There’s something mysterious and wonderful about a Feldenkrais workshop. No doubt the person who leads has a better idea of how the outcomes are arrived at. For those receiving the lessons, the guidance can lead to such a transformative experience that there’s a sense of wonder along with the learning.
Today’s workshop would be a perfect illustration of such alchemy at work. Gentle guidance to explore moves, enhancing awareness of connections, sequenced in such a way that, at the end, the gains seem greater than the sum of the parts.
This afternoon: part one.
This lesson, on our blankets on the floor, began with each of us just noticing our body resting on our back. From just noticing, we moved a little and noticed some more. Part of the amazement comes with what is noticed when very small movements are made, perhaps in a novel way. Try it now. Lie on you back, legs long. Scan your body and notice sensations, where there’s ease, where things differ. Then bend the legs and allow the feet to stand. Now allow the pelvis to lift and gently return to rest. Notice where the movement originates, which parts of the body engage. Repeat. Slowly. Between each move, pause and breathe. Repeat several times.
During the afternoon we played with this movement and the connections between the movement of the pelvis and movements elsewhere. With legs long, press the left heel into the floor, gently. Then release. And repeat. Noticing. Right heel: press into the floor. Release. Each movement repeated several times. Always pausing between. Paying attention and noticing. We followed this by pressing the shoulder blades into the floor in the same position. First pressing the left shoulder blade, noticing, and then the right shoulder blade.
Shoulders and heels were then connected through a sequence of moves. Extending left leg, turning head to the right. Turning left leg, head right, eyes left. Synchronising the moves.
Next: rolling onto the front and a similar chain of movements. Noticing how different this can feel, how different parts of the body engage and move. Allowing expansion of chest and back.
After this first 40 minute lesson, we stand, notice, at a gentle pace walk around the room. What’s changed? For some they feel lighter, others more centred. One participant notices that she is walking making better contact between her feet and the ground.
At the end of lesson one we have experienced a new awareness of all the connections from the body’s periphery through the abdomen and to the pelvis. All the movements we’ve experienced originate there, in the pelvis. This simple awareness enables a relaxed engagement of the pelvis in a way that is new to some of us.
In lesson two we expanded this. While I don’t know what the teaching notes say, I write from my experience. This time working on our sides, through a sequence of moves. Starting with legs bent, moving the top arm from a position draped along our side, small move to bend the elbow. Return. Repeat. Then increasing the extent of the move to allow the hand to rest on the floor behind. Then came the mind expanding, neural network re-wiring, new way of doing things. For me at least. We could bring the arm to its starting position without using the arm, but by an engagement of the pelvis. By pushing the belly out as the shoulders returned to position, the arm moved. Doing this movement repeatedly and with awareness, brought a real sense of the golden ball which we’d envisaged in previous workshops. However this time, for me, the sense was of something more like a beach ball. That kind of size and also that kind of movement, soft, buoyant, rolling, gentle. I’d never experienced the golden ball like this. My mental map of myself changed, there and then. And for the rest of the workshop, this buoyant, rolling ball allowed new ease in some of the movements we were guided through.
Some of the other moves in lesson 2 involved arms out stretched, moving them around the body describing a circle on the floor, with pelvis as centre. In making these moves, the body can feel exhilaration in the newly expanded functioning.
Lesson 3 synthesised the two previous lessons. On the back with right leg bent and foot standing, lift left side of pelvis a little off the floor. Repeat. And then explore this movement by doing it differently. (Tilt by pressure on foot alone. Tilt by rolling other side of pelvis. Tilt by imagining a string pulling knee down toward opposite foot. Then tilt with a combination of those ideas.) Then repeat on the other side. Then connecting the aspects of movements already explored and reinforcing the links between heels, knees, hips, pelvic muscles, shoulders, arms, head, and eyes.
New pathways. Maybe better pathways. That’s always the outcome of Awareness Through Movement afternoons. Where this one felt so profound, was that each of us felt the power of the pelvis. And since so much movement, even our breathing and digestion is related to this, our new awareness has enabled each of us to take this sense of power and ease away with us.
The pelvis is where some of the biggest muscles in our body are. Lack of awareness of how they connect results in weaker movement or compensating over-reliance with all the potential for strain which that can bring. Without a new mental map, there’s no way to move differently. Other exercises can strengthen what you know is there. The Feldenkrais Method is the only system that I have experienced that can change the mental map. A new map. New movement. More ease and power. Not bad for an afternoon spent relaxing in awareness.