On Feldenkrais Fridays at the Life Centre in Romiley, we’ve come to enjoy moving with more freedom and experiencing delight in movement. Our recent workshop – Freeing your shoulders and neck – was no exception.
As usual there were three lessons. As usual, there was the delight of being in a pleasant space with a gentle, expert teacher and guide. As usual, there was revelation, expansion and deep, deep restoration.
The three lessons:
on the back working with the pelvic clock and the golden ball, with movements of head and eyes.
on the back, supporting the head and moving head and eyes and shoulders
on the side, knees bent, arms in front, sliding the arms and chaining in movements of the shoulder.
In the beginning, a very simple guide for bringing awareness to the region of the pelvis from which much movement derives. It can be helpful to visualise a golden ball in the area of the pelvis (similar to the idea of Tan Tien) and be aware that its movement connects it to every cell in your body.
Lie on the floor, knees bent, so minimal muscle activity required for support. Place hands flat on the pelvis forming a diamond shape, so that the tip of your thumbs touches the navel, and the fingertips rest on the pubic bone. Bring awareness to this area, notice breathing. Breathing in and out through the golden ball in this way can help focus attention. The rest of the moves made this afternoon can often be felt as starting here. Movements of the head can be easier when there’s an awareness of the part played by the golden ball as it rolls around in response to impulses for movement.
Take the first lesson as an example. This was a development of Moshe Feldenkrais’ use of the idea of the pelvic clock. (see page 115 , Lesson 6 in Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais) In this lesson, Veronica led us slowly and gently through the stages. In small movements bringing our attention to particular movements before linking them all together.
Our knees pointed to the ceiling and to make these moves and keep the knees pointing to the ceiling, then you need to engage the pelvis. For this we envisioned each of the moves originating with the rolling of the golden ball. By bringing this area into awareness, we allowed our neural pathways to develop. Clearer links between impulse and movements of the pelvis and other parts of the body can become wired into our neural networks, and helping strengthen links between aspects of our nervous system and our muscles. Each of the moves enabled these pathways and these movements to be more available to us in the future.
In making the movements of the pelvis as we described an arc around the clock, gentle guidance showed how this movement connected and how the head also moved. Observing the nature of these movements by slight changes in the movement and position of the head. Then noticing how the movement happened when the eyes moved in the same direction as the head. Or in the opposite direction. Or were fixed, with our gaze on a point of the ceiling. Noticing. Awareness. Awareness through movement.
After 40 minutes, we were guided to stand and walk and notice how we felt after this lesson. For those of us with a seemingly ever-present shoulder pain, it was a delight to move and be unaware of shoulders. For them to lighten. For this lesson to ease their presence and their movement. As Feldenkrais would have pointed out, for any living being, a nervous system that is quiet is a relaxed and happy nervous system. Moving with ease after an ATM usually means moving through space, spontaneously experiencing a kind of oneness. Each participant with their own sense of this.
In lesson 2, also on our backs, with knees bent, we explored ways in which the head might move, supporting the head with our hands clasped and held behind our heads. Small turns to the right. Gently repeated. Then to left. Then turn and synchronise eye movement. Turns head, eyes stay still. Turn the head and eyes move in the opposite direction. Then turn the head and move the shoulder down in the opposite direction. With a series of gentle slow repetitions this chained into a link involving moving head, shoulder, knees and eyes. During this movement it became increasingly clear that the movement of the head is not an isolated movement. This too can be felt to originate in the pelvis. With movements of muscles along the spine, across the back. And being aware of the engagement of the pelvis in this way can enable movement with greater ease and range. Many of the group noticed that, as they measured their turns in a sitting position, the range had noticeably extended. By simply bringing attention to movement leading to organising differently.
As we had been doing movements where we co-ordinated or differentiated eye movements, we used the pauses between moves to rest our eyes. ( Moshe Feldenkrais applied palming the eyes from the Bates Method.)
By cupping our hands and placing them over our eyes, we sheltered our eyes from light without applying any pressure to them. This enables us to enjoy the darkness. To look into the darkest, most velvety black areas of our vision. Deeply restful for the eyes and the optic nerve. The neural networks around vision and optic nerve can be particularly busy in our world of TVs, tablets, laptops and smart phones. This exercise, a kind of time out for our eyes. More than one of the participants commented afterwards that they felt an extended range of vision or a clearer brighter sense of the visual world. Another simple and yet profound way of being better connected, courtesy of Moshe Feldenkrais, delivered by our teacher and guide, Veronica Rock.
Our third lesson was just 30 minutes. Most of the time we lay on one side and experimented with sliding our upper arm forward and back. Progressively building up a sequence of movements which enabled us to experience a further connection between all the parts of the body, connected and enabling a twisting movement that allowed us to move head and shoulders with a better organised network of muscles and nerves. How much easier the movement became as we engaged and connected from the golden ball throughout the body.
As our bodies mature, youthful possibilities can become dormant as we accommodate to habits and injuries. Afternoons like these allow us to connect again to some of those youthful possibilities. Which is why Feldenkrais can help us all to move with greater ease. At the end of the afternoon, the comments from participants show a youthful delight at being able to do things we might not have done for a while or at simply feeling taller and more grounded, more present. For a taste of how it can be to simply stand, relaxed and at ease, happy in your own body, one of these workshops fits the bill for me!
Our next Feldenkrais Friday at Life Centre, Romiley will be on 9th June. Our theme: Breathing into your own space. A delightful prospect. Book as soon as you like.