The Feldenkrais Method: not a magic bullet (Part 1)
Feldenkrais? Felden what? If that was your first response, you are not alone. Mention the word and that’s the usual reaction. No matter that every physiotherapist in Sweden is trained in The Feldenkrais Method, here, in Britain, even physios might need enlightening. Then again… a physio who was a participant in the first Feldenkrais workshop that I went to introduced herself saying: I know there are no magic bullets and yet…. Feldenkrais is the nearest thing to a magic bullet that I’ve come across.
Magic bullet or not, here’s what I like about Feldenkrais:
* Awareness through Movement workshops and individual Functional Integration Sessions usually involve being in a relaxed position on the floor or massage table.
Caroline offers classes in Oldham (supported by the MS society) where all the moves are done in the seated position.
* The movements explored are very small (sometimes only a centimetre or two).
* The guidance is gentle. Don’t move if there’s hurt or strain or pain. Move with ease. When that’s not possible visualise the movement, imagine your body doing it. This also enables change.
* There’s no right or wrong way to move. No judgement. Just try it. Experiment a little. Notice how it feels.
* No need to analyse or think or even consciously remember. The body re-wires. The body remembers.
* It is a very effective way to get into a meditative state which feels very healing.
After a workshop or a 1:1 the body moves differently. Feldenkrais increases the options, allows the nervous system to develop new connections. The body can make new choices and move with greater ease.
A workshop can be deeply relaxing. See The Feldenkrais Method (Part 2) below.
I felt such benefit from my first experience of Feldenkrais that I asked Veronica Rock if she would travel to Stockport to take a workshop. As a result there have been 4 workshops at The Life Centre in Romiley. The next one is March 21st.
The Feldenkrais Method: It is not a magic bullet (Part 2)
It was June 2012. When I arrived for my first experience of Feldenkrais I had eye-watering neck pain which seemed to fill my vision. As we rested on mats on the floor, listening to Veronica’s gentle invitation to move, small moves and then only when it is easy and pain-free, it seemed likely that I’d spend the entire workshop like a log, immobile. Move without pain? I’d no expectation that I could do that. And yet….making small centimetre moves of the kind that I was invited to make, slowly, things shifted. By the end of the first lesson (40 minutes) I was in a deeply relaxed state and moving with ease. Somehow the pain had melted away.
And yet…it’s not a magic bullet. The pain came back. Other approaches I’d tried offered little relief, so I decided to see Jo for some 1:1 Functional Integration sessions. I went to each in pain, I came away relieved and relaxed, able to sleep. Something about the stillness between the movements, something about the focus on making these small innovative shifts, something about the nature of attention, somehow induces a deeply meditative state which feels very healing.
For one of the sessions, I was completely still and only moved my eyeballs. The excruciating neck pain melted away. You can’t help smiling when that happens. Another thing I’ve learned: there’s always laughter and smiling at the joyful surprises that happen with Feldenkrais.
Jo has an excellent way of explaining some of how Feldenkrais works.
She says: think of the body as a road network. We all develop habits, habitual patterns of moving. As time passes these are used more and more, and other options are used less and less. It’s as if you are making all your journeys on motorways. There are all the other roads, all the other possibilities. And yet our habits keep us on the motorways, even when they get congested or cause discomfort. It’s as if we have forgotten that the other roads exist. Feldenkrais reminds us of those other roads, those other possibilities. When they are introduced to the body, gently, easily, comfortably, we make these new ways available. Once they are available our body will chose to move using these new pathways, precisely because the body has learned through a Feldenkrais session what is possible, what is easy, what is more effective.
It has been my experience that Feldenkrais brings about lasting changes in the way I move. I’ve enjoyed the process. I use some of the moves daily to help manage stiffness and pain. My body-mind is better connected. And there are even times when I move with ease.
For me the discovery of The Feldenkrais Method has had such an impact on my life that, were I to make a full recovery from ME, I’d sign up to train as a practitioner. In the meantime, I benefit from Veronica’s generosity. As long as there are enough people for the workshops in Romiley, she will travel over a few times a year and allow others to enjoy the healing and the smiles that an Awareness Through Movement workshop can bring.