, the series of slow, deliberate movements required are so minor, so embarrassingly basic, that it seems impossible for them to have the intended effect on the body, posture or movement. Lean your bent leg to the side, roll your chin up, circle your arm below the elbow—it’s like the anti-yoga.

And yet at the end of each series, Smith directs us to return to lying flat and feel how the pattern of pressure of our bodies against the floor has changed. In my first class, I felt pressure at the base of my spine slowly dissipate. It was akin to discovering the absence of an unnoticed strain, like the palpable silence when an air-conditioner goes off.

“It feels different, but I don’t know why it feel different,” I told Smith as I paced the room at the end of class, feeling strangely light and aligned. “That’s all right,” Smith assured me. “No one does.” 

De-Clutter Your Life at the Women's Institute of Houston

If the global trend toward minimalism has taught us anything, it’s that our stuff is just in our way. Learn how to make like Frozen and let it goooooo in “Clutter-Busting: Clearing Physical and Mental Clutter for Renewed Energy,” where you can learn practical solutions to eliminating extra things, as well as breaking the psychological habits that keep us from simplifying our lives.

Hone Those Computer Skills at the Houston Public Library

“If you have any questions about your new smartphone, just ask any fifth-grader,” the man at Sprint told our mom. But as she doesn’t know a ton of fifth-graders—and stopping random ones on the street tends to be frowned upon—she needed a Plan B. Enter the Houston Public Library system, which offers free digital-literacy classes at 19 regional branches, many in both English and Spanish. Whether you’re learning the basics of email and the internet, or you want to brush up on a specialized skill—think blogging, digital photography or selling on Etsy—the library’s got you (and your mom) covered.

Get Moving at the YMCA

The YMCA offers hundreds of classes free with membership, from belly dance at The Woodlands YMCA at ShadowBend to water jogging at Monty Ballard YMCA at Cinco Ranch. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with BodyCombat, an empowering cardio workout inspired by muay thai, tae kwon do, boxing, tai chi and karate—it’s one of the Y’s most popular offerings, taught over 60 times a week across Houston.

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