During yesterday’s workshop, there was the opportunity to experience again the particular alchemy that is Feldenkrais: a curious blend of attention and relaxation, of working with the body and focusing the mind, of gentle and precise guidance with a sense of exploration and sometimes surprise.
On this occasion the surprises came early. For the first few minutes Veronica gave a brief anatomy lesson with the help of a visual aid. Looking at the pelvic girdle (taken from a skeleton which fell apart – so much easier to carry on the train!) each of the participants noticed something – maybe a different something for each of us- something we hadn’t realised before about it’s size and structure and shape.
During lesson one, Veronica gave us a gentle relaxing session. The focus was on our breathing body. Placing our hands and noticing as we inhaled and exhaled. Noticing the abdomen, the ribs, the collar bone area moving. Breathing with the full torso. These parts moving as a wave of muscles contacts and relaxes. Most of us were aware of the diaphragm contracting and relaxing to enable the flow of exhalation and inhalation. Now we were becoming aware of the muscles in the pelvis making similar movements.
This approach is , at least in part, characteristic of the particular quality of a Feldenkrais session. Developing the pelvic floor through whole body awareness and movement. Another , possibly unique, aspect of the workshop was in placing attention on contraction and relaxation.
As a result the experience is one which is not effortful in the muscular sense. It does require a focused attention. And, particularly where this focus is on a part of the body which we might be unaware of for most of the time, the attention required means the session is demanding, as our neural networks face the challenge of re-wiring. The physical activity is , as usual in a Feldenkrais workshop, about small gentle movements. The usual advice – always less than you can.
When invited to stand and walk around the room (at the end of each of the three short guided experiences moving with awareness) , an interesting range of responses emerged. One person described feeling more grounded. For another she noticed a feeling of relaxation and strength. One participant found that her posture felt better. For her, the tailbone was less tucked under. Whereas for another she was aware that there was a gentler arc in the lower back.
Through an exploration of movement, each body was making it’s own adjustments. Through the ‘lessons’ each body had learned. The same workshop, what the body remembered different for each body. Each body learning how to move with greater ease and gentle power.