September 14th 2008 - Discovering Feldenkrais Fitness
The Feldenkrais® Method of fitness is a consciousness. It can become a system of intellect within oneself. It creates an awareness of expanding and qualifying self-use of actions in one’s experience, allowing for more use of the whole self in supporting the action. These qualities consist of what arises within us, from our thoughts and emotions, to the sensations of the finer moving parts connected in the pattern of movement through the whole body. It trains the mind to relax, to experience the quality within oneself, and to access clarity of observation and experience in oneself. This experience is provided through a learning environment and system of movement with which we each inherently begin life. It is modeled upon our early exploration patterns of developing recognition, therefore moving with intention.
It is not a form of fitness that can be compared to methods designed for a workout, therapy, stretching, building muscle and/or obtaining a goal. It cannot be compared to yoga, pilates, physical therapies or massage, or be held in limiting beliefs that it is useful only for certain conditions, e.g., re-habilitation. It is the method that one would consider exploring if they desired to do these other methods with more understanding of their own dynamic movement and patterns, thereby creating more ease and ability, from balance to counterbalance. It is a whole system that would enable more flexibility, articulation and intelligence in how one would attempt and participate in these other methods. The resulting benefits of a Feldenkrais® practice could be the experience of re-habilitation, better sleep, more efficiency sitting at a computer, walking or running with more ease. It is an open system of learning designed for learning through one’s own personal experience and development time table. The only rules, judgements and constraints are ‘self-imposed’ in this system.
I personally was introduced to Feldenkrais® through a yearning to develop my femininity. I began belly dance classes and found I could not keep left from right straight nor could I follow the movement pattern reflected back in a mirror. Combined with this confusion and frustration I found that the tiny model in the skimpy outfit was a constant reminder of my increasing age and body size. A new instructor was recommended, however, this was a combined Feldenkrais /belly dance class, so I
would impatiently follow along with the Feldenkrais until we could bellydance.
On my first skiing trip, on the hill I realized that my right arm was bent while holding the pole in the snow without any intention of releasing. I was only able to turn one way and it worsened with my increasing anxiousness. I recognized on some level I did not trust myself in a way that supported me. Not only was my right side dominant, it appeared to be controlling my movement patterns on a level that had no reasoning or connection to my logical thinking. This sparked my curiosity and interest in movement. I recognized my movement was contributing to controlling my choices and emotional levels. Thus began my serious relationship with The Feldenkrais® Method. In a few lessons, I knew this method would allow me to follow my curiosity without labeling or making it ‘about something’. I was looking for learning and understanding that resembled what I experienced sitting on my meditation cushion, watching my thoughts without judgement or criticism, and finding a peaceful gentleness. During my four year training in Awareness Through Movement® our Educational Director, Jeff Haller would lead us through a self body scan while lying down. I would have tears in my eyes. This was the experience I yearned for, taking myself into myself.
It was developed by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais through his own curiosity, grounded in his personal wisdom and intellect through his practice in science, engineering, judo and soccer. Moshe took the illusive qualities of wisdom and connection, and provided intelligent understanding through the ability of developing the experience of self-discovery. Self discovery is the relationship one has in connection to his environment, how one perceives this environment and the resulting responses within.
The Feldenkrais ® Method can be enjoyed in two ways with a Practitioner. In a group lesson called Awareness Through Movement® or in a private lesson called a Functional Integration®. In a group lesson you are gently lead through a series of movements to explore your individual movement patterns. Privately, the practitioner will use a combination of gently facilitating movement to guide you through movement.
Try this simple Awareness Through Movement® lesson. Repeat steps 4 to 6 times slowly with 20% of your usual effort and try not to strain.
~ Sit forward on your chair, knees bent with feet flat under, hip width apart.
~Gently turn your head to the left, pick out a visual marker to go refer back to.
~Gently turn your head to the right. Again, look for a mark to refer back to.
~Face forward, begin rocking side to side on your sit bones. Pick up one sit bone, shift the weight to the other and back again.
~Once or twice lift your right sit bone together while bringing the right shoulder closer to the right hip.
~Alternate and bring your left shoulder closer to the left sit bone as you lift it, bringing them closer together.
~Pause and go back to just turning your head to the left. Notice has this changed?
~Pause and turn your head gently to the right. Notice has this changed?
~Face forward, place right hand on left shoulder, left hand on your right shoulder. Turn right shoulder toward the back and allow your left shoulder to come forward. Repeat 4 to 6 times. ~Pause
~Place your hands on your shoulders again changing which arm is on top.
~Turn and take your left shoulder back to the left. Repeat 4 to 6 times. ~Pause
~Gently turn head gently to the left. Has this changed from the beginning reference marker?
Take a moment and sense yourself sitting now. To where is your attention drawn? How much more of yourself do you sense in sitting? Welcome to the gentle Feldenkrais® Way !
Renee Lindstrom is a Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Director on the Board for BC Network for Non- Violent Communication. She currently practices and also offers classes and retreats on many subjects such as Feng Shui, Energy Work, Talking Circles, Meditations and, Creating Sacred Space. Call 250-592-0938 in Victoria
Inside Awareness for Healthy Living
1618 Clawthorpe Avenue
Victoria, BC V8T 2R8
Issue #66: September - December 2008 EAGLEyeONE Magazine