Creating more options for moving with ease
Yesterday there were 8 of us in an upstairs room at The Life Centre. On a warm day, it was good to be somewhere light and spacious, with the air conditioning on. As we lay on our mats and blankets on the carpeted floor and followed Veronica’s gentle guidance, we enjoyed three lessons of beautiful simplicity that enabled deep shifts in our awareness.
Most of this lesson was followed on our sides. First on our left then on our right. An invitation to move our top shoulder forward and then to neutral. Several times. Slowly. Small movements. Just noticing. Increasing awareness with Veronica’s gentle questioning. Noticing where the movement is smooth or less smooth. Then move the shoulder from neutral backwards. Return to neutral. A few gentle repetitions. Pause. Relax. Then something similar with a movement first up towards our ears. Pause. Experiment and explore doing this move differently; perhaps a little towards the front of the ear, then a little more towards the back. Noticing.
Then we repeated this on our right side.
This may be something which sounds a bit insignificant in an exercise culture of being vigorous, so there’s no alternative but to give it a try and see how The Feldenkrais Methods works. Once the benefits are felt the merits in the approach can be experienced as something that feels a real joy. It’s nothing short of wonderful.
So, lesson one… continued with the second part of the lesson paying attention to moving the shoulder around the points which we had identified. Joining up the dots, where the dots are the forward, backward, up down and neutral points. First joining up the dots to make up a quarter sector. Moving from neutral to edge in a clean straight line and then following the arc before moving back to the central neutral point. As awareness increases there’s an improvement in clarity and ease of movement: our neural networks are organising differently, organising better, giving us new options. This becomes evident when we circle our shoulders. A feeling of movement with ease.
For the second part of this lesson, when we turned onto our right side, we applied another piece of Moshe Feldenkrais’ brilliance. Once you’ve experienced the movements, and paid attention, then to visualise it enables the changes as well. So small moves, gentle repetitions and then some motor imagery. For more on how science is now verifying this approach see a recent BBC programme on iPlayer or at their blog: Trust Me, I’m a doctor (summer special).
Although Feldenkrais moves are not intended as an exercise programme, following through lesson one is an excellent way to relieve tension in the shoulders. A nice relaxing way to spend a few spare minutes in your day. And feel the benefit.
If Lesson One is a good way of releasing tension from the shoulders, then Lesson 2, let the release and relaxation spread through our trunk or torso.
This was another simple, clear sequence. Deceptively simple perhaps.
In clear steps, Veronica guided us through the parts that make up the whole of a movement called see-saw breathing. It’s a movement that I think of as a wave. Like a spinal wave (practiced for example in Dru Yoga), but this is a wave at the front. With the back to the floor, the spine is fairly still and stable. The ripple runs from chest to lower abdomen. From my experience of it, I can see how it is both a massage for the gut and internal organs, a freeing up of tension and an engagement and expansion of the thoracic cavity. The shoulders are on the floor, so shoulder blades are stable and yet all the muscles, tendons and ligaments get to move freely in a ripple or wave of expansion and contraction.
We first made the separate movements. Then we chained together. Then we experimented doing the movement in different ways, with an in-breath or an out-breath, in the pause between inhalation and exhalation, the pause between exhalation and inhalation.
Brilliant. It really brings your chest and abdomen to life.
And this see-saw breathing also helps the shoulders relax. Our shoulders have few connections to the skeleton. They sit on the ribcage / rib basket. Feeling the support of the torso allows the shoulder to relax. It felt as if the neck and muscles around my shoulders could breath a sigh of relief. They just don’t need to work as hard as they have been doing. Becoming more fully aware of the trunk and it’s support , allows release.
There was further release in Lesson Three.
For the last 40 minutes was a lesson in integration.
Mostly on our back. Connecting whole body through movement.
On back. Legs standing and right leg over left leg with left thigh resting on right thigh. Tilting knees. Then tilting knees and raising right shoulder (Let it float up towards your knees)
Include the head in the movement, rolling in same direction as knees, then opposite direction.
With arms along side, hands in karate position with little finger edge on floor and thumb edge towards ceiling. Chaining and synchronising rolling hands to right and left. Allow arms to travel a few inches away from the body and repeat.
Chain into a kind of twist with a variety of options explored. Head rolls right. As knees tilt left. Hands follow head.
Twist leads to expansion. Actual physical expansion. Though there was also a sense of another kind of expansion, a more spacious feeling of being. Body and mind relaxed and in harmony.
One of the key benefits of an Awareness Though Movement workshop is the real expansion of possibilities for movement. A pleasant movement which the body enjoys and is happy to repeat.
More options. More Ease.
Cool. Gentle. Expanded awareness. A pleasure. Learning. And benefits that last.