Thoughts on Feldenkrais
Feldenkrais classes create a space which allows a blurring between body and mind to come into play opening up new possibilities.
As things slow down and permission is given to take time, to notice and to observe myself new and subtle relationships and connections emerge.
The structure of the class is like a jigsaw puzzle in which you start by establishing the different pieces and parts which seem separate and disparate, however by the end of the class through the repetition of slow and simple movements the picture of your body and you takes shape in unexpected and surprising ways.
It is like creating a narrative within the body starting a movement with a single part, the index finger, then the wrist, elbow, shoulder spine until they are all connected up inviting your whole body into movement.
The movements are specific and detailed echoing developmental patterns that our bodies made as babies, re-initiating and awakening the parts of us that got stuck or lost along the way.
These are movements we do every day hundreds of times unthinkingly as we reach, turn, walk, breathe, however Feldenkrais breaks these movements down, dissecting each part back to its origin. There is a sense of reversing a process and rewinding it back to its starting point, however functional it might seem the effects are far reaching in terms of how we exist in this world.
The process is like drawing the outline of a picture through the structural workings of the body and then with the repetition of certain movements the picture gradually gets coloured in with the body and breath entering more fully into the process.
Merav creates a clear framework in which I can begin to experience, notice and see myself in old and new ways.
The work invites expansion and space and the possibility to enter the unknown and explore new possibilities.
I watch my body with curiosity as I begin to let go and allow movement to come into existence, through Merav’s direction. I notice how the breath guides me into new movement patterns and possibilities that then ripple into my day-to-day life outside of the class as I make new choices that invite more balance into my life.
The Feldenkrais Method has brought body awareness to me so that I can ‘watch my body in action’ just as it is. It reveals imbalances in my habitual movements that I was previously unaware of. After each class or private session i feel very present and grounded, with heightened awareness.
In one of the first Feldenkrais classes I attended we were laying on the floor on our backs. The teacher told us to move our big toe away from our bodies. When I did this my leg stretched out and I found that my head fell to one side. I realised that my big toe was connected to my head, in fact every part of my body was connected to every other part. This seems a really obvious idea now but at the time I hadn’t thought about it before. What was so powerful for me was that I had learned this through direct physical experience of my own body by experimenting to see what would happen.
This is one of the most powerful aspects of Feldenkrais for me. The fact that we are directed to move our bodies in certain ways by the teacher and see what happens. We are encouraged to do this slowly so that we can really feel all the small changes in all our muscles, tendons, bones etc. as we are moving. One unexpected consequence is that I become more and more relaxed. Also I become more and more sensitive to and aware of my body.
I do a lot of different kinds of physical activity, dancing, sport, gardening and so on. All these types of activity have an external motivation. In dance I am copying the teachers’ movements and trying to make my body conform to a particular way of moving. In sport I am also making my body move in a particular way to a particular goal. Doing Feldenkrais on the other hand allows me to discover and experience how my own particular body has its own unique way of moving. To discover the most efficient and natural way of doing certain movements and also to discover when movement may be blocked or difficult in some way. When a movement is blocked then I have the opportunity to discover new ways of moving that free the blockage.
So for instance I have discovered how to engage my pelvis when walking. Or more exactly I discovered that I wasn’t using my pelvis and when I let go of that restriction and allowed my pelvis to swing naturally I felt an amazing freedom and joy in walking that I realise had been missing for years. Why had I developed that restriction or blockage? Perhaps it was too many dance classes where we were told to move our torso without moving our pelvis or perhaps it was the result of many lower back strains that caused my lower back and pelvis area to tighten up to protect the damage. It doesn’t really matter as walking is now more fun, my whole body is involved and I feel fluid with a swing in my step.
I must admit that when I first heard about the Feldenkrais Method I was sceptical. After all, how could lying on the floor making simple movements have any lasting effect? Or having a Feldenkrais practitioner gently move your shoulder, or arm, or foot – what good would that do? I’m not a dancer and aside from sports I’ve never been involved in movement-related activities. Like many people I thought that physical improvement had to come from hard, high intensity training. But I’d heard from others that the Feldenkrais Method could literally change your life, and was persuaded to give it a try. A year on, I have to say that I’m a convert and that my earlier scepticism was misplaced. An hour lying on your back, following Merav’s instructions and doing low-effort movements, can leave you relaxed, standing taller, feeling more grounded. The effects last, and they are cumulative. Like all good things, long-lasting consequences take time – they don’t happen overnight – but if you give it time you come away not only with a “better” body, but with an enhanced awareness and understanding of your own physiology.
Reading Moshe Feldenkrais’s books provides some insight into the method. He was a physicist who sustained knee injuries playing football, and he didn’t want to have surgery. So he thought about the problem from first principles: How could he move with the least stress on his injured knees? Could he change his posture and his everyday movements to accomplish that? He especially thought about gravity and how our bodies react to that overarching force that presses us into the ground. From that simple beginning his “method” evolved, and is still evolving.
And Merav – well, Merav is a magician. Especially in her one-on-one Functional Integration (FI) sessions she will conjure up for you – seemingly from almost nothing, and with little or no effort on your part – improved posture, easier walking, better breathing, release of tension, easing of aches and pains, and, again, awareness. It only seems like magic, though; actually these things come from her deep understanding of human anatomy, her long experience as a dancer and movement expert, and her training as a Feldenkrais practitioner. If you talk to people coming out of a FI session they will tell you that they “have no idea what Merav does, but the effects are amazing,” or that they feel like they are “floating,” or “grounded.” Almost everyone is astounded by the changes these sessions bring. Try it, it might change your life.
For some reason since I was a child I was not comfortable with running. I found it difficult to speed up and had some discomfort in both hips. In the last seven years I have also developed pain in both knees. Then, my left foot also started to turn inwards when walking. Auch.
Turning forty I felt the urge to do something about it. I enrolled in a gym, followed the suggestions of phisyotherapists, and also attended Pilates classes for a year.
These activities were helpful and gave me a sense of well-being. However, it was only when I joined Merav’s Feldenkrais lessons, last autumn, that I really experienced a major change.
Just after a couple of months, my left foot got back to its natural position. I discovered a new and easier way to support my head. I am still surprised how helpful her teaching was and still is to me. And most importantly, how good is this engaging feeling of being in an exciting journey of discovery.
Along this journey I met a few new friends, who became very close to me. For example, my own ten toes. We vaguely knew each other before, but only lately, we got engaged in a fruitful relationship.
Merav’s approach opened new doors of perception making me aware of the range of movements available. Yes, When I said it made “me”, I did not mean “my mind”. It is amazing how new choices of postures and movements spring naturally from the body itself after every Merav’s ATM class, or following a Functional Integration session. New movements and new discoveries mean I feel less pain and more confidence. I find the joy that Merav infuses in an hour of Feldenkrais a refreshing infusion for the mind too.
When I first spoke to Merav, my concern was primarily pain. Now I find myself boldly committed to a journey of an ever-expanding awareness and freedom. And my hips, knees and toes think the same too. We really feel we can trust her vision!