Another afternoon experiencing the wonder of the Feldenkrais Method, with three lessons, guiding us through novel movements with awareness. Small, gentle movements and focused attention, leading to sense of deep relaxation as well as a feeling of better connections between mind, body and the space beyond. A gentle expansion in being and doing.
Our first lesson focuses on the dominant hand. Moshe Feldenkrais observed that almost everyone would hold more tension in their dominant hand than necessary. This lesson offers the possibility of having a gentle awareness of the movement in this hand, without habitual unnecessary tension.
For about 40 minutes we rested on our backs, on our blankets, on the carpeted floor of the Life Centre. Exploring the movements in our dominant hand (and for every one there this was the right hand) we simply rested the upper arm on the ground by our sides, arm bent at the elbow, with lower part of the arm held perpendicular to the ground. Starting with the hand held with fingers pointing continuing in the direction of the lower arm. Then we experimented with allowing the hand to relax down, bending at the wrist. Repeating, alternating, slowly raising and then allowing to fall, before then following steps where attention was given to different parts of the hand. Moving each finger in turn, for example. Touching thumb to little finger. This sequence of guided movements is extraordinarily successful in relaxing tension that perhaps you didn’t even know you had.
Similarly, in lesson 2 we were able to experience real and deep relaxation in our eyes through a sequence of guided moves. 40 minutes resting with our eyes closed, moving our eyes, in the dark under our lids or under our palms. Anyone who has done a Feldenkrais lesson involving micro movements of the eye might be aware of just how much concentration and brain power is needed. It can be absorbing. It can be tiring. And for some it can result in a few minutes of sleep! Afterwards I felt almost too relaxed for speech.
As our teacher pointed out, there is a rigour in the approach in these lessons and in following through exact directions for these often novel combinations of movements of the eye. It might be enjoyable and it might be relaxing and it also involves a focused attention. Perhaps relaxing and enjoyable in part because of the precise focus of attention?
This second lesson on the eyes involved palming. This technique can give an idea of how relaxed our eyes, our brains and our bodies are. An alert/anxious state generally shows as patterns of light and colour when we palm our eyes. By the end of the guided movements of eyes, palming revealed dark, inky, velvety blackness, suggesting a more relaxed state, not just in the eyes, but throughout the body.
There’s more on this in Norman Doidge’s book: The Brain’s Way of Healing.
As a rough guide, about 30% of the brain that attends to movement is taken up with hands. Another 30% with facial areas. Our third lesson got our brain linking these areas with a focus on the universal activity of pointing*.
For a few minutes at the start of this lesson we played with standing and pointing our index finger and just noticing our movements as we looked and pointed around the space we were in. Then, in the more usual position for a Feldenkrais lesson, resting on the floor, we explored connections. For example of our left side with our knees bent, head resting on left arm, taking our right arm so that it extended on the floor pointing above our heads. Extending the arm slightly, just a centimetre or two and then allowing a bit of a roll, noticing. Taking our right leg long and then extending that away. Extending arm and leg, pointing index finger away above heads, foot extending the opposite way. A small gentle rolling action. And much relief across the body. A feeling of lightness.
*For more on the universal nature of pointing see Raymond Tallis’s Michelangelo’s finger.