2 images on the left is a headshot of Joan Pacos Jordan and on the right is a photo of her assisting a woman lying on her back

Learn Gentle Movement to Release Tension & Explore Self-Image

March 15, 2019

As we develop our awareness and become more mindful of how we move, we begin to recognize unnecessary tensions and inefficient habits that get in the way of our health and well-being.

– Joan Pacos Jordan

We’re looking forward to our third month of Unplugged, a new program that invites participants to slow down, unwind, and experience the museum in new ways.

On March 15, Joan Pacos Jordan, a Feldenkrais© practitioner, will lead us through a series of mindful movement routines in Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze. You’ll never look at art, or yourself, the same way again. Please wear comfortable clothing; yoga mats and chairs will be provided. Unplugged is included with general admission.

I recently asked Joan a few questions to get to know both her and her practice better as we anticipate our time with her in the galleries.

Molly Medakovich: You have a long relationship with the Denver Art Museum. Tell us about the various hats you’ve worn here.

Joan Pacos Jordan: Before I started out working in the education department back in 1980 scheduling school tours part time, I had never set foot in an art museum. My being a “novice” made me the perfect candidate for testing out educational material. After a few years, I went off to massage school in California. Upon completing my training, I returned to the museum part time while building my massage practice. At about the same time period, word processing and computers made their appearance at the DAM. I began using them to produce educational materials for use in the galleries. As technology evolved into interactive touch screens and websites, I used them to educate and communicate with visitors.

All the while I continued with my massage therapy practice and learning new techniques and tools (acupressure, OrthoBionomy, Reiki and Feldenkrais©) to help guide my clients towards wellness.

Now, it seems I’ve come full circle. I’m so happy to be combining my passion for health and wellness with my love of teaching at the DAM.

MM: What is the Feldenkrais Method©?

JPJ: The Feldenkrais Method® is a powerful and revolutionary approach to improving your life that uses gentle, mindful movement to bring new awareness and possibility into every aspect of your life. During Feldenkrais® lessons, students explore through gentle, non-habitual movements what it would be like to move with optimal ease and efficiency. This often leads to less pain and improved physical skills. Movement is used as a vehicle for awareness, just as the breath is used in meditation. As we develop our awareness and become more mindful of how we move, we begin to recognize unnecessary tensions and inefficient habits that get in the way of our health and well-being.

I was struck by how Jordan [Casteel] seemed to capture the essence of these real and everyday people in her paintings. I immediately felt connected to their humanity.

– Joan Pacos Jordan

MM: What initially drew you to it?

JPJ: After 20 years of computer work and practicing massage, I developed some unhealthy ways of using myself which led to pain and chronic tension. Various exercise programs and lots of bodywork helped, but weren’t changing the deep neurological habitual ways of moving that were at the root of my pain and tension. The search for more effective solutions led me to a Feldenkrais® training which helped me explore, unwind, and replace unhealthy postures with more effective ways to move and do my work.

What I didn’t expect to experience during my training were the deeper, more profound aspects of this method. Moshe Feldenkrais considered his work as a way to optimize human potential. This work provided me the vehicle to know and better understand myself, not only in how I move but how I interact with myself and my world. It helped me to clarify my self-image, which allowed me to actualize my dreams, one of which was to bring this work to the DAM.

MM: What is it about Jordan Casteel’s paintings that grabbed your attention as you thought about leading a Feldenkrais® session at the museum?

JPJ: I was struck by how Jordan seemed to capture the essence of these real and everyday people in her paintings. I immediately felt connected to their humanity. When I watched the video Jordan Casteel Stays in the Moment on her website, I understood how she was able to communicate this humanity from a photograph later in her studio. It required mindfulness and for her to slow down enough to feel what it was like to be present with someone in the moment. She likes to see those that are unseen. In my “Mindful Movement & Self-Image” program we’ll begin the process of seeing ourselves more clearly from the inside out.

MM: What are you most excited about in regards to bringing your practice into the galleries?

JPJ: I am very excited that the museum is bringing health and wellness into their programming, and I can be a part of it! I love the idea of providing an opportunity for museumgoers to bring a deeper awareness and sense of themselves to their gallery experience. By embodying their own humanity, it enriches their connection to the art and artists.

Many people, including myself, get fatigued standing for long periods of time in the galleries. The flexibility and self-awareness gained from the gentle movements lead to more physical comfort, which would make their gallery experience enjoyable.

MM: What are your favorite ways to unwind on any given day?

JPJ: I love starting my day with 20-30 minutes or so of meditation and Feldenkrais® movements. The mindfulness I gain brings my focus inside instead of what I need to do or handle that day. By listening to my body and doing small, gentle movements that feel good, I’m setting the stage for how I do the rest of my day. From this place, I tend to see creative options and think outside my habitual ways of doing things. At the end of day, I’m often pleased to find out how well a difficult situation ended up.

Molly Medakovich is a teaching specialist for adult programs in the learning and engagement department at the Denver Art Museum. Molly has been at the DAM since 2012, and her favorite painting in the collection is Gustave Doré’s The Family of Street Acrobats: the Injured Child.